Fresno State Football

A spoiled homecoming: Another Fresno State late-game interception proves costly

FINAL: Colorado State 41, Fresno State 31

Fresno State had a horrendous start, on both sides of the football.

There also were a season-high in penalties, some curious play calls, poor tackling, way too many big plays for the other side.

Plus, another late-game interception when quarterback Jorge Reyna was picked off with 4:08 remaining, which led to Colorado State scoring a go-ahead touchdown.

Add it all up, and it was too much to overcome as Fresno State lost to a struggling Colorado State 41-31 before an announced Homecoming crowd of 32,890 on Saturday at Bulldog Stadium.

The Bulldogs (4-3 overall, 1-2 Mountain West) were in deep inside of six minutes to play – the Rams had the ball at the Fresno State 14, but with a 3rd-and-8. Colorado State quarterback Patrick O’Brien did the one thing he shouldn’t have done in that situation — make a wildly errant pass into the end zone.

And it was intercepted by Bulldogs safety Juju Hughes.

But Fresno State couldn’t capitalize. Instead, the Bulldogs turned it over.

Fresno State started with 5:09 to go, but quickly was in a 3rd-and-10.

Then quarterback Jorge Reyna fired a pass to Emoryie Edwards, but the ball slipped through his hands and was picked off by the Rams’ Logan Stewart.

Colorado State (3-5, 2-2) scored two plays later on an 11-yard pass to Warren Jackson to take a lead.

Earlier this season, Reyna also threw a late-game interception that proved costly in Fresno State losses against USC and Minnesota.

Rams go ahead with 3:29 to go

Colorado State took advantage of a Fresno State interception, scoring on an 11-yard pass to Warren Jackson to go up 38-31.

The Bulldogs had staved off a go-ahead score when safety Juju Hughes picked off a pass in the end zone. But the Bulldogs gave it right back when Emoryie Edwards had a pass slip through his hands to carom to Rams’ safety Logan Stewart.

FG is all

Fresno State got to the Colorado State 8-yard line, but a holding penalty set them back and they ended up settling for a 35-yard field goal by Cesar Silva that tied the score at 31 with 12:06 to go.

The penalty was the eighth against the Bulldogs, a season high.

Rivers tops 100-yard mark

Ronnie Rivers just picked up 45 yards on his 12th rushing play in the game, going over the 100-yard mark for the first time this season and getting the Bulldogs into the red zone. He has 142 yards.

The Bulldogs have had a running back rush for more than 100 yards in at least one game every season since 2000, but through the first six games the most productive game by a Fresno State running back was Rivers against Minnesota.

He had 76 yards on 15 plays.

Freshman wideout Jalen Cropper rushed for 118 yards at New Mexico State and quarterback Jorge Reyna had 88 rushing yards at USC.

Another big play, and there does the lead

Colorado State is back in front, scoring on a 4-yard run by Marcus McElroy to take a 31-28 lead with 14:21 to go.

The Rams went 80 yards in 7 plays including a 40-yard pass to Warren Jackson to the Bulldogs’ 4. It was the Rams’ sixth explosive play of 20 or more yards, the most allowed by the Bulldogs this season.

Rivers TD has ‘Dogs back on top

Fresno State is in the lead for the first time, going up 28-24 on a 7-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Rivers.

The Bulldogs took advantage of another short field following a Colorado State punt, their drive just 38 yards on five plays. They have TD drive of 83 and 80 yards, and also 37 and 38 yards.

Colorado State back in lead

The Rams are back up, scoring a 39-yard field goal to go up 24-21 with 8:35 remaining in the third quarter.

The Rams’ chunk plays

Colorado State opened its drive with a 43-yard pass play, its fifth explosive play of 20 or more yards. The Rams have pass plays of 69, 32 and 42 yards and rushing plays of 27 and 29 yards.

The five plays of 20-plus yards are the most Fresno State has allowed in a game this season. The Bulldogs had allowed only 20 plays of 20-plus this season, tied with San Diego State for fewest in the Mountain West.

Bulldogs get even

Fresno State has scored on its opening possession in the second half, tying the score at 21 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Josh Hokit, his second of the game and fifth over the past two games.

The Bulldogs drive was 83 yards in 8 plays.

Left tackle Dontae Bull had to be helped off the field with what appeared to be a foot or ankle injury after the Hokit TD run. If Bull is unable to continue, Alex Akingbulu is likely to replace him.

Was that a … sack?

Fresno State defensive end Mykal Walker was credited with a sack in the second quarter, which is the first for the Bulldogs in three games.

They didn’t have any at Air Force, but the Falcons attempted only three passes in that game. They also didn’t have any against UNLV, and with 18 sacks the Rebels have allowed more sacks than any team in the Mountain West.

Colorado State, which put the ball up 26 times in the first half, came in tied for 10th in the conference in sacks allowed with 17. The Rams were tied with Nevada and just one ahead of UNLV.

Running to nowhere

The Bulldogs have rushed for 43 yards on 16 plays, just 2.7 yards per play. That includes a two sacks of quarterback Jorge Reyna, but even their sack adjusted running numbers are not good.

It’s more respectable – 4.1 yards per play.

But Colorado State came into this game ranked 11th in the Mountain West Conference in rushing defense, allowing 220.7 yards per game and 5.2 yards per play.

