Bulldogs picked at the end, lose 21-14
Fresno State was in position to tie the score and potentially send the game into overtime.
But they ended up with a 21-14 loss at Minnesota on Saturday after calling a halfback pass on 1st-and-goal from the Gophers 4 — and the pass was picked off.
With 1:24 remaining and coming out of a Minnesota timeout, Fresno State running back Josh Hokit took a handoff from quarterback Marcus McMaryion then rolled to his right before lofting a pass intended for tight end Jared Rice.
The Bulldogs tight end was open, briefly.
But the ball floated perhaps more than Hokit would’ve liked, giving Minnesota defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. time to spin back toward Rice.
The Gophers’ 5-foot-10 defensive back got to the ball before the 6-foot-5 Rice and pulled down the interception toward the back of the end zone.
“They’re playing very aggressive with the secondary coming up,” Bulldogs coach Jeff Tedford said. “It’s just unfortunate the ball was a little underthrown. “We got what we wanted – the aggressive play from the secondary to come up. Unfortunately, was just a little underthrown.”
On the drive, the Bulldogs moved the ball 71 yards after taking possession with 3:28 to go.
Minnesota takes the lead
The Golden Gophers are back on top 21-14 after Seth Green scored on a 3-yard run and a 2-point conversion pass. They drove 74 yards in 10 plays.
Included was a wild 3rd-and-9 conversion by Minnesota.
The Bulldogs nearly got to Minnesota quarterback Zack Annexstad with their pass rush.
But Annexstad worked his way from pressure and hit Tyler Johnson, who leaped up and secured an improbable 13-yard gain.
The Bulldogs also were penalized 15 yards for sideline interference on that play.
When asked after the game if officials usually issue a warning first before calling a penalty, Tedford said: “I thought they normally do. But they didn’t.
“I thought at that time of the game, a warning would’ve been nice. That’s what I asked him. But obviously, they didn’t see it that way.”
Former Fresno State coach Pat Hill on the 940AM game broadcast questioned the call, too.
During his 15-year tenure, Hill at times questioned officiating, particularly with Power 5 programs allowed to use officials hired by Power 5 conference.
“I’ve seen this movie too many times before,” Hill said.
The Bulldogs have 3:28 to come up with a go-ahead score.
Bulldogs on top for the first time today
Fresno State, quite suddenly, has a 14-13 lead after McMaryion and KeeSean Johnson teamed up on a 45-yard touchdown.
The Bulldogs went 75 yards in five plays, including a 22-yard run by Jordan Mims on a 3rd-and-2 play.
Fresno State had just one explosive play of 20 or more yards before that drive. It also had just 59 yards on its first five drives in the second half.
There is 8:20 to go ...
Gophers add three
Emmit Carpenter hit a 50-yard field goal to extend the Golden Gophers’ lead to 13-7. There is 9:43 remaining in the game …
It is the second time Carpenter has made two field goals from 50 yards or longer in a game. He also did it in 2016 against Purdue, hitting from 53 and 52 yards.
On the board
Fresno State cut the deficit to 10-7 on a 1-yard pass from McMaryion to tight end Jared Rice.
There are 20 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs’ defense, that has been setting up the offense with field position throughout the second half, forced a turnover at the Golden Gophers’ 17-yard line to set up the score.
Tank Kelly forced a fumble, which was recovered by defensive tackle Patrick Belony.
Fresno State ended that last drive at the Minnesota 42 – that is the deepest onto the other side of the field they have been.
After a 21-yard pass play from McMaryion to KeeSean Johnson, the Bulldogs went backward on their next two plays and that was followed by an incomplete pass.
McMaryion is now 10 of 15 for 75 yards.
Fresno State is looking at a 3rd-and 7 play on its first possession in the second half.
Worse, left tackle Netane Muti just went down with an injury.
The Bulldogs have moved left guard Christian Cronk out to left tackle and Nick Abbs, the transfer from Fresno City College, is now in at left guard.
Cronk started all 14 games last season at left tackle.
Third down failures
Fresno State has converted 4 of 6 on third down, but the two misses came in very manageable situations. A 3rd-and-1 run play went for a loss of 2 yards. A 3rd-and-3 play gained only one yard.
That was the Bulldogs’ first scoreless first half since a loss to Colorado State in 2016, and their first scoreless half since the second half of the Mountain West championship loss at Boise State.
Halftime, Minnesota 10-0 …
Fresno State is down 10-0 at halftime, and many of its wounds are self-inflicted.
The Bulldogs have generated only 104 yards of offense, 4.2 yards per play. McMaryion is 6 of 9 for 46 yards and one interception. He almost had a second pass picked off, throwing very late to KeeSean Johnson. He also missed a wide open receiver down field.
He is averaging just 5.1 yards per pass attempt. For some context, in going 1-11 in 2016 the Bulldogs’ quarterbacks averaged 6.3 yards per attempt.
Minnesota has 172 yards of offense and the only points scored in the game. Mike linebacker Jeff Allison is leading the Bulldogs with nine tackles, three solo.
Minnesota kicker Emmit Carpenter just hit a 53-yard field goal with 58 seconds remaining before halftime to put the Golden Gophers up 10-0.
38 and counting
KeeSean Johnson had a 3-yard reception on the Bulldogs’ last series and now has a reception in 38 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the nation.
No. 2 on that list is Cody Thompson from Toledo, at 31 games.
Fresno State wideout Michiah Quick has two receptions, both to convert third downs. In the opener against Idaho, Quick had a drop on a third down and came up short with a 2-yard gain on a 3rd-and-3.
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion just threw an interception and Minnesota takes over at the Bulldogs’ 14-yard line. It was not a good decision by the Fresno State quarterback. Rolling right on a 2nd-and-2, he could have kept right on rolling to a first down. There was a lot of green in front of him Instead, a pass, and a pick.
The Bulldogs’ defense responded, though. Minnesota has a 4th-and-8 at the 40 ...
Minnesota goes up 7-0
Minnesota takes a 7-0 lead on a 1-yard run by Seth Green out of a Wildcat formation. The Golden Gophers went 80 yards in 14 plays and there are some developing issues for the Bulldogs.
First, a lack of pass rush.
Second, third downs. The Golden Gophers are 3 of 4, including a 3rd-and-4 and a 3rd-and-1 on that drive.
Gophers’ back down
Minnesota just picked up a 3rd-and-9 on a screen pass to running back Rodney Smith on its first series, but Smith is now down with an injury. He is need of assistance to get off the field with an apparent leg injury.
That would be a big loss – Smith is their leading rusher and went for 153 yards last week in a victory over New Mexico State.
Bulldogs’ linebacker George Helmuth, who missed some practice time early in the week, went through pre-game and appears a full-go against the Golden Gophers.
Helmuth had participated in practice on Thursday, before Fresno State traveled Minnesota.
Kickoff for the game has been pushed back to 4:40 p.m. ...