Oct 16, 2018

Mathews making his mark in debut season

Ryan Mathews breaks through the San Jose defense during Saturday
Juan Villa / The Collegian

Before the season began, running back Ryan Mathews said he wanted to break records at Fresno State.

Halfway through his freshman year, he already has.

Last Saturday, Mathews scored his eighth and ninth rushing touchdowns of the season in the Bulldogs’ 30-0 victory over rival San Jose State at Bulldog Stadium, breaking the school record for rushing touchdowns for a freshman.

In Fresno State’s 37-24 win at Idaho on Oct. 13, Mathews ran for 171 yards and three touchdowns, showing that he will be a key to Fresno State’s success over the next four years.

“For a true freshman, he’s a pretty good player,” Fresno State head coach Pat Hill said.

Mathews may be the Bulldogs’ most hyped freshman coming into the season. Last year, he led the nation in rushing at West Bakersfield High School with 3,396 yards for the season.

With so much previous success, the person that still sets the expectations the highest for Mathews is himself.

“I’m just trying to get better,” Mathews said. “I’m working on getting faster and trying to keep breaking tackles.”

The timing for Mathews’ arrival at Fresno State couldn’t have come at a better time for the Bulldogs. Fresno State lost its leading rusher from last season, Dwayne Wright, to the NFL draft.

Through seven games, Mathews has run for 596 yards to lead the team in a system that uses multiple backs. Sharing carries with Mathews are Lonyae Miller, Clifton Smith and Anthony Harding.

And even though it is early in his college career, Mathews’ statistics are ones that have the possibility to break even more school records. He is on pace to break the career school records for rushing yards (3,473) and rushing touchdowns (35).

One reason Mathews has been successful is his speed.

He has also been able to get extra yards after first contact.

“You just keep driving your legs,” Mathews said. “Sometimes they just lean on you and if you can keep driving your legs, you can get by them.”

Even though Mathews doesn’t get as many touches as he would if he was in a system that used a sole back, he said it helps him stay fresh in games. When he is not in the game, he can look at what the opposing team is doing to stop the other Fresno State running backs, find flaws and expose them.

“We’re a running back by committee team,” Hill said. “We run different plays with different looks. We don’t want to run [Mathews] too much.”

When he does get the ball, Mathews makes the most out of it.

Last Saturday, Mathews’ second touchdown closed the door for any San Jose State comeback. With 4:05 left in the third quarter, Mathews went straight up the middle on a play that looked like he would be tackled for little to no gain.

That is not what happened, though.

Mathews, found a crease opened up by the offensive line and took off untouched through a gang of players, all the way up the left side for the 58-yard score.

“It was a heck of a run by him,” Hill said.

Mathews, though, was quick to give credit to the offensive linemen.

“Without them, I would get nowhere,” Mathews said. “I just found the hole, had to cut back and then I hit the gas.”

Mathews said it’s his goal to play professionally. He also wants to become the first member of his family with a four-year degree from college.

Until then, he will take it game by game, starting with tonight’s contest against Boise State at Bulldog Stadium, a game between two unbeaten teams in Western Athletic Conference play.

“I just want to keep healthy and run wild,” Mathews said. “I just want to continue enjoying my first year. So far, it’s been fun.”

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