FINAL: MINNESOTA 38, BULLDOGS 35
Same guy, different year.
Same heartbreaking result for the Bulldogs.
Fresno State lost 38-35 in double overtime to Minnesota on Saturday at Bulldog Stadium when safety Antonie Winfield Jr. picked off a Bulldogs’ pass in the end zone.
This time, he got Jorge Reyna going for tight end Cam Sutton, who was wide open before the Golden Gophers safety came flying over to make a play on the ball.
Last season, it Winfield Jr. picked off a halfback pass from Josh Hokit in the end zone with 1:18 left that essentially ended that game in Minnesota.
In addition, it was just last week when Fresno State lost 31-23 to USC on a costly late-game interception.
On first down from the Trojans 15 with 54 seconds remaining, Reyna was picked off in the end zone while trying to complete a pass that could’ve potentially sent that game into overtime.
Fresno State (0-2) is winless through its first two games for the first time since 2014.
Saturday’s home opener was played before an enthusiastic announced crowd of 34,790, which included Grammy Award winner John Legend.
MINNESOTA TIES IT, SECOND OT COMING
The Gophers had a short field after the Bulldogs’ Netane Muti was penalized for taking his helmet off while on the field following the Reyna to Rivers TD pass that put Fresno State ahead in the first overtime.
They cashed it in with a touchdown run by quarterback Tanner Morgan.
The Bulldogs and Minnesota are going to second overtime.
BULLDOGS OPEN OT WITH REYNA TO RIVERS TD
Fresno State scored to open the overtime, Jorge Reyna hitting Ronnie Rivers with a 5-yard touchdown pass. Thy again can thank Minnesota, which was called for roughing the passer on a 3rd-down pass that fell incomplete.
MINNESOTA TIES IT WITH 46 SECONDS TO GO
The Gophers have tied the score at 28 on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Chris Autman-Bell on a fourth-down pass.
BULLDOGS BACK ON TOP
Fresno State converted a 4th-and-1 rather than attempt a short field goal that would have put it in the lead and cashed in that call with a 2-yard touchdown run by Jorge Reyna.
Fresno State is up 28-21 with 5:58 to go.
The Bulldogs picked up the first down on a run by Ronnie Rivers.
MORE HELP FROM MINNY
The Bulldogs went three and out with the possession after the Gophers tied the score at 21, but Rodney Smith muffed the punt by Blake Cusick and the Bulldogs came up with the football.
Fresno State got the ball at the Minnesota 38.
GOPHERS TIE SCORE AT 21
Minnesota has tied the score at 21 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Mohamed Ibrahim with 11:18 to go in the fourth quarter.
The Gophers’ drive was 78 yards in 15 plays, the third long scoring drive against the Bulldogs’ defense. Minnesota also has scored on a 75-yard, 11-play drive and a 65-yard, 10-play drive.
Reyna has five pass plays of 20 or more yards with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs had more in a game just three times last season – seven against San Jose State and six against Wyoming and New Mexico.
Wyoming led the Mountain West in fewest pass plays of 20 or more yards allowed last season, but New Mexico was 10th in the league and San Jose State was 11th.
REYNA TO JARED RICE, BULLDOGS LEAD
Fresno State quarterback Jorge Reyna just put together the Bulldogs most efficient drive of the game, ending with a 14-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jared Rice.
The Bulldogs went 62 yards in just five plays and 2:10 and converted a 2-point conversion play behind some trickery to go up 21-14.
Reyna lit up the Golden Gophers on the drive, going 3 of 3 for 51 yards and the touchdown. The Bulldogs’ quarterback is now 18 of 25 for 240 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. His efficiency rating is 171.0
FRESNO STATE BACK IN BUSINESS
The Bulldogs have the ball at their 38-yard line following another Minnesota turnover. Linebacker Justin Rice forced a second fumble this game, smacking quarterback Tanner Morgan as he was scrambling toward a first down. The ball was recovered by defensive end Isaiah Johnson.
Rice is up to nine tackles, five solo with two forced fumbles.
BULLDOGS WITHIN 14-13
Fresno State closed to 14-13 on its opening drive of the second half, scoring on a 30-yard field goal by Cesar Silva.
Again, Minnesota helped along the way. The Golden Gophers were called for holding tight end Jared Rice on a 3rd-and-8 play to give the Bulldogs a first down.
Fresno State quarterback Jorge Reyna is 9 of 13 for 129 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He is 4 of 4 throwing to Derrion Grim for 58 yards and 3 of 3 throwing to running back Rivers for 37 yards and one touchdown.
RICE RACKING UP TACKLES
Bulldogs’ linebacker Justin Rice, who was their defensive player of the week in the opener at USC, is leading the Bulldogs with seven tackles at halftime including four solo. Rice also has forced a fumble.
Rice started at middle linebacker with Mykal Walker at defensive end and has played by the Mike and Will.
Fresno State has held Minnesota to 5.0 yards per play and 2.5 yards per rush.
Minnesota got the ball back at the Fresno State 46-yard line with 36 seconds remaining in the half on an interception by Reyna, but the Golden Gophers went backward on sacks by Isaiah Johnson and Kevin Atkins.
The Bulldogs have four sacks at halftime, a large number. Last season, when third in the nation in allowing just 14.1 points per game, Fresno State had only 24 sacks all season and had more than four in a game just once. They had 5.0 in a victory over Toledo and 4.0 in a victory over Nevada.
Atkins has two of the Bulldogs sacks, Johnson has one and freshman Levelle Bailey has one.
REYNA TO RIVERS, TD
Fresno State is back within 14-10, scoring on a 25-yard touchdown pass from Jorge Reyna to running back Ronnie Rivers.
