The Fresno State football team rallied behind quarterback Brian Burrell’s four touchdowns and shut down New Mexico in the fourth quarter to top the Lobos 35-24 in Friday’s Mountain West opener in Albuquerque.
The Bulldogs remained composed and were able to regain the lead several times in a contest that saw six lead changes.
Powering the Bulldogs was Burrell who threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns and ran for another in the conference opening win.
“I hope people got a chance to see us tonight and see that we got a gritty team,” head coach Tim DeRuyter said. “I think we lost the turnover battle by two. To do that on the road and still find a way to win, to me it’s kind of a gut-check for our team, and yet we were able to do it.”
After a slow first quarter, both teams started establishing offensive consistency in the following quarter.
The ‘Dogs got their first lead of the game early in the second when Burrell connected with Josh Harper for a 23-yard score to put them up 7-3. New Mexico, however, would respond with two touchdowns of its own from quarterback Lamar Jordan and running back Jhurell Pressley to establish a 17-7 midway through the second.
Fresno State senior back Josh Quezada would cut the Lobos’ lead to three by taking a screen pass from Burrell 10 yards to the house with 16 seconds remaining in the half. The score would cap off an 87-yard, six-play drive.
Burrell drove the Bulldogs down the field on the opening drive of the third quarter, tossing a three-yard touchdown pass to Greg Watson to bring Fresno State up 21-17 and capture its second lead of the night.
The Lobos weren’t done though, as quarterback Lamar Jordan hit David Anaya on a play-action pass for a 36-yard score to give UNM the 24-21 advantage.
Late in the third, the Bulldogs rallied and engineered another touchdown drive that resulted in a fourth-and-goal situation, where Quezada punched it in from a yard out to give his team a 28-24 lead.
The defensive unit for Fresno State prevented UNM from taking the lead, holding the Lobos scoreless in the fourth quarter.
The Lobos, who ranked third in the nation in rushing yards (349.7 ypg) coming into the game, finished the evening with 285 on the ground. Senior running back Crusoe Gongbay had 163 of them.
Burrell sealed the game with a three-yard touchdown run in the fourth.
“The coaches got us ready, had a good game plan, and we just went out there and executed,” Burrell said. “I felt more comfortable as the game went on. The thing about it was, I was trusting my receivers and trusting myself. There were several times I just threw the ball up to my receivers, and they went up and made plays.”
Running back Marteze Waller paved the way in the ground game for the ‘Dogs with 163 yards on 19 carries, averaging 8.6 yards per attempt.
Harper, the Bulldogs’ top receiver, finished the night with six receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown.
“I think our offensive coaches do a nice job seeing what the defense is doing, so we can take advantage and we have players that can make plays,” DeRuyter said. “In the run game, we had some explosive plays. In the throw game, throwing the ball to [Harper], we think he is one of the best receivers certainly in the conference if not the whole West Coast. It was good to see a bunch of guys making plays out there.”
Friday’s 14-point victory over the Lobos (1-3) marks the second-straight win for the Bulldogs and improves them to 2-3 on the year.
The ‘Dogs return to Bulldog Stadium Friday to take on Mountain West rival San Diego State for the “Night in Navy” game, in which Fresno State will sport navy blue uniforms and chrome helmets.