Recapping the Bulldogs’ 31-28 win over UNLV.
Players of the game
Fresno State quarterback Kilton Anderson: Redshirt freshman, the fourth quarterback to get the starting call, delivered the team’s best game behind center of the season. He completed 19 of 31 passes for 193 yards and ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries while directing four scoring drives of 50 or more yards.
Bulldogs running back Marteze Waller: The senior delivered his second 100-yard game of the season, finishing with 111 on 21 carries with two touchdowns, including what proved to be the game-winner on a 38-yard run with 2:37 to play.
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Fresno State Ejiro Ederaine: Senior linebacker, already the team’s leading tackler, kept it going with game-leading nine tackles – three for loss including a third-down sack, combining with Claudell Louis, that helped thwart the Rebels’ final drive.
Play of the game
Fourth quarter, third-and-6 at the UNLV 38: Fresno State, and in particular running back Marteze Waller, exorcised some season long frustrations, with the senior breaking loose for a 38-yard go-ahead touchdown run that capped a 17-0 run as the Bulldogs completed their comeback and snapped a five-game losing streak.
Numbers of the game
202: Total yards gained at halftime by the Bulldogs
194: Yards gained by Fresno State in its loss to Utah State a week earlier
89: Yards gained by the Bulldogs in a loss at San Diego State before that
1: Time in past 10 halves of football that Fresno State had gained 200 yards against a FBS opponent
56.9: Opponents’ third-down conversion percentage against Bulldogs (53 of 93)
299: Total yards for UNLV, fewest allowed by Fresno State against FBS team this season
8: Different Fresno State receivers with a reception
188: Rushing yards for UNLV, ending a streak at five games where the Bulldogs allowed 200 or more
48.7: Average on three punts for Garrett Swanson, none of which could be returned
6: Sacks for the Bulldogs; they haven’t had more since they had eight vs. Utah State in 2013
11 a.m. Oct 24 at Air Force: The Falcons are 3-2 overall and 2-0 in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West heading into Saturday’s game at Colorado State. For the Bulldogs, it will be just their second day game of the season and their first trip to the academy since 1997 – when both schools were still in the Western Athletic Conference. Air Force leads the series 4-3, though the Bulldogs won the last meeting 48-15 in 2012 with the help of Derek Carr’s 28-of-32, 452-yard passing day.
Emotional end – After scoring the final 17 points of the game, coming back from a two-touchdown deficit, Fresno State put an emphatic end to a five-game losing streak with a 31-28 victory over UNLV.
Sophomore outside linebacker Justin Green crushed the last shot the Rebels had, sacking quarterback Kurt Palandech on fourth-and-6 at the Bulldogs 32-yard line with rain pelting down.
Emotions ran high. Coach Tim DeRuyter included.
“I can’t say I’ve been prouder of a group than this group,” he said, his voice cracking. “The kids have been challenged. They responded. Everybody is counting them out. Everybody is casting them aside. We challenged our guys to make a decision today to find a way to hang together and fight as a football team and that’s exactly what they did.
“UNLV, give them credit, they made a lot of plays. Coach (Tony) Sanchez and his staff is doing a terrific job. Those guys are playing hard, took a two-score lead and our guys found a way to hang together despite circumstances. Nobody pointed fingers, everybody said let’s rally and find a way. They believed and I’m just really proud of this group.”
The Rebels, down three at 31-28 after Waller had scored on a 38-yard run and Kilton Anderson had hit tight end Chad Olsen with a 2-point conversion pass, took possession with 2:37 remaining and made it quickly into Fresno State side of the field.
Palandech on first down bolted 39 yards from the Rebels 25 to the Bulldogs 36, finally dragged down by cornerback Jamal Ellis. The Rebels needed only a field goal to tie, but the Bulldogs put the ball down as they had throughout a final quarter in which UNLV gained only 58 yards on 18 plays.
