Fresno State

Fresno State takes USC to the brink again. But Bulldogs fall short with critical INT

Tedford recaps Bulldogs’ 31-23 loss at USC

The Fresno State Bulldogs college football team made a couple of runs at USC in a 31-23 loss at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. Coach Jeff Tedford said 'We'll learn from this …'
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The Fresno State Bulldogs college football team made a couple of runs at USC in a 31-23 loss at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019. Coach Jeff Tedford said 'We'll learn from this …'

Final: USC 31, Fresno State 23

Fresno State was down and back in it, almost knocked out for good and back in it again. But in the end on Saturday at USC, the big play eluded the Bulldogs.

It was the other guys, the Trojans, that made the big plays a few more times as Fresno State began the 2019 season with a 31-23 loss at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum

The Bulldogs got a huge fourth-down stop by middle linebacker Mykal Walker, a huge fourth-down catch by wideout Chris Coleman to set up a final shot. They had the football at the USC 15, inside of two minutes to play with the Bulldogs trailing by 8 points.

Then, the critical play.

Fresno State got everything it wanted there, working off a fake screen outside, and to set up a downfield pass to running back Ronnie Rivers, who was breaking open in the end zone.

But the pass from quarterback Jorge Reyna didn’t have quite enough on it.

And USC safety Isaiah Pola-Mao raced over and made a play, picking off that pass and ending the Bulldogs late rally.

“I just didn’t drill it how I usually do,” said Reyna, who completed 19 of 39 passes for 256 yards and two touchdowns and led the Bulldogs with 88 rushing yards.

“If he had put it on him we probably get it,” coach Jeff Tedford said. “But again, that’s a learning opportunity. Sometimes you have a guy so wide open you just want to get him the ball.

“But you have to give that safety a lot of credit. He covered a lot of ground to get there. When it first happened, it’s a touchdown, but the guy covered a lot of ground.”

Down but still optimistic

Fresno State fans, including University President Joseph Castro, took to social media immediately after the game to express how they felt.

Many stated they were proud of the Bulldogs despite the loss and were optimistic about the remainder of the season.

The Fresno State Bulldogs college football team dropped its opener 31-23 at USC on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2019, but they had a chance at the end. Quarterback Jorge Reyna discusses the plays that got away including an interception to end their chances.

The Bulldogs, after all, entered the game as a 13.5-point underdog against the storied USC program that’s won 11 national titles.

Bulldogs back within one score

Fresno State has come back with another score, this one an 8-yard touchdown pass from Jorge Reyna to Chris Coleman. The Bulldogs trailed and need a stop with 6:39 to go.

Reyna is now 18 of 34 for 220 yards and two touchdowns. He also has rushed for 88 yards to lead the Bulldogs.

Silva 3 of 3

Fresno State is down 31-16 with 12:23 to go after Cesar Silva nailed his third field goal of the game, this one from 28 yards.

On rushing QBs

Jorge Reyna has 85 rushing yards with 12:27 to go, 15 short of becoming the first Fresno State quarterback to rush for 100 yards in a game since Bill Yancy did it in 1978 at McNeese State.

Yancy rushed 14 times for 142 yards and one touchdown.


USC running back Vavae Malepeai just scored on a 2-yard run to cap an 80-yard drive that took just six plays and put the Trojans up 31-13.

USC is the first team to put up 30 or more points on the Bulldogs since Washington beat Fresno State 48-16 in the third game of the 2017 season, a span of 25 games.

So much for that momentum

USC wideout Velus Jones just took the kickoff following the Fresno State field goal 100 yards for a touchdown to put the Trojans up 24-13.

The Bulldogs’ kickoffs have been awful, flat and very returnable; one went out of bounds. USC has returned three kickoffs for 146 yards and the TD. It is the first career kickoff return for a TD by Jones.

Good a time as any to point out that Fresno State has not returned a kickoff for a touchdown since 2008. With two kickoff returns against the Trojans, it is not 517 returns since A.J. Jefferson took one back for a score against Nevada.

3, better than 0

The Bulldogs have closed to 17-13, turning that fumble recovery into three points on a 46-yard field goal by Cesar Silva.

Back in business

Fresno State gets the ball back with Arron Mosby stripping the ball from a USC receiver. The fumble was recovered by Jaron Bryant at the USC 37 yard line.

On the Bulldogs’ first play from the USC 37, left tackle Dontae Bull was flagged for a false start.

Dogs turn it over in red zone

Fresno State had a drive working, advancing to the USC 10-yard line. But there the Bulldogs fumbled an exchange between quarterback Jorge Reyna and running back Josh Hokit.

Hokit had just entered the game –he does not have a carry in the game.

Reyna on the run

Fresno State quarterback Jorge Reyna rushed the ball 12 times for 69 yards in the first half.

Running back Ronnie Rivers led the Bulldogs’ running backs with an average of 12.0 rushing plays per game. Jordan Mims had 9.4 carries per game and Josh Hokit had 5.6

Pass D

USC has 215 passing yards at halftime. Last season, the Bulldogs held six of its first seven opponents to fewer than 215 passing yards through whole games …

Idaho – 205

Minnesota – 175

UCLA – 151

Toledo – 238

Nevada – 195

Wyoming – 117

New Mexico – 132

Halftime: USC 17 and maybe down a starting QB, Bulldogs 10

Fresno State was out-gained in the first half 308-164, but is trailing just 17-10.

