What we learned:
With Fresno State’s top three receivers out because of injuries for the Cal Poly game, the young and talented receivers proved that it was more than capable of picking up the slack. True freshman receivers Isaiah Burse and Jalen Saunders flashed big-play ability throughout the night. Burse’s highlight was a 58-yard catch and run that brought the crowd to its feet while Saunders kept fans on their heels with a 54-yard scamper on kick return. Matt Lindsay and A.J. Johnson also took advantage of the extra playing time. Lindsay recorded two catches for 54 yards and Johnson hauled in four passes for 33 yards and a touchdown.
In its only game against a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) school, the Fresno State offense racked up the most yards in a single game so far this season with 459. With the top three receiving threats sidelined with injury, some young receivers got their chance to garner valuable game experience. Quarterback Ryan Colburn connected with freshmen Isaiah Burse and A.J. Johnson for scores, the first of their young careers. Colburn finished the game 12-for-17 with 206 yards. Head coach Pat Hill used a plethora of running backs to wear down the Mustangs with 206 yards on the ground. Sophomore Robbie Rouse returned from injury with 14 carries and 70 yards. Cal-Berkeley transfer Tracy Slocum lead all Fresno State backs with 71 yards on just eight carries. One area of concern for Hill is turnovers. The ‘Dogs fumbled twice and Colburn was picked off for the third time this season.
Outside of the Mississippi game, the Fresno State defense has played well as a unit. On Saturday, the defense gave up only one play of 30 yards or longer. Linebacker Travis Brown and safety Phillip Thomas was all over the field against the Mustangs. Thomas led the team with seven solo tackles.
Thomas and Brown finished the contest with nine tackles each. As a unit the defense allowed a season-low 221 yards of total offense. Despite not creating any turnovers, the ‘Dogs were able to hold the Cal Poly offense to convert only 30 percent of third down plays. Through four games, the defense has allowed a WAC-best average 124 yards through the air.
Game-changing moment: Stopping the Mustangs on 4th down
With a 4th-and-4 opportunity at the Fresno State 5, Cal Poly could have cut the lead to seven points if it converted and scored, but the Bulldogs’ defense stepped it up to force an incomplete pass from Andre Broadous. The ‘Dogs capitalized on Cal Poly’s turnover on downs by marching 94 yards for a touchdown on 13 plays.
Unsung hero: Travis Brown, linebacker
Everytime it looked like Cal Poly was going to break through for a large gain on the ground, Brown always seemed to be in the right position to stop the play. Brown was relentless the entire night finishing with nine tackles and two tackles behind the line of scrimmage. Brown is now the team’s leading tackler through four games with 29 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss and a sack.
Fresno State sealed the deal when…
…freshman A.J. Johnson caught his fourth and final pass of the game, an 11-yard strike from Ryan Colburn with 6:07 left to play. Cal Poly had never trailed by more than two scores at any point this season, and Johnson’s touchdown grab extended the Fresno State lead to 21 for the second time in the game.
Interesting stat of the game: A game of firsts
Freshmen Isaiah Burse and A.J. Johnson, along with senior Desia Dunn all recorded their first touchdowns of their Bulldog careers. Dunn reached paydirt off Burse’s blocked punt in the second quarter while Burse and Johnson opened and closed the game’s scoring with touchdown grabs from quarterback Ryan Colburn.
Call of the game: Bringing the house on special teams
With Cal Poly punting the ball out of its own end zone, Fresno State brought the house and blocked the punt. It paid off as Desia Dunn picked up the ball for a touchdown.
Dog bone giveaway: Isaiah Burse, receiver
After failing to score on its first two drives to start the game, Burse provided a much needed spark for the offense, catching a short pass and turning it into a big gain for a touchdown. Burse would finish the game with 98 total yards on nine touches. The touchdown jump started an offense that scored 38 points for the second week in a row. Burse also made an impact on special teams, laying a hand on the blocked punt in the second quarter.