Fresno State welcomed a Southeastern Conference opponent to Bulldog Stadium for the first time in program history with Mississippi making the cross-country trip to Fresno.
But with their back against the wall and facing the Bulldogs with a 1-3 record, the Rebels spoiled head coach Pat Hill’s bid at his first victory over the SEC.
Sophomore quarterback Derek Carr got the first drive of the game going with another deep pass to wide receiver Jalen Saunders. The connection was the third week in a row where Carr found Saunders on the early in the game.
Carr would then led the ‘Dogs down the field for the first touchdown of game, finding junior wide receiver Rashad Evans for a two-yard scoring strike for the early 7-0 lead. Carr finished the game completing 25-of-37 passes for 281 yards and one touchdown.
Mississippi answered back quickly with a familiar foe in Brandon Bolden, who ran for 225 yards in last year’s meeting. Bolden found a crease for a 21-yard touchdown run to tie the score at seven apiece.
The Rebels got on the board again when quarterback Zack Stoudt found wide receiver Melvin Harris for a 22-yard touchdown strike, but the ‘Dogs would block the extra point. Mississippi still led 13-7.
On the next drive, Carr started getting in a rhythm with his wide receivers as he led his ‘Dogs down the field. The Bulldogs’ offense dipped into its bag of tricks with Carr handing off to Saunders for the 26-yard touchdown run to give Fresno State a 14-13 lead. Saunders had his biggest game of the season with six catches for 127 yards receiving and two rushes for 57 yards and a touchdown.
In the second quarter, Bolden found another hole and shifted his way through almost the entire Fresno State defense en route to a 12-yard touchdown run to extend Mississippi’s lead to 20-14.
The Rebels’ defense got into the act when Mississippi cornerback Charles Sawyer got his hands on an interception to impede the Bulldogs’ offensive attack.
Carr would get the offense on the same page on the next drive and again the main contributor was Saunders, who torched the Rebels’ defense to put the ‘Dogs in scoring position. Fresno State would settle for a field goal, but senior kicker Kevin Goessling pushed the attempt wide, keeping the score at 20-14.
On final play of the first half, Goessling tried to bring back memories from the Bulldogs’ game against Utah State in 2008 when he hit a 58-yard bomb to get the victory. This time, however, the senior came up short on a 57-yarder.
On the first drive after the half, Carr drove the ‘Dogs down the field with another pass to Saunders to put Fresno State in scoring position. A couple plays later, running back Robbie Rouse got into the action with a seven-yard touchdown run to give Fresno State the lead 21-20. The two teams would exchange leads seven times in the back-and-forth contest. Rouse finished the game with 28 carries for 128 yards on the ground to extend his current streak 100-plus-yard-games.
Mississippi would answer back with a score of its own as running back Jeff Scott raced 69 yards to pay dirt to give the Rebels the lead, 27-21.
With the ‘Dogs down by six points, Carr took it into his own hands with an 80-yard drive to get Fresno State down the field. Then, the Bakersfield Christian High School graduate called his own number with a quarterback sneak to give Fresno State the 28-27 lead.
It would be the final time Fresno State would find itself ahead in the ball game.
Mississippi wouldn’t let Carr’s touchdown be the winning score as the Rebels again marched down the field. Scott scored his second touchdown of the game on a 16-yard run. Scott finished with 24 carries for 148 yards and two touchdowns. The Rebels would get the two-point conversion to give Mississippi the 35-28 lead.
The Mississippi defense slowed down the ‘Dogs on offense in the fourth quarter, shutting out Fresno State in the final 15 minutes. Then, on the ensuing drive, the Rebels made it a two-possession game when senior kicker David Hankins hit a chip-shot field goal to give the Rebels a 38-28 lead. Fresno State had one more shot to put points on the board, but Goessling missed his third field goal of the game to end it.
After the game, Hill gave his thoughts on another loss against an SEC foe.
“I thought it was a good game for our fans and the city of Fresno,” Pat Hill said during Saturday’s postgame press conference. “I told our kids after the game I thought they played very hard a lot like in Nebraska. You can’t give up the big plays.”
The ‘Dogs have a short week to prepare for former Western Athletic Conference member Boise State, who is the fourth-ranked team in the country. The ‘Dogs will face off against the Broncos on Friday during a nationally televised matchup.