FINAL: Utah State 37, Bulldogs 35
For the second straight week, Fresno State’s fate was determined by a field goal as time expired.
But this time, the Bulldogs weren’t the ones trotting out their kicker to win the game.
Instead, it was Utah State lining up for a 30-yard field goal and Aggies kicker Dominik Eberle coming through in the clutch to beat Fresno State 37-35 and stun the announced crowd of 32,037 at Bulldog Stadium.
In the prior Utah State drive, the Bulldogs kept the Aggies out of the end zone and came up with a stop on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line with 5:19 to go.
But Fresno State was unable to do much with the ball on offense to seal the game, particularly because it was playing with an injury-depleted offensive line.
The Bulldogs went three-and-out and punted, giving Utah State the ball back with 3:05 to go from the Aggies 47-yard line.
The Aggies also took advantage of a 15-yard personal foul penalty on a 2nd-and-7 play to set up a 30-yard field goal attempt by Dominik Eberle.
Eberle, who was 11 of 13 on field goals going into the game, nailed it as time expired.
It was just last week at Hawaii when Fresno State kicker Cesar Silva nailed a 37-yard field goal as time expired for a 41-38 win.
The Bulldogs (4-5, 2-3) moved to 1-3 on the season in games decided by no more than eight points.
‘Dogs make a stand
Utah State had four plays from the Fresno State 2-yard line and failed to score, turning the ball over to the Bulldogs on downs. Fresno State leads 35-34 with 5:19 to go.
The Aggies had a 4th-and-goal from the 1, but passed on a field goal that would have put them in the lead and linebacker Arron Mosby blew up a run by Jaylen Warren, busting through the line to hit the Aggies’ back for a 4-yard loss.
Bulldogs lose another o-lineman
Fresno State had to punt following the Utah State field goal, but it also had to play without starting right guard Quireo Woodley, who went down with an apparent leg injury during the drive.
Woodley was replaced in the lineup by Nick Abbs.
Utah State gets FG, ‘Dogs lead 35-34
Utah State put together another scoring drive, but was again held to a field goal, this one from 38 yards. Fresno State holds a 35-34 lead with 12:31 to go.
The key play for the Bulldogs on that series was a first-down incomplete pass after defensive tackle Ricky McCoy for pressure on quarterback Jordan Love.
Utah State has really hurt the Bulldogs on first down in this game, averaging 9.9 yards per play.
Cropper puts ‘Dogs back in lead
Fresno State, down 14 early in the third quarter, is back in the lead. Freshman Jalen Cropper scored on a 10-yard run to give the Bulldogs a 35-31 lead with 14:11 remaining.
Taking off in the third quarter
The Bulldogs in the third quarter rolled up 178 yards of offense, averaging 8.1 yards on seven rushing plays with quarterback Jorge Reyna hitting 6 of 7 passes for 121 yards.
They ran 14 plays in two series and did not face a third down.
‘Dogs get a stop
Fresno State forced a three-and-out, the first drive by either team in the third quarter that did not produce points.
The Bulldogs take over at the Aggies’ 43 following a punt return by Ronnie Rivers and a 15-yard late hit penalty.
Utah State gained four yards on a first-down run, but then had a false start penalty knock them off schedule. Quarterback Jordan Love missed an open receiver deep down field on second down and a third-down pass was short of a first down.
Bulldogs hit back
Fresno State has answered again, scoring on a 6-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Rivers, his third of the game. The Bulldogs are within 31-28 with 3:04 to go in the third quarter.
The school record for rushing touchdowns in a game is 5, set by Don Driscoll against Cal State Los Angeles in 1954. Michael Pittman had four against San Jose State in 1997, Mark Barsotti had four against Utah in 1989 and Marcus McMaryion had four at UCLA in 2018.
Aggies go up two scores again
The Bulldogs kept Utah State out of the end zone, but they are back in a two-score hole after Dominik Eberle kicked a 25-yard field goal to push the Aggies lead to 31-21.
There is 5:16 to go in the third quarter.
Quarterback Jordan Love hit a 62-yard pass play on the drive, the fourth explosive pass play of 20 or more yards allowed by the Bulldogs’ defense. That matches a season-high – Colorado State also had four pass plays of 20-plus yards.
Fresno State answered the Utah State score, driving 83 yards in just seven plays and closing to within 28-21 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Josh Hokit.
The big play was a 45-yard gain to the Utah State 4 on a flip pass from Jorge Reyna to freshman Jalen Cropper.
Reyna is 12 of 16 for 190 yards. Cropper has two rushing plays for six yards and two receptions for 57 yards.
Utah State goes up two scores
The Aggies took the second half kickoff and scored on a 6-yard run by Jaylen Warren to go up 28-14 with 11:01 to go in the third quarter, converting on a key 4th-and-1 in the red zone.
