Fresno State put a Power Five victory on its resume on Saturday, a 38-14 victory at UCLA, and those 14 points only hint at the way the Bulldogs’ defense played to start and particularly to finish. It’s not all that great a hint, either, because both of the Bruins touchdowns came on short fields following turnovers; 43 yards, then 17 yards.
Take this down …
UCLA had only 14 first downs, three of them coming on Fresno State penalties. There was a holding penalty that wiped out a Jeff Allison sack on a third-and-7 that would have been for a loss of 12 yards; a hands-to-the-face personal foul that set up the Bruins with a first-and-goal at the Bulldogs 2; and a holding penalty adding on to a play quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson scrambled his way for 12 yards.
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UCLA had 13 drives and on only two of them did the Bruins make more than one first down on their own. Both times, they managed two. Three times, they went three-and-out.
UCLA’s longest drive was 43 yards.
UCLA held the ball for as long as 2:30 just one time. Eight of the Bruins’ drives lasted less than two minutes and two more took just 2:01 off the clock.
UCLA was 1 of 10 on third downs, and that one conversion came on a third-and-1. The Bruins gained all of 2 yards on a run by Soso Jamabo to move the sticks. Included in the whiffs were a 3rd-and-1, a 3rd-and-3 and a 3rd-and-4, all manageable makes.
On those 10 third-down plays, it averaged 0.9 yards per play. Thompson-Robinson was 1 of 6 on third down for three yards and four rushing plays netted five yards.
When UCLA did make a play, it didn’t always end well. Thompson-Robinson hit Chase Cota for a 33-yard gain, but cornerback Jaron Bryant crushed the UCLA wideout low and the football came free, ending up in the hands of James Bailey.
The Bulldogs forced four turnovers, two picks by Allison and two fumbles that were recovered by Bailey and defensive tackle Patrick Belony.
Allison on the interceptions: “It’s a great feeling. I couldn’t get the first one without my brother Mike (Bell). We were trying to fight over the ball and he let me get it. …
“We usually try to do like a little ‘me’ call, but we were stuck in the moment trying to get a turnover, trying to get the offense back on the field. Once we both touched the ball, that’s when we started talking. We were actually talking to each other when it happened. It was ‘Take it, take it, take it.’ “
Three of those turnovers came after UCLA had cut the Bulldogs’ 16-0 lead to 16-14 with 12:59 to go in the third quarter. The Bruins’ other two series toward the end of the game ended with three-and-outs.
The Bulldogs’ defense gave the offense time to put a few things together in the third quarter after it had struggled going into halftime averaging 1.4 yards per play in the second quarter and 3.9 yards per play in the first half.
Fresno State also rendered the Bruins’ tight ends ineffective. UCLA opened in a two-tight end set and Caleb Wilson was expected to be a focal point in the offense – he went into the game as the Bruins’ leading receiver with eight catches for 128 yards and had seven more targets than anyone else on the team.
The Bulldogs shut Wilson out. Three targets, no receptions.
The UCLA running backs including central San Joaquin Valley products Bolu Olorunfunmi (Clovis North) and Kazmeir Allen (Tulare Union) generated 70 yards in 23 plays.
“I think the defense did an amazing job,” said Bell, who led the Bulldogs with seven tackles including five solo stops and one tackle for loss and also broke up two passes.
“Coach did an amazing scheme for it. We’ve just been working on it all week and it showed. We went out there and just knew our assignments and (when) it was time to make plays, we made them, made open-field tackles. That’s what it’s all about.”
Add up the Bulldogs’ two games against Power Five opponents – a 21-14 loss at Minnesota and a 38-14 victory at UCLA – and they allowed an average of just 288.5 yards and 17.5 points per game and allowed the Golden Gophers and Bruins to convert just 6 of 26 third-down plays into first downs (23.1 percent).
By the numbers
4 – Rushing touchdowns by Marcus McMaryion, the most by a Bulldog since Michael Pittman had four in 1997 against San Jose State. The school record is five, set by Don Driscoll in 1954 against Cal State Los Angeles.
3.9 – Yards per play by the Bulldogs in the first half
9.1 – Yards per play by the Bulldogs in the third quarter
66.7 – The Bulldogs’ third-down percentage, converting 12 of 18 plays into first downs. The 12 third-down conversions were their most in a game since Sept. 26, 2009, when they were 12 of 20 in a 28-20 loss at No. 8 Cincinnati.
200 – Career receptions for KeeSean Johnson, who caught eight passes for 85 yards in the victory over UCLA. Johnson is now in fifth place on the Bulldogs’ all-time receptions list, moving past Bernard Berrian (199 from 1999 to 2003). Next up is Isaiah Burse, who caught 209 passes in his Fresno State career.
39:57 – Time of possession for Fresno State; UCLA had it only 20:03.
7 – Consecutive completions for McMaryion, six going for a first down.
5 – Explosive pass plays for Fresno State, accounting for 167 of its 270 passing yards.
6 – Touches for UCLA running back Kazmeir Allen, the freshman from Tulare. All six were rushing plays, and Allen gained a total of 16 yards.
11 – Penalties on UCLA, four of which resulted in a first down for Fresno State. The Bruins had 96 penalty yards.