The Bulldogs drive was dead when they picked up 11 yards on a 3rd-and-22, but Minnesota was hit with a 15-yard face mask penalty nowhere near the play. Reyna hit wideout Derrion Grim over the middle of the field, and 30 some odd yards away left tackle Dontae Bull was engaged with Minnesota defensive end Tai’yon Devers over by the Fresno State sideline.
Devers ended up ripping Bull’s helmet off, and ended up with a face mask penalty while Fresno State ended up with a first down when it should have been punting away the football.
Reyna then hit Grim for 16 yards and Rivers for 25 yards and the touchdown to get the Bulldogs within four points.
MINNESOTA WITH ANOTHER TD DRIVE
The Golden Gophers have pushed their lead to 14-3 with a 1-yard touchdown run by Rodney Scott. There is 4:38 remaining in the first half. The Minnesota drive was 65 yards in 10 plays and the Bulldogs gave them a head start.
Following the field goal by Silva, Fresno State pooched the kickoff, which was fielded cleanly and without incident at the Golden Gophers at the 30-yard line. Minnesota got an extra five yards because Fresno State was offsides on the kickoff, and started its drive from the 35.
FRESNO STATE ON BOARD
The Bulldogs have not been inside the Minnesota 30 on four drives, but they just got off ‘0’ on the scoreboard with a 48-yard field goal by Cesar Silva. There is 10:07 remaining in the first half.
The Fresno State drive was 32 yards in eight plays to the Golden Gophers’ 31.
BULLDOGS AND MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
Fresno State put down another Minnesota scoring threat, forcing a fumble. It did not turn into point the Bulldogs way, and early this season it appears that could become a problem.
The Bulldogs had four turnovers gained in an opening loss at USC, but could turn them into only six points on two field goals.
Fresno State last season had 26 turnovers gained and scored 114 points off of them with 15 touchdowns and three field goals.
BULLDOGS MISS FG, TRAIL 7-0
Fresno State didn’t answer with its first possession, driving the ball to the Minnesota 33 where Cesar Silva missed a 50-yard field goal attempt. Silva had started 3 of 3 at USC, hitting from 45, 46 and 28 yards.
Fresno State wideout Keric Wheatfall, who suffered an ankle injury in the Bulldogs’ loss at USC is out against the Golden Gophers. He is on the sideline, but not in football gear.
Wheatfall had one kickoff return for 35 yards against the Trojans.
The junior college transfer is one of the Bulldogs’ primary deep threats, and they are matching up against a defense that gave up a few long pass plays in an opening victory over FCS South Dakota State.
Fresno State has given up a touchdown to USC and now Minnesota on its opening drives. Last season, the Bulldogs did not allow a touchdown on an opening drive all season, and only field goals to Wyoming and Hawaii.
The touchdowns by the Trojans and Golden Gophers weren’t cheap, either. USC went 81 yards in 13 plays, Minnesota 75 in 11.
GOPHERS MAKE IT LOOK EASY
Minnesota took the opening kickoff and drive 75 yards for a touchdown, scoring on a 15-yard pass from Tanner Morgan to Rashod Bateman on a 3rd-and-9 play. The drive took 11 plays and 6:13.
Fresno State opened the game with Mykal Walker lining up at defensive end with Justin Rice, Arron Mosby and Levelle Bailey at the linebacker spots.
Walker was in on 15 tackles last week at USC.
PRE-GAME READING …
SECOND HALF SURGE
Fresno State obviously got a huge break when USC quarterback JT Daniels was knocked out in the first half of the opener, but the Bulldogs’ defense extended a solid run of stingy second halves – they allowed just 139 yards of offense and one touchdown; the Trojans also scored on a 100-yard kickoff return by Velus Jones.
Fresno State last season was second in the nation in second half points allowed. Here’s what that looked like …
Idaho – 7 points
Minnesota – 11
UCLA – 7
Toledo – 14
Nevada – 0
Wyoming – 0
New Mexico – 0
Hawaii – 7
UNLV – 3
Boise State – 21
San Diego State – 0
San Jose State – 13
Boise State – 9-*
Arizona State – 3
-* includes three points in overtime.
Fresno State was leading Toledo 49-13 in the fourth quarter when the Rockets scored two touchdowns and was leading San Jose State 17-0 and 31-7 when the Spartans scored two fourth quarter touchdowns.
A STREAK IS ENDING
Minnesota has won 16 consecutive games against non-conference opponents, the longest active streak in the nation.
Fresno State has won eight games in a row at Bulldog Stadium, tied for the 13th longest streak in the nation.
Fresno State had a few problems in a season-opening loss at USC, defending third downs among them.
The Trojans moved the sticks on 6 of 13 third-down plays, 46.2%, which left the Bulldogs 10th in the Mountain West and tied for 98th in the nation in third-down defense.
Part of that was down and distance – six of those third-down plays were third-and-shorts (1 to 3 yards) and three more were third-and-mediums (4 to 6).
Against Minnesota on Saturday, the Golden Gophers could live there with an offense that has some window dressing, but is built around rushing the football.
“It’s definitely more of a traditional offense in the sense of was what Big Ten football is as far as using clock and getting into the plays that you want to get into,” defensive coordinator Bert Watts said. “They don’t necessarily get into it in a traditional way as far as their offensive structure, but you get the same things.”
Fresno State (0-1) obviously wants to avoid that, and get off the field on third downs. A year ago, they allowed opponents to convert 34.1% of their third-down plays.
“Those critical downs are that much more important and getting off the field on those short-yardage downs are that much more important because you’re going to run into more of those against a team like this,” Watts said.
“They’re going to play that game of pound it, pound it, play action. They’re going to end up with some of those third and threes and they’re going to run the football and you have to stop it. Stopping the run is always our No. 1 goal, what we want to accomplish, but it’s even that much more important against a team like this.”