Palandech, under pressure, misfired on first down. He hit Andrew Price for a gain of 6 yards on second down, but on third down Ejiro Ederaine and Claudell Louis sacked the Rebels’ quarterback for a loss of 2. UNLV called a timeout, which was followed by a Fresno State timeout.
Then Green got Palandech. The threat was over.
The last few minutes, with Anderson taking a knee to end the game, “Euphoric,” DeRuyter said.
“In the past five weeks, we’ve had games where the defense is playing good, the offense is playing good, the special teams are playing good, but we just never all clicked at the same time,” Ederaine said.
“I feel like in the fourth quarter, we did that and the only way you do that is through you deciding, the team deciding, ‘Hey, you know what, we’re not going to lose this game.’ I don’t care what happens, we’re just going to get this done and I love my brothers for doing that.”
Finding a home – Anderson, in his second career start, took a big step forward. The redshirt freshman quarterback completed 19 of 31 passes for 193 yards and did a much better job in the run game, picking up 78 yards and scoring two touchdowns on 11 rushing plays.
“What can you say about Kilton, a kid who was getting fourth-team reps in August thinking that this is going to be another learning year for him … he gets pressing into being our starting quarterback a week ago and he’s down two scores and he doesn’t flinch,” DeRuyter said.
The Bulldogs generated 410 yards, a season high against a FBS opponent. They averaged 5.9 yards per play, their highest since losing in overtime last season at UNLV, a span of 13 games. Fresno State had 487 yards of offense in that game, averaging 6.3 yards per play.
Third-down thunder? The Bulldogs went 83 yards in 12 plays on their first drive, scoring on a 6-yard run by Anderson, and on the way they moved the sticks on 4 of 4 third-down plays.
Fresno State had only three third-down conversions over its past two games, going 3 of 14 in a loss to Utah State and 0 of 12 in a loss at San Diego State.
And, perhaps no surprise, the Bulldogs had converted more than two third-down plays on any drive this season only once and that came in the season-opener against FCS Abilene Christian.
On 20 of their past 29 possessions they had run three plays or fewer, and going into the game they had converted only 30 of 88 third-down plays (34.1 percent) to rank ninth of 12 in the conference.
Get him the rock – Garrett Swanson picked up 21 yards and a first down when taking off on a fake punt on a fourth-and-11 in the second quarter.
That was only the Bulldogs’ seventh explosive run play of 20 or more yards this season, the sixth coming in the first quarter when Anderson bolted 35 yards off a zone read option.
Fresno State had only five going into the game and had not had one since Marteze Waller broke off a 28-yard gain in a loss at San Jose State. Waller had runs this season of 38 and 37 yards against Abilene Christian, 21 yards at Ole Miss and the 28-yard run against the Spartans. The other run of 20 or more yards was by Malique Micenheimer, a 24-yard gain against Utah.
The Bulldogs had two more runs of 20 or more yards against the Rebels – Jamire Jordan had a 25-yard run in the fourth quarter and Waller had the 38-yard touchdown to put the Bulldogs ahead.
Moving up – Waller moved past Dwayne Wright and into the top 5 on the Bulldogs’ career rushing list on a 7-yard run to the Rebels 6 on their first drive of the game.
The senior running back finished with 111 yards on 21 plays, and has 2,768 in 533 in his career.
Wright had 2,683 yards on 501 plays from 2003-06. In fourth place is Michael Pittman, who gained 3,017 yards on 647 plays from 1993-97.
End of the run – The Bulldogs had struggled mightily on third-and-short running plays, gaining only 18 yards on 13 plays, an average of 1.4 yards per play.
But the offensive line put an end to that against the Rebels, churning out 217 rushing yards.
Included were five third-and-short situations when needing 1 to 3 yards for a first down.
On a third-and-1, Anderson took a zone read option 35 yards for a first down. On another third-and-1 in the first quarter, the Bulldogs’ quarterback rushed for 2 yards and a first down. On a third-and-3, Anderson again picked up a first down with a 6-yard touchdown run.
