Fresno State Football

Fresno State gets on winning track behind Hokit’s runs, turnover-free play from QB Reyna

FINAL: Bulldogs 34, Sacramento State 21

Fresno State avoided what undoubtedly would qualify as a bad loss, escaping Bulldogs Stadium on Saturday night with a 34-21 victory over FCS Sacramento State with a heavy dose of Josh Hokit.

Generating all of his rushing production in the fourth quarter, Hokit finished with 12 carries for 72 yards and two touchdowns — with most of his workload occurring in the final seven minutes — to help Fresno State close out Sac State.

In addition, Hokit, a two-sport athlete who’s also a wrestler, had three catches for 22 yards and another score.

Quarterback Jorge Reyna, meanwhile, completed 26 of 39 passes for 312 yards and two touchdowns. Perhaps more importantly to his development, the first-year starter did not throw an interception after getting picked off toward the end of each of the previous two games.

The Bulldogs had won their past nine games against FCS opponents by an average of 32.2 points per game including routs of Idaho and Incarnate Word the past two seasons, but they struggled to get away from the Hornets.

The Bulldogs (1-2) scored on 7-yard pass from Reyna to Derrion Grim with 6:41 remaining to cap a 74-yard, 11-play scoring drive and break a 20-20 tie.

Hokit put the game away with 2:17 remaining, scoring on a 14-yard run. He began receiving more carries after starting running back Ronnie Rivers fumbled twice in the third quarter (Fresno State managed to recover one of the loose balls).

Rivers finished with 11 carries for 37 yards and a touchdown against a stout Hornets run defense that entered Saturday limiting opponents to 59.3 rushing yards per game.

Fresno State rolled up 471 total yards of offense, but squandered several scoring opportunities with kicker Cesar Silva, who had started the season hitting five of his first six field goal attempts, missing from 49, 35 and 37 yards.

Announced crowd

Fresno State’s second home game of the season generated an announced crowd of 31,034.

The football action at Bulldog Stadium was competing against the concert at the Save Mart Center, where popular musician Post Malone held his concert that was well attended.

Bulldogs back on top

Fresno State is back in the lead, scoring on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Jorge Reyna to Derrion Grim. The TD pass capped a 74-yard drive that included a lot of Josh Hokit, who carried it five times on the drive.

Cesar Silva made the PAT to make it 27-20.

Reyna is now 25 of 38 for 291 yards and two touchdowns.

Hornets tie it up

Sacramento State on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Thomson to Isaiah Bailey with 12:05 to go in the fourth quarter, adding a 2-point conversion run by B.J. Perkinson.

The Hornets drive was 75 yards in seven plays, starting with a 36-yard pass play from Thomson to Isaiah Gable.

Hokit run extends Bulldogs lead

The Bulldogs have pushed the lead to 20-12 on a 2-yard run by Josh Hokit, but they missed the PAT and with that miss it still is a one-possession game.

After three missed field goals by Cesar Silva, the Bulldogs had Asa Fuller try that PAT.

Cusick inside the 20

Fresno State punter Blake Cusick has punted the ball three times and is averaging 43.3 yards per kick. More importantly, he has dropped all three down inside the 20-yard line at the 7, 8 and 1 yard lines.

A three-and-out after that punt downed at the 1 has set up the Bulldogs at the Sacramento State 39.

Bulldogs give it right back

The Fresno State defense set up the offense at the Hornets’ 14, but the Bulldogs gave it right back. Ronnie Rivers pounded out two yards inside and at the end of the play the ball was stripped from his grasp.

Sacramento State takes over at its 13 with 6:05 remaining in the third quarter.

Bulldogs catch a break

Fresno State forced a fumble, taking over the the Sacramento State 14-yard line.

Alex Dumais came off the edge and stripped the ball from quarterback Kevin Thomson, and it was recovered by Mykal Walker.

Another miss by Silva

Fresno State came up empty on its first series in the second half, a drive that started at the Hornets’ 41-yard line.

Cesar Silva missed a third field goal attempt, this one from 37 yards.

Silva wwas 5 of 6 to start the season, the made field goals from 45, 46 and 28 yards at USC and 48 and 30 yards against Minnesota.

