Sports

It was kick that was good, not one that was blocked, that crushed ’Dogs

Fresno State now has the longest active losing streak in the nation, nine games.

The Bulldogs are the only team in the nation that at this point has only one win. They are the only team in the nation that at this point has 10 losses.

They were seconds away from beating Hawaii to avoid all of the above, with Kody Kroening lining up for a 43-yard field goal with five seconds to go. The Bulldogs junior had earlier hit from 47 and 27 yards and had made 15 consecutive kicks, tying a school record set by Kevin Goessling in 2010.

On the sideline, the Bulldogs were ready.

“We’re locking arms right there, saying a few prayers, and seeing what happens,” said quarterback Zach Kline, who started ahead of Chason Virgil and played the entire game.

Snap, hold, kick, block ... loss; 14-13 Rainbow Warriors.

“In my football career, college, high school, there has only been a few times when I’ve been in that situation, really,” Kline said. “Kody is one of my best buddies and everybody on the sideline knew, hey, this is in, because he’s automatic. We’ll still have our faith in him. We have all season. The guy is automatic.”

Interim coach Eric Kiesau dissected the play on Sunday morning, watching it on video.

“It wasn’t a high snap, it wasn’t a low kick, we just had a lot of penetration on the right side,” Kiesau said. “There’s no buffer on Tell the Truth Sundays. You tell it how it is, and that’s what happened. It was the right side, our right guard and tackle ...”

How that happens with a chance to break the longest losing streak in school history is mystifying, but Hawaii defensive end Viane Moala got one earlier this season in a victory over San Jose State. He also is 6-foot-7 and 270 pounds, all of that playing into why and how he was able to knife his way four yards past the line of scrimmage and right into the Bulldogs’ hearts.

“Football happens,” Kline said.

The reality is, it is not that field goal block that crushed the Bulldogs but the field goal that came before it, a 27-yarder that Kroening knocked through without incident.

The good, the bad – The Bulldogs had a field goal attempt to win blocked at the end, but the game really was lost on the drive just before that when getting to the Hawaii 10-yard line only to settle for a field goal. They went 78 yards in 15 plays and took 5:58 off the clock only to stall once in the red zone, which has been a problem all season.

On first-and-10 from the 12, Dontel James rushed for two yards. Kline then missed Delvon Hardaway on second down and Treyvon Green on third down.

Rather than a touchdown and a two-score lead with 3:41 to play, the lead was only 13-7 after the Kroening field goal and Hawaii had the opening it needed to drive for a winning score.

But Fresno State has this season scored a touchdown on only 50 percent of its 32 trips into the red zone, the worst percentage in the Mountain West Conference.

It also has the lowest scoring percentage in the league, getting a touchdown (16) or a field goal (9) on 25 of its 32 trips into the red zone, 78.1 percent.

The Bulldogs have run the ball 54 times inside an opponent’s 20-yard line, gaining just 2.3 yards per play. They have thrown the ball 39 times down there, completing just 43.6 percent and averaging 2.5 yards per attempt.

One plays into the other.

“We just have to make plays down there,” Kiesau said. “Last night was the first night we actually ran the ball. But, collectively, the entire season, when you’re able to run the ball you’re able to set everything else up so it’s not so pass-oriented.

“I don’t know if it’s the red zone, it’s just more we haven’t been able to run the ball. We’ve been struggling because we’ve been thin at the running back position, had obviously a young O-line early in the year and we finally got to a linebacker (Josh Hokit) who could play some tailback for us and he did a good job last night.”

▪ Fresno State rushed for 214 yards against the Rainbow Warriors, but inside the red zone four rushing plays netted just seven yards including the lateral to left tackle Christian Cronk for the Bulldogs’ only touchdown.

Freshman Josh Hokit rushed for 97 yards on 18 plays, though he still could line at a position other than running back next season, having started the year at inside (Mike) linebacker and playing both outside linebacker positions in the Bulldogs’ 3-4.

The key in there is the next year.

“You saw guys step in there that haven’t played positions that they’ve played all year like Josh Hokit, a freshman, just coming in and running like Toby Gerhardt out there,” Kline said. “The guy was running with a purpose. When you see a guy that young, with that much heart and that much fight in him, it makes you think that this program is in good hands. It makes you think, ‘Man, guys like this are going to put the team on their back.’

“You trust guys, you put your faith in those guys. That was something that was really cool to see, have the sideline, have everyone put faith in the offense and faith in certain players. When Josh was getting the ball you knew he was getting five (yards) and that’s something that was fun to watch. We’re just going to come in next week and keep fighting, keep running it, keep throwing it. In every part of the game we’re just going to keep fighting. That’s all we can do.”

▪ Senior safety Stratton Brown had 10 tackles against the Rainbow Warriors, giving him 100 on the season.

He is the first Fresno State player with 100 tackles in a season since linebacker Ben Jacobs had 106 in 2009.

Inside linebacker Jeff Camilli will very likely be the second – he had seven against Hawaii and has 96 this season.

Records are incomplete before 2005, but over the past 12 seasons the Bulldogs have not had two players with 100 or more tackles in the same season.

The closest the Bulldogs have come is 2008 when Jacobs had 113 tackles and linebacker Chris Carter had 88.

▪ The Bulldogs’ defense forced Hawaii to punt eight times – the most Fresno State had forced in a game and matching the most the Rainbow Warriors had punted in a game.

Hawaii threw an interception and punted three times on its first four possessions in the second half, then went on that 12-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to win the game.

It had run 17 plays and gained only 45 yards in the second half before that drive.

▪ Midway through the fourth quarter, Fresno State had a 10-7 lead despite averaging only 3.7 yards per play.

The Bulldogs have not won a game when averaging less than 4.0 yards per play – they are 0-11 – since beating UCLA 17-9 in the 2003 Silicon Valley Classic when they were at only 3.9 yards per play.

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada

Up next

FRESNO STATE VS. SAN JOSE STATE

  • Saturday: 12:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium (41,031)
  • Records: Bulldogs 1-10, 0-7 Mountain West; Spartans 3-8, 2-5
  • TV/Radio: CBSSN/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
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