USC also has 18 first downs to 7 for the Bulldogs and is 4 of 8 on third downs compared to 2 of 7 for Fresno State.

QB 2

USC quarterback JT Daniels is down after getting sacked by Justin Rice, Wylan Free and Mykal Walker on a third down play.

The Trojans’ back up quarterback is Kedon Slovis, a true freshman.

Daniels also fumbled on the play and the Bulldogs take over at their 29-yard line with 27 seconds remaining in the first half.

Rice was credited with the forced fumble and it was recovered by defensive end Alex Cruz.

Operator error leads to Rice pick

USC botched one it the red zone, JT Daniels throwing a pass right to Bulldogs’ linebacker Justin Rice at the goal line to end a scoring opportunity.

Fresno State takes over down 17-10 with 535 to go in the half.

Reyna to Grim, 17-10

The Bulldogs are within 17-10, scoring on a 34-yard pass from Jorge Reyna to Derrion Grim, It was the second career touchdown pass for Reyna, who hit Grim with a scoring pass last season in an opening rout of Idaho.

200 already

The Trojans have 200 yards of total offense on 28 plays with 12:49 remaining in the second quarter. The Bulldogs last season allowed less than 300 yards of offense five times. Boise State had a high of 448 against the Bulldogs in a 24-17 loss during the regular season.

USC adds three

The Trojans are now up 17-3 with a 40-yard field goal by Chase McGrath. The drive was 60 yards in eight plays.

Quarter down, and so are ‘Dogs

USC leads Fresno State after one quarter. The Trojans have 163 yards to 93 for the Bulldogs. USC quarterback JT Daniels is 15 of 17 for 144 yards and one touchdown.

Fresno State answers, cut deficit to 14-3

Fresno State kicker Cesar Silva nailed his first field goal attempt, hitting from 45 yards with 3:31 to go in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs drive, 48 yards in 9 plays, was set back by a chop block penalty on left tackle Dontae Bull and left guard Netane Muti.

Quarterback Jorge Reyna had some nice plays on the drive. He has rushed for 41 yards and hit 4 of 5 passes for 26 yards.

Bulldogs in big hole, down 14-0

Running back Stephen Carr has his second touchdown, this one on a 14-yard run. USC needed only 1:39 to go 47 yards in five plays following the Reyna fumble.


The Bulldogs’ turn the ball over on a fumble by quarterback Jorge Reyna, was scrambling away from pressure and short of the sticks on 3rd down run.

USC takes possession at the Fresno State 47.

Trojans open scoring, up 7-0

USC moved right down the field, scoring on an 8-yard pass from J.T. Daniels to running back Stephen Carr.

Daniels hit 10 of 11 passes for 74 yards on the drive and the Trojans were 2 of 2 converting on third downs.

Freshman watch

Bulldogs’ middle linebacker Mykal Walker was shaken up on a first-down play. Freshman Levelle Bailey went into the game with Will linebacker Justin Rice moving inside.

Walker is back in the game

Tedford on top of it ...

USC had a 61-yard kickoff return wiped out by penalty –it had two players wearing No. 7 on the field.

Pre-game reading

Fresno State takes on USC in its season opener. it’s a 7:30 p.m. kickoff on ESPN … it’s still a few hours before kickoff and the Bulldogs are a 14-point underdog.

Here is some pregame reading …

Hello Jorge, can you come out and play?

Fresno State quarterback Jorge Reyna, who will make his first career start on Saturday at USC, was the first player that coach Jeff Tedford offered a scholarship after he was hired at his alma mater.

But the first time Tedford picked up his phone and called he got … nothing.

Reyna, who racked up some substantial stats at West Los Angeles College and was waiting to hear from a couple of other schools, didn’t recognize the number that popped up on his phone so he just let the call go straight to voicemail.

“He just called out of the blue,” Reyna said. “Then my junior college coach texted me and said, ‘Hey, you should be expecting a call soon from this number and I was like, ‘Oh, hey ….’ I called the number back and it’s coach Tedford. It left me speechless, for sure.”

Reyna had to get a new phone a while back and wasn’t able to save the message Tedford left that day, but he said it was a good one.

“It was a great message,” said Reyna, who in his sophomore season completed 70.5 percent of his passes for 3,646 yards and 39 touchdowns.

“It made me feel good, knowing someone was taking a chance on me and believed in me. It felt really good to hear that ... Coach Tedford called and I was waiting no more.”

First time, not so charming

Reyna has a tough starting debut, taking on a Power Five opponent in USC. The Bulldogs’ track record with quarterbacks making first starts has not been very good lately. The past 10 are just 3-7 and before Marcus McMaryion beat Nevada in his first Fresno State start back in 2017 they had dropped seven in a row.


Marcus McMaryion – won debut vs. Nevada 41-21


Zach Kline – lost vs. Hawaii 14-13


Kilton Anderson – lost vs. Utah State 56-14

Ford Childress – lost at San Jose State 49-23

Chason Virgil – lost vs. No. 21 Utah 45-24


Zack Greenlee – lost vs. Wyoming 45-17

Brian Burrell – lost at No. 15 USC 52-13


Derek Carr – lost to Cal 36-21


Ryan Colburn – won vs. UC Davis 51-0


Tom Brandstater – won vs. Nevada 29-18

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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