The Bulldogs’ lead is 14-12 with 9:25 to go in the third quarter.

Reyna’s run

Fresno State quarterback Jorge Reyna was 15 of 29 for 236 yards and one touchdown in the first half. He would have had a run of 12 completions in a row if not for drops by Chris Coleman and Juan Rodriguez.

Run down

Fresno State has attacked down field and wide, but has not had much success rushing the football between the tackles. The Bulldogs have rushed it 18 times for just 51 yards, which includes a 22-yard burst outside by Ronnie Rivers.

Sacramento State came into the game allowing just 1.8 yards per rush, so the Bulldogs lack of success with the run game is not surprising. On the other hand, when playing FCS teams in the past it has …

2018 – Idaho, 44 for 239, 5.4 ypp

2017 – Incarnate Word, 40 for 199, 4.9

2016 – Sacramento State, 43 for 200, 4.7

2015 – Abilene Christian, 39 for 225, 5.8

2014 – Southern Utah, 54 for 389, 7.2

Third down troubles

Sacramento State has converted 3 of 7 third down plays against the Bulldogs’ defense … scoring on a 47-yard touchdown pass on a 3rd-and-8, picking up nine yards on a 3rd-and-6 and nine yards on a 3rd-and-7.

Fresno State went into the game 11th of 12 in the Mountain West Conference in third down defense.

Hornets cash it in

Sacramento State is within 14-12 with nine seconds remaining in the half, taking that turnover and driving 28 yards in five plays, scoring on a pass from Kevin Thomson to BJ Perkinson.

The Hornets 2-point conversion try failed.

Bulldogs turn it over

Fresno State apparently is unaware it is playing a FCS team. It just tried a second trick play with a solid drive already in progress and it turned into a fumble and a turnover.

Wideout Zane Pope motioned across the formation and took in a lateral from Jorge Reyna. It appeared that Pope was going to then throw it down field, but there was no open receiver downfield and Pope got hit and ended up losing the football at the Hornets’ 32. Isaiah Butler returned the fumble to the Bulldogs’ 28.

Rivers into end zone

Fresno State has extended its lead to 14-6 with a 6-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Rivers, scoring behind a strong block by tight end Cam Sutton with 3:32 to go in the first half.

The score was set up with a 46-yard pass play from Jorge Reyna to Keric Wheatfall to the Sacramento State 6.

Reyna is 14 of 17 for 214 yards and one touchdown.

Another blank

The Bulldogs Cesar Silva just missed a second field goal, this one from just 35 yards. Fresno State quarterback Jorge Reyna is 12 of 15 with two drops for 145 yards and the Bulldogs have 183 yards of offense, but just one touchdown.

Hornets answer

Sacramento State took advantage of the Bulldogs’ third-down defense – as many this season have – by hitting a 47-yard touchdown pass on a 3rd-and-8 play. Quarterback Kevin Thomson hit a wide-open Marshel Martin for the score.

The point after was blocked by defensive tackle Kevin Atkins, and Fresno State maintains a 7-6 lead with 3:31 remaining in the first quarter.

Fresno State had allowed opponents to convert 54% on third downs coming into the game, 15 of 28. On 3rd-and-7 or longer, opponents had hit 5 of 7 passes for 65 yards with four first downs.

Reyna to Hokit, a hit and a score

Fresno State is up 7-0 after a touchdown pass from Jorge Reyna to running back Josh Hokit. Hokit was in a collision well short of the end zone with twooo Sacramento State defenders, but won easily. He bounced off both, and ran it in.

The Bulldogs went 93 yards in 10 plays for the score, their longest drive this season by yards covered.

Bulldogs fire a blank

Fresno State took the opening kickoff and moved 43 yards in eight plays, but threw away a play with a halfback pass that fell incomplete and ended up having to settle for a 49-yard field goal that missed.

Aibuedefe in for Bull, Bulldogs

Fresno State senior Nick Aibuedefe made his first career start due to an injury to left tackle Dontae Bull, a starter in the Bulldogs’ first two games.

Aibuedefe is a Sacramento native and went to Capital Christian High before walking on to the Fresno State program through an open student tryout. He played defensive end his first season before moving to the offensive line, getting into six games in his junior season and four as a sophomore.