That was only the second touchdown Fresno State has allowed on an opening possession in the second half and the first in Mountain West Conference play. The first came at New Mexico State.
Where did that run game go?
Fresno State rushed the ball 10 times on its opening possession for 53 yards, the last 10 on a touchdown run by Ronnie Rivers. The Bulldogs ended the first quarter averaging 4.5 yards on 13 rushing plays,
In the second quarter, that fell to 1.4 yards on nine plays.
Fresno State held possession of the football for 19:46 in the first half, which is nothing new to the Aggies.
Utah State has been on the short end of time of possession often this season, at times by wild margins.
BYU – 35:14 to 24:46
Air Force – 45:43 to 14:17
Nevada – 34:39 to 25:21
LSU – 41:03 to 18:57
San Diego State – 36:55 to 23:05
Wake Forest – 36:13 to 23:47
Utah State on its three scoring drives has taken 3:07, 3:16 and 1:51 off the game clock.
Aggies take the lead
Utah State has taken a 21-14 lead with 39 seconds remaining in the first half. scoring on an 8-yard pass from Jordan Love to Siaosi Mariner, his second touchdown reception.
The Aggies drive was 86 yards in nine plays and it took just 1:51.
Love is now 15 of 19 for 188 yards and the two touchdowns.
‘Dogs can’t hold lead
Utah State has tied the score at 14 on a 15-yard pass from Jordan Love to Siaosi Mariner with 7:59 to go in the half.
The TD came on a 3rd-and-goal play.
Love, the Bakersfield product, has hit 10 of his first 11 passes for 119 yards and one touchdown.
That was the 15th touchdown pass allowed by the Bulldogs, equaling the number they allowed last season in 14 games.
Rivers’ second TD has ‘Dogs on top
Running back Ronnie Rivers scored on a 2-yard run to cap a 10-play, 67-yard touchdown drive that gave the Bulldogs a 14-7 lead with 11:21 to go in the first half.
Rivers has rushed for 40 yards and the two touchdowns on 10 plays. He has two touchdown runs in four consecutive games now and 10 rushing touchdowns on the season.
The Bulldogs’ single-season rushing TD leaders …
19 – Ryan Mathews, 2009
17 – Anthony Daigle, 1992
17 – Aaron Craver, 1990
15 – Wendell Mathis, 2005
15 – Reggie Brown, 1994
14 – Ryan Mathews, 2007
14 – Ron Rivers, 1993
14 – Myron Jones, 1989
14 – James Williams, 1985
14 – Dale Messer, 1960
14 – Dean Philpott, 1957
Defensive end Kwami Jones, who missed the first part of the season with a back injury, is in the game on the Bulldogs’ second defensive series.
Fresno State forced a punt and is taking possession at its 33-yard line.
Utah State has answered the Bulldogs opening TD, scoring on a 21-yard run by Gerold Bright with 5:07 to go in the first quarter.
The Aggies averaged 8.0 yards per play on the drive.
Bulldogs break on top
Fresno State took the opening kickoff and went 82 yards to take a 7-0 lead on a 10-yard run by Ronnie Rivers with 8:23 to go in the first quarter.
The Bulldogs, playing a seventh starting offensive line in nine games, ran the ball on 10 of the 12 plays on the touchdown drive. They gained 53 yards, 5.3 yards per play.
It is the second game in a row and fourth time this season Fresno State has scored on its opening drive. The Bulldogs are 21-2 under coach Jeff Tedford when scoring first.
Some pre-game reading …
Tuitele latest OL to miss game
Fresno State will have Tyrone Sampson starting at center on Saturday against Utah State, but that is not the only change the Bulldogs will be making on an offensive line that has been hit hard by injuries going back to spring practice.
Starting right tackle Syrus Tuitele will not play due to an injury, leaving right guard Quireo Woodley as the Bulldogs’ only offensive lineman to have started every game.
Sampson checked in late in the first half in a victory at Hawaii last week after starter Matt Smith went down and out for the rest of the season with a broken fibula.
Starting left guard Netane Muti also is out of the year with a foot injury.
The Bulldogs have had four starters at left guard with Muti, Nick Aibuedefe, Bula Schmidt and Jace Fuamatu. They have had three starters at left tackle with Dontae Bull, Aibuedefe and Alex Akingbulu.
With Tuitele out against the Aggies, Fresno State will be rolling out a seventh starting offensive line unit in their nine games.
This is how they have lined up from left tackle across …
at USC – Bull, Muti, Smith, Woodley, 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
Colorado State – Bull, Fuamatu, Smith, Woodley, Tuitele
at Hawaii – Akingbulu, Fuamatu, Smith, Woodley, Tuitele
Bull, who did not play at Hawaii due to a leg injury, is expected to return to the starting line up against Utah State. With Tuitele out, the Bulldogs likely start Bull and Akingbulu or Aibuedefe at the tackle spots.
All three have practiced or played at left and right tackle.