Quarterback Derek Carr celebrates after completing a
game-changing touchdown pass.
Dalton Runberg / The Collegian
Fresno State got back to Western Athletic Conference play against Utah State after one of its worst performances in Bulldog Stadium history last Friday against Boise State.
The Aggies would draw first blood as freshman quarterback Chuckie Keeton drove Utah State down the field. Keeton finished the game going 15 of 31 with 194 yards for one touchdown pass. The drive ended with a senior running back Michael Smith’s screen pass touchdown of 47 yards.
Fresno State’s offense would attempt to answer back with a drive of its own. Sophomore quarterback Derek Carr put the Fresno State offense on his back and drove them down Jim Sweeney Field, but the ‘Dogs would turn the ball over with a pivotal error in the quarterback and center exchange. Utah State recovered the ball and it started the Aggies’ second drive deep in Bulldogs’ territory, but that didn’t stop them.
Keeton led the Aggies down the field and it set up junior running back Robert Turbin for a 59-yard touchdown run to give the Aggies the 14-0 lead.
Carr’s second chance to face the Aggies’ defense was the charm as he delivered constantly to different receivers to keep the drive alive. He found sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Burse with the back shoulder fade for the 23-yard touchdown pass to bring the ‘Dogs within striking distance, 14-7.
On the following drive, Fresno State’s defense truly bended, but didn’t break as they got a big stop on third down, which forced a field goal. Utah State would miss the field goal to keep the score, 14-7.
The missed field goal provided the ‘Dogs with some much needed momentum as Carr and company got in rhythm early in the drive. The Bakersfield Christian High School graduate got his team down the field with his timely passing. Carr provided the ‘Dogs with a leap of faith as he jumped over his offensive line for his third rushing touchdown of the season to tie the score, 14-14.
Utah State would answer back with a big drive of its own as Keeton orchestrated the Aggies’ offense to perfection. He set up a quarterback option play and pitched the ball to Smith for a 46-yard rushing touchdown, which was his second of the night, to give the Aggies the 21-14 lead.
With Fresno State down by seven points, the offense started its next drive on a positive note with Carr connecting on passes all around the field. Carr finished the game going 23 of 39 for 248 yards and two touchdowns. Then, trouble struck as Utah State’s defense forced a fumble to halt the Bulldogs’ drive.
After the drive, the defenses for both teams showed up as both offenses were forced to punt on numerous occasions. By halftime, a track meet turned into a turtle race as the Aggies led 21-14.
Fresno State put the first points on the board in the second half as Carr played pitch and catch with his receivers get the ‘Dogs down the field. A false start penalty proved to be costly as it factored into Fresno State settling for a Kevin Goessling 39-yard field goal.
That field goal and the next drive by the ‘Dogs may have given Fresno State the momentum. Especially after junior wide receiver Jalen Saunders made the play of the year as he sliced and diced the Utah State defense with his 23-yard touchdown pass to give the ‘Dogs the 24-21 lead.
On the following drive, the Fresno State defense continued its improved play in the second half with a key turnover on Keeton to set up the Bulldogs’ offense in scoring position. With a short field, Carr gave a delayed handoff to junior running back Robbie Rouse on third and seven, which gave Fresno State the 31-21 lead late in the fourth quarter. This would prove to be enough as the ‘Dogs won 31-21. Rouse finished the game with 24 carries for 143 yards rushing and one touchdown.
The ‘Dogs won’t be able to celebrate for very long as they will hit the road for next week’s game against another WAC opponent in Nevada.