“It’s funny, I have a couple of high school buddies that play on that defense,” he said, during the week. “A lot of them already left, but there are a couple guys on that team still.”

Sunnyside starter

Freshman cornerback Deshawn Ruffin is making his first career start with Chris Gaston out with an injury.

Ruffin, a Sunnyside High grad, has played in both of the Bulldogs games this season with six tackles, all solo stops.

QB1: Jorge Reyna

Fresno State plays FCS Sacramento State on Saturday at Bulldog Stadium followed by a road game next week at 0-3 New Mexico State, which has been outscored by an average of 50.3 to 9.0 by Alabama, Washington State and San Diego State.

So, there seemingly would be opportunity for the Bulldogs to get some game reps for one of the quarterbacks backing starter Jorge Reyna, maybe a series here or there. Ben Wooldridge and Steven Comstock and the No. 2 and No. 3 quarterbacks – both are redshirt freshman, and yet to take a snap in a game.

FRS_EPZDOGFOOT_MINNESOTA08
Fresno State quarterback Jorge Reyna, center, passes against Minnesota Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019 in Fresno. Reyna completed 24 of 35 passes for 288 yards with three touchdowns, but had a pass intercepted in overtime that sealed the Bulldogs’ 38-35 loss to the Golden Gophers. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

But sitting at 0-2 and facing a solid Hornets’ defense, coach Jeff Tedford dismissed that question quickly, much faster than any of his players can run a 40-yard dash.

“I’m not here to put somebody in to get a snap or two,” Tedford said. “We have to make every play count. We’re in no position to be experimenting. Our job is to try to do our best to win a game one play at a time. There’s no experimenting going on.”

It could happen under a number of scenarios – not all of them bad. But clearly it is not part of the plan going into game week.

Reyna, who has played well despite two costly late-game interceptions at USC and against Minnesota, is the Bulldogs’ quarterback.

“He has played really well,” Tedford said. “He has competed really hard, Unfortunately, he had two open passes that, you know, it’s almost better if you have tight coverage because then you have to zip it. He put a little air on it and the defense made great plays.

“It’s unfortunate. But besides from that he has played well. He’s running the offense well as far as communication, he’s getting the plays right and managing the clock, doing all the things quarterbacks have to do. He has done a good job.”

Wheatfall weekend?

Fresno State wideout Keric Wheatfall lit up the practice field in fall camp, but was down and out early in the Bulldogs’ season-opener at USC due to an ankle injury.

He sat out the overtime loss to Minnesota, but is expected to play against Sacramento State and a defense that in its first three games played a lot of man coverage outside and has given up more than a few explosive pass plays.

The Hornets allowed four explosive pass plays of 20 or more yards in a rout of NAIA Southern Oregon including a 54-yard touchdown.

Arizona State had four big pass plays including a 72-yard touchdown to Eno Benjamin with 4:42 remaining to go up 19-7. The Sun Devils also hit plays of 52 and 45 yards in averaging 17.9 yards per completion.

Northern Colorado, which is ranked 98th in the FCS in passing offense, couldn’t get much of anything done against Sacramento State last week in a 50-0 shutout loss. It did, though, have two long pass plays including one of 47 yards.

Short memory

Reyna during the Bulldogs’ bye week admitted that the interception in overtime loss to Minnesota still stung a bit. But he hold a solid week of practice and Tedford is not worried about any lingering effects from the past two games …

“It’s the same as a cornerback who gets beat for a touchdown,” he said. “You have to use it and then you have to move on. You can’t sit there and dwell on it. We don’t have time for that and typically kids are pretty resilient and bounce back and have another opportunity. The bad thing is it has been two weeks, but he has worked hard in practice …

“This is one more opportunity to play against a great defense, a defense that has done a great job against every one they’ve played. The competition is really high again this week, as it’s going to be every week. But it’s one more opportunity.”

Links from the week …

Bulldogs looking for answers on third downs

Sacramento State quarterback Kevin Thomson leads Hornets

Hornets defensive front will be challenge for the Bulldogs

Fresno State all-decade team

David White: Bulldogs bad start doesn’t matter

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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