Quarterback slings it 74 times, Bulldogs persevere through pressure in thrilling season-opening win
It took four hours and 26 minutes. The lead changed and changed – and changed.
Fresno State seemed down at times and its potential for having a historic season seemed, at moments, a fretful afterthought.
But in the end – in a game that will go down in Fresno State lore – the Bulldogs greeted a sea of loyal fans, a 52-51 overtime victory over Rutgers in hand.
“As a coach, you want your players to go through that, be down 20-7 and not look very good,” Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said. “It’s much better in the development of the team and the psyche than going out and beating somebody by 30 points.”
There were heart-stopping moments, for sure.
The game began in the Bulldogs’ favor, as Josh Quezada scored on the first drive of the game. However, the favor quickly changed when Rutgers’ Janarion Grant returned the ensuing kickoff for 100 yards and a touchdown.
After that, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights went on a roll, reaching the end zone a pair of times. The Scarlet Knights led by as much as 13 points at one point in the game.
Derek Carr threw an interception in the second quarter, which led to touchdown for Rutgers.
“When I came off the field after that pick, no one cared,” Carr said. “They knew that I would get it next time.
“I just got on my knees and prayed the whole time that we could win the game.”
And with six minutes and 59 seconds left in the first half, a crucial fumble by the Scarlet Knights changed the tone of the game.
Grant fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Fresno State free safety Dylan Detweiler at Rutgers’ 41-yard line. After that, Malique Micenheimer ran the ball into the end zone bring the Bulldogs within six points of tying Rutgers’ 20-14 lead.
Davante Adams caught a 2-yard pass by Carr to send the Bulldogs into halftime with a 21-20 lead.
After the half, the Scarlet Knights attempted the run game, as junior quarterback Gary Nova repeatedly went to running back Paul James. In the third quarter alone, James ran for 164 yards.
The game was balanced afterwards, as both teams exchanged scores in the third and fourth quarters. Colin McGuire, the freshman kicker from Austin, Texas, connected on a 47-yard field goal with 3:30 remaining in the game. Rutgers’ Leonte Carroo caught a 30-yard pass from Nova to take a 45-38 last-minute lead.
That was arguably the moment when everything stopped for the Fresno State faithful – time was dwindling.
And then came the moment when it all came into place for Fresno State, during a game that featured more twists and turns than a high-speed roller coaster.
The Bulldogs would not go down silently. Josh Harper caught a 2-yard pass from Carr after only a 30 second drive to tie the game with 38 seconds remaining.
The Scarlet Knights tried to run away with the victory in the last few seconds of the game, as kicker Kyle Federico attempted a field goal from the 43-yard line. The kick sailed wide right as the clock struck zero – the Bulldogs had another shot
In overtime, the Bulldogs wasted no time in getting the score. Carr connected on a pass to Greg Watson for 25 yards for the touchdown. Rutgers reciprocated that touchdown with one of its own, as Nova passed to Coleman for a 4-yard score.
However, the Scarlet Knights tried to connect for a two-point conversion and failed, giving Fresno State its first victory of the year.
“It felt really good. It was nice to hit 47 yards,” McGuire said.
“It was a 15 round fight, both heavyweights were throwing haymakers,” DeRuyter said. “Luckily we got the last shot in and made the last play.”