On a third-and-2 in the second quarter, Waller busted a 17-yard touchdown run. And in the fourth quarter on a third-and-2 Waller gained 6 yards and another first down.
The Bulldogs had 23 first downs in the game, 11 passing and 11 rushing with one by penalty.
Really? – Fresno State was in the game at halftime, the score tied at 14. But the Rebels went up 21-14 and then 28-14 with a lot of help from the Bulldogs. They had UNLV staring at a third-and-8 at the Bulldogs 17 on its first drive when Ellis cut down Xzaviar Campbell for a 2-yard loss, but freshman inside linebacker Nela Otukolo was called for a personal foul on the play.
The Rebels were set up first-and-goal, scoring on a 2-yard run by Campbell after a dubious pass-interference call on third down against cornerback Tyquwan Glass, who appeared to have good position on the sideline against the Rebels’ Devonte Boyd.
The Bulldogs went three-and-out on their next possession, and Swanson drilled a 50-yard punt that could not be returned. But after the play, Dalen Jones was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that moved the ball to the Bulldogs 35 from the 20.
Fresno State forced a punt, but Da’Mari Scott got a terrible break on the ball and ended up fumbling it away, with the Rebels taking possession at the Fresno State 30.
Two plays later, Boyd beat corner Anthoula (Tank) Kelly up the left sideline for a 29-yard score.
Et cetera – Tight end Chad Olsen caught three passes for 44 yards. Olsen had only two receptions in the Bulldogs’ four previous games, one against Utah and one against Utah State.
▪ Nose guard Nate Madsen went down in the fourth quarter with a lower leg injury. It is not a position the Bulldogs have much depth. Redshirt freshman Tyler Puccio went in for Madsen, who had one solo tackle and was credited with one quarterback hurry before his injury.
▪ Fresno State allowed only three explosive plays of 20 or more yards – UNLV had a 20-yard run by Keith Whitely, the 29-yard touchdown pass from Palandech to Boyd and the 39-yard run by Palandech on the Rebels’ final drive. That is the fewest the Bulldogs have allowed since giving up only one in the opener against Abilene Christian. Against FBS opponents, they had allowed eight at Ole Miss, four against Utah, five at San Jose State, four at San Diego State and eight against Utah State.
Numbers, notes compiled by Bee sportswriter Robert Kuwada. Follow him on Twitter @rkuwada.
FRESNO STATE 31, UNLV 28
UNLV—Naufahu 1 run (Bornand kick), 8:24.
Fre—Anderson 6 run (Kroening kick), 2:49.
Fre—Waller 17 run (Kroening kick), 6:11.
UNLV—Kend.Keys 13 pass from Palandech (Bornand kick), :42.
UNLV—Campbell 2 run (Bornand kick), 9:05.
UNLV—Boyd 29 pass from Palandech (Bornand kick), 5:13.
Fre—FG Camacho 44, 2:23.
Fre—Anderson 12 run ( failed), 11:02.
Fre—Waller 38 run (Olsen pass from Anderson), 2:37.
Time of Possession
RUSHING—UNLV, Whitely 17-98, Palandech 14-51, Campbell 10-28, Naufahu 4-7, Thomas 3-4. Fresno St., Waller 21-111, Anderson 11-78, Jordan 2-24, Swanson 1-21, Team 3-(minus 17).
PASSING—UNLV, Palandech 12-24-0-111. Fresno St., Anderson 19-31-0-193.
RECEIVING—UNLV, Whitely 3-14, Boyd 2-43, A.Williams 2-17, Price 2-10, Kend.Keys 1-13, Thomas 1-11, Criswell 1-3. Fresno St., Jordan 5-42, Olsen 3-44, Scott 2-30, K.Johnson 2-24, Blandin 2-22, Waller 2-15, Hardaway 2-3, Micenheimer 1-13.