Fresno State forced four turnovers in a 27-10 victory Saturday at San Jose State, getting interceptions from Jaron Bryant and Juju Hughes and forced fumbles by Malik Forrester and Hughes, with the recoveries by Emeka Ndoh and Robert Stanley.
That makes 11 for the year in five games. Or, two more than the Bulldogs had in all of that 1-11 season a year ago that they have been trying to bury in the past.
“It’s that aggressive defense,” said defensive tackle Malik Forrester, who had six tackles including three tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
Fresno State allowed San Jose State only 205 yards of total offense its 27-10 victory. That was the fewest the Bulldogs had allowed to a FBS opponent since holding New Mexico State to 183 yards in a 24-17 win back in 2008.
“When people pop in the film they’re going to look at Fresno State and they’re going to be like, ‘These boys are aggressive. They’re not taking anything from anybody and they’re going to set the tone from start to finish.’
“That’s what I see. That’s how I feel. That’s how I feel my team feels.”
That also is only part of the equation for the Bulldogs, 3-2 overall and off to a 2-0 start in Mountain West Conference play for the first time since 2014.
They allowed only 205 yards of total offense, the fewest allowed against an FBS opponent since New Mexico State had 183 in 2008.
And, in the past five halves of football, Fresno State has allowed 138 yards and seven points in a loss at Washington, 184 yards and 14 points and 130 yards and seven points in a victory over Nevada and now 79 yards and no points and 126 yards and 10 points in a victory over San Jose State.
“It goes back to fall camp,” said Hughes, who had six tackles including two tackles for loss and one sack to go along with the pick and forced fumble.
“We extended practices. We put ourselves in these situations having long practices, going through and knowing we have to finish the second half of practice and now it’s really carrying over to game times. We know how to play through to the end.”
Quotable – Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford on the run game: “We just need to get the run game going. It felt like if we could get it going a little bit and try to wear them down it would pay off later in the game. They did a good job, though. Ronnie (Rivers) ran the ball well. But we put ourselves behind the sticks way too much. Penalties, I have to look at the film and see about those penalties because you can’t do that. You go behind schedule with long yardage situations it’s hard against anybody to convert.”
Bulldogs’ kicker Jimmy Camacho hit both of his field goal attempts against San Jose State including a career-long 50-yarder with 6:14 to go to put Fresno State up 27-10.
▪ Hughes on his sack and forced fumble: “We called a backside blitz. We ran it. We perfected it. Our D-line, they took up some blockers and they freed me up. I was able to make a play. it was the perfect play call at the perfect time.”
▪ San Jose State coach Brent Brennan: “We have a long way to go offensively. There were multiple instances of us self-destructing with penalties early in the down and distance and then lack of execution with pass protection. Defensively, they got off the field and have the offense some chances to sustain the game. Unfortunately, we didn’t take advantage of those opportunities.”
▪ Forrester on his role on the Bulldogs’ defense: “I’m having a lot of fun. I don’t know, it’s more fun because I’m not taking up a lot of blocks. I feel like we’re all up front are having fun. Even when we get double teamed they find a way to get us to have a lot of one-on-ones. Our linebackers are just coming down … teams have to respect our linebackers. Those boys make plays, so it’s fun for us. It’s exciting.”
Go figure – The victory was the first on the road for the Bulldogs since Nov. 14, 2015, a 42-14 win that has a very fluky tinge to it for one reason.
Zack Greenlee threw six touchdown passes in that game.
No one in the Mountain West has thrown for six TDs in a game since, though Brett Rypien (Boise State), Dru Brown (Hawaii) and Nick Stevens (Colorado State) came close last season with five.
Greenlee left Fresno State after that 2015 season, resurfacing at Texas-El Paso
In 11 games there over a season-plus, Greenlee has thrown seven touchdown passes and four interceptions.
By the numbers
212 – Rushing yards for Fresno State, coming at 4.2 yards per play. San Jose State entered last in the conference 127th of 130 in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 290 per game and 5.1 yards per play.
In their first two conference games, the Spartans (1-6, 0-3) allowed 318 at 5.6 yards per play to Utah State and 345 at 6.6 yards per play at UNLV.
20 – Rushing plays by the Bulldogs that went for 3 yards of less; they ran it 51 times.
19 – Tackles by San Jose State linebacker Frank Ginda, who was leading the nation with 87 at 14.5 per game.
86.34 – The Spartans’ passing efficiency rating, the lowest allowed by the Bulldogs to an FBS opponent since that last road win – a victory at Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors had a rating of 77.32.
17 – Passing yards for Fresno State on third down. Marcus McMaryion was 4 of 10 and on the season 9 of 23 (39.1 percent) for 87 yards.
0 – Kickoff return yards, for either team.
9 – Tackles for loss by the Bulldogs, led by Forrester with 3. Fresno State has 37 this season (7.4 per game). A year ago, it had 56 and ranked 11th in the conference (4.7 per game).
Forrester is leading the team with 3.5 TFL’s. Defensive ends Tobenna Okeke and Stephen Van Hook have 3 and 2.5 and Mike linebacker Jeffrey Allison 2.5.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
NEW MEXICO AT FRESNO STATE
- Saturday: 7 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium (41,031)
- Records: Bulldogs 2-2, 1-0 Mountain West; Lobos 3-2, 1-1
- Webcast/radio: AT&T, ROOT/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Of note: New Mexico had a bye week following a 56-38 victory over Air Force, its second win in a row. The Lobos went into the weekend averaging 266.8 rushing yards per game, third in the Mountain West. Running back Richard McQuarley tied a school record with five rushing touchdowns in the victory over Air Force and is leading the Lobos’ attack, averaging 5.9 yards per play and 60.2 yards per game.