Fresno State defeated San Diego State 27-3 on the road Saturday behind its run game and stout defense, reclaiming the Old Oil Can Trophy for the first time since 2014.
Although freshman running back Ronnie Rivers missed the game with an elbow injury, the Bulldogs’ rushing attack did not skip a beat. Freshman Jordan Mims led the team with 112 rushing yards, and sophomore Josh Hokit had a career-high three rushing touchdowns.
Head coach Jeff Tedford said after the game that the plan going in was to have the running backs run hard and physical.
“We were going to be patient with the run and run downhill – be physical up front,” Tedford said. “Those guys are just carrying the ball though. It’s the guys up front that are creating the creases. I thought the line played excellent tonight.”
On the first drive of the game, the Aztecs looked like they were going to score with ease. They went 83 yards on 16 plays, deep into Fresno State territory.
Bulldog linebacker Jeffrey Allison stopped the Aztecs in their tracks, forcing a fumble from Aztec running back Rashaad Penny. Bulldog safety Mike Bell recovered the ball.
“We have a pretty good defense,” Allison said. “We have things to work on, but they have a very good offense. Penny, he’s a very good running back, so in practice we basically focused on the run game – try to get them out of the run game, try to get them to pass, because they’re not really a passing team. That was the main focus.”
Although the Bulldogs punted on their first possession, they forced the Aztecs to punt on the next drive. Fresno State opened up the scoring on its second drive with a four-play, 61-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard Hokit touchdown run.
The Aztecs answered right back with a field goal, but the Bulldogs pulled farther ahead with a 26-yard Hokit touchdown run where he stiff-armed San Diego State safety Trey Lomax and shoved him to the ground en route to his second score.
Hokit’s third touchdown came near the end of the third quarter on a 4-yard run.
“Forget about what I did,” Hokit said. “The offensive line – I’m going to have to buy them a meal or something. They opened the holes. I just carried the ball. They made my job easy tonight.”
Fresno State center Aaron Mitchell said he was disappointed that the offense fell one yard short of its goal of 200 rushing yards, but was impressed with how hard the running backs fought and credited the scout team for the offense’s success.
“We prepped really well this week,” Mitchell said. “I have to give it up to our scout team. They gave us a heck of a look. They worked hard on it. They grind just like we do.”
The Aztecs’ only points came in the second quarter on a 37-yard field goal. The Bulldogs forced San Diego State to punt six times.
The defense held Penny to 69 yards on the ground, and Aztec quarterback Christian Chapman to only 77 passing yards and a 50 percent completion rate.
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion threw for 176 yards. Although he didn’t throw a touchdown, he completed 62.5 percent of his passes and wasn’t intercepted.
This is the Aztecs’ second loss in a row, dropping them to 6-2 overall and 2-2 in the Mountain West. San Diego State sits in second place in the West Division, behind Fresno State.
San Diego State head coach Rocky Long said the game shows the quality of teams in the Mountain West, and that Fresno State would now play much better against the competition the Bulldogs faced and lost to earlier in the season – Alabama and Washington.
“I bet you they [Fresno State] could play real well against them [Alabama] right now,” Long said. “A lot better than Tennessee did.”
Alabama beat Tennessee Saturday 45-7. The Bulldogs lost to Alabama 41-10 in Week 2.
With the win, Fresno State improves to 5-2 overall and 4-0 in the Mountain West. The ‘Dogs sit in first place in the West Division with four conference games remaining. Fresno State hosts UNLV this week.
“We made a statement tonight,” Hokit said. “Looking back to last year, 1-11, and now we’re No. 1 in the Mountain West [and] just beat down a San Diego State team that’s very good.”