Sophomore quarterback Derek Carr had his first big game since
earlier in the season, passing for 391 yards and three touchdowns.
Dalton Runberg / The Collegian
Going into another Western Athletic Conference game against New Mexico State, Fresno State’s chances of making it to a bowl game were already very slim with losses against the top two teams in the conference in back-to-back weeks.
A couple weeks ago, the ‘Dogs lost a tough game at Nevada, 45-38, and last week were dropped by second-place Louisiana Tech, 41-21.
With two losses in the WAC already, there was a lot at stake in this week’s game against the Aggies as Fresno State needed to win out to have a chance at reaching a bowl game for the 12th time in Pat Hill’s Fresno State career.
Coming into the game, New Mexico State had shown marked improvement from last season as it had played two of the top teams close in Hawaii and Nevada. The Aggies lost to the Wolf Pack, 48-34, and to the Warriors, 45-34.
Although the Aggies lost these two WAC games, they have been in every conference game this season so it was expected that Fresno State would be in for a tough time.
New Mexico State started the game off fast with the help of former Bulldog Matt Christian. The senior found junior wide receiver Kenny Turner for a 29-yard pass to give the Aggies the early 7-0 lead.
Fresno State would answer back with sophomore quarterback Derek Carr leading the ‘Dogs down the field. The drive ended with junior running back Robbie Rouse finding the end zone from six yards out to tie up the score at seven apiece.
The Aggies got on the board again in the beginning of the second quarter with Christian driving New Mexico State down the field. Turner finished off the drive again with another touchdown, but this time it was on the ground with a one-yard touchdown run to give the Aggies the 14-0 lead.
The Aggies’ special teams also put some points on the board in the second quarter when Taveon Rogers shredded the Fresno State kick coverage to the tune of a 99-yard touchdown, giving New Mexico State a 20-10 lead.
With less than five minutes left in the first half, Carr led the Fresno State two-minute offense to perfection, marching the ‘Dogs down the field. Carr finished the drive off with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Rouse to cut the Aggie lead to 20-17. Carr finished the game going 22 of 34 for 391 yards and three touchdown passes.
After halftime, the game turned into a shootout starting with Carr bringing the deep ball back to the Fresno State. Sophomore wide receiver Jalen Saunders scored the first touchdown of the second half, but it wasn’t through the air. Saunders turned a 15-yard run to give Fresno State its first lead of the game, 24-23.
On the next drive, Carr found his go-to target Saunders for a 59-yard bomb to extend the lead to 31-23. Later in the quarter, Carr hit Saunders again this time it was of the 64-yard variety to give the ‘Dogs the lead back after the Aggies scored again, 38-31. Saunders finished the game with seven catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
New Mexico State answered back on the ensuing drive with Christian driving the Aggies down the field again. Turner would end the drive again with a six-yard touchdown run to tie the score 38-38 before the end of the third quarter.
In the final quarter the scoring slowed down a little, but Fresno State still found the end zone with a little over eight minutes left in the fourth quarter. Rouse would plow his way to pay dirt for a two-yard touchdown run to give the ‘Dogs 45-41 lead. Rouse finished the game with 23 carries for 86 yards and two touchdowns, his second consecutive week of less than 100 yards rushing.
With only three minutes left in the game and Fresno State nursing a four-point lead, New Mexico State got the ball and put in Christian’s hands to get the win.
Christian would deliver in his second game against Fresno State since he left the program in 2007. On third- and-seven, Christian beat the Fresno State blitz and found Rogers for the 37-yard touchdown to give New Mexico State the 48-45 lead. Christian finished the game going 25 of 43 for 360 yards and two touchdown passes.
The Rogers touchdown would prove to be enough as Fresno State was unable to put any more points on the board. The loss was Fresno State’s first against New Mexico State in the series between the two schools.
With the loss, Fresno State’s bowl chances were dashed for the first time since the 2006 season.
The ‘Dogs will hit the road again next week as they will make the trip to Hawaii to face the third-place team in the WAC.