The Rams gave up 436 rushing yards in a loss to Toledo last month.

Rams’ first quarter …

Colorado State rolled up 227 yards in the first quarter, the most Fresno State has allowed in any quarter this season.

The top (or bottom) five …

227 – Colorado State, first quarter

163 – USC, first quarter

145 – USC, second quarter

133 – UNLV, first quarter

123 – Air Force, second quarter

Bulldogs back in it

Fresno State has cut its deficit to 21-14 on a 7-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Rivers with 21-13 to go in the first half.

The Bulldogs’ drive was 37 yards on five plays. all of them rushing plays.

Fresno State had four three-and-outs in its first five drives, a season-high.

The had three at USC and at New Mexico State, two against UNLV, at Air Force and against Minnesota and just one against Sacramento State.


Colorado State has extended its lead to 21-7 on a 9-yard touchdown run by Marcus McElroy with 11:59 to go in the first half.

The Rams have three TD drive of 70 or more yards after going 71 yards on 12 plays for that score. They have have TD dives of 75 and 73 yards. It is up to 260 yards of offense, while the Bulldogs have yet to crack 100 – they have 74.

McElroy is up to 88 rushing yards and the touchdown on just six plays.

What a quarter …

The first quarter is over, but the Bulldogs gave up 227 yards and seven first downs in the opening 15 minutes of football.

Colorado State is averaging 9.9 yards per play, and it has converted 2 of 4 third-down plays.

Bulldogs’ cut into deficit

Fresno State hit a 4th-and-1 pass play, Jorge Reyna to Cam Sutton, for 37 yards to the Colorado State 1. Josh Hokit scored from there, the Bulldogs’ cutting the Colorado State lead to 14-7 with 2:08 remaining in the first quarter.

How ugly will this get?

Colorado State whiffed on a short field goal, but it has rolled up 189 yards of offense already. There still is 4:20 to go in the first quarter.

Rams up 14-0

Colorado State is up 14-4 after taking Bulldogs’ punt and driving 73 yards in seven plays, scoring on a 1-yard run by quarterback Patrick O’Brien with 8:21 to go in the first quarter.

The Rams have 155 yards of offense to just five for Fresno State at this point. The Bulldogs have run six plays, 0.8 per play.

Ugly start for Bulldogs

Down 7-0 after just two plays, Fresno State just went three-and-out, losing four yards on its drive. The Bulldogs also were penalized for a false start on fourth down when trying to put away the football.

That didn’t take long …

Fresno State is in a hole, two plays into its Homecoming game. The Rams scored on a 69-yard pass play from Patrick O’Brien to Trey McBride, the 75-yard scoring drive taking just 44 seconds.

That is the third game in a row and fifth time in seven games the Bulldogs’ have allowed points on an opponent’s opening series in a game.

Fresno State is 1-2 this season when its opponent scores first, 5-7 in two-plus seasons under coach Jeff Tedford. When the Bulldogs have scored first they are 2-1 this season and 20-2 under Tedford.

Some pre-game reading …

The Fifth Dimension

Fresno State offensive coordinator and line coach Ryan Grubb said that redshirt freshman Jace Fuamatu would start at left guard against Colorado State.

It will be the first career start for the redshirt freshman. He also will be the fourth Bulldogs’ offensive lineman to make a first start this season, joining center Matt Smith, tackle/guard Nick Aibuedefe and guard Bula Schmidt. With Fuamatu in, it also will be the fifth starting lineup they have used in seven games.

A look at the first six games, left tackle across …

at USC: Dontae Bull, Netane Muti, Smith, Quireo Woodley, Syrus Tuitele

Minnesota: Bull, Muti, Smith, Woodley, Tuitele

Sacramento State: Aibuedefe, Muti, Smith, Woodley, Tuitele

at New Mexico State: Bull, Aibuedefe, Smith, Woodley, Tuitele

at Air Force: Bull, Schmidt, Smith, Woodley, Tuitele

UNLV: Bull, Schmidt, Smith, Woodley, Tuitele

Muti is out for the season with a foot injury, the second year in a row he has been sidelined by an injury. The fourth-year junior went down with an Achilles’ injury last season in a loss at Minnesota.

Fresno State with all of the changes up front is ranked seventh in the Mountain West Conference in rushing offense, averaging 161.0 yards per game. Ronnie Rivers, the Bulldogs’ lead back, has accounted for only 50.7 yards per game, Josh Hokit, the No. 2 back, is averaging 26.5 yards per game.

The Brothers Rice

The Bulldogs’ Jared and Justin Rice are one of 14 sets of brother who are starting for the same team in the FBS, Jared at tight end and Justin at linebacker.

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Fresno State tight end Jared Rice (16) pulls in a pass in the 2017 Mountain West Conference championship game. Darin Oswald

They are the only ones to have scored a touchdown in the same game – Jared scored on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Jorge Reyna last week in a 56-24 Mountain West victory over UNLV and Justin on a 18-yard fumble return.


How the Bulldogs’ Jalen Cropper put some life into an unproductive play

The turnover game

Colorado State has lost 18 turnovers this season – 12 fumbles and six interceptions. That puts the Rams 11th in the conference and 128th in the nation.

Only New Mexico State (19) and Hawaii (21) have turned it over more.

The Bulldogs are second in the FBS is turnovers gained per game with 2.67.

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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