At the end of three quarters and with an uncomfortably realistic possibility of an 0-3 start staring Fresno State football team in the face, whispers of scrutiny for losing to an FCS team were creeping in, and the Bulldogs only had one man to turn to.
Josh Hokit, the “All-American Wrecking Ball.”
With the score knotted up at 20-20 with less than 12 minutes to go, the Bulldogs turned to their stud running back—who just so happens to also be an All-American wrestler in his spare time—in crunch time to avoid the embarrassment of losing to Sacramento State.
Despite being an FCS team, Sacramento State’s defense was stout against the run, coming into the Week 4 matchup against the Bulldogs averaging 1.8 yards per rushing play and 59.3 yards per game (YPG).
In the final two drives for the Bulldogs, with the game on the line, Hokit ran for a combined 65 of his overall 72 yards with big runs of 14 and 10 yards during the first drive as the Bulldogs capped off with a Derrion “The Grim Reaper” Grim plunge.
The second drive was once again all Hokit as the ‘Dogs essentially iced the game while riding high on the back of Hokit with rushes of 9, 1, 5 and a final 14-yard touchdown allowing the ‘Dogs to go up by two scores.
Despite having to fill in at halfback due to injuries, Hokit has been a godsend for the Bulldogs this season, especially in Saturday’s game, converting a 14-yard reception into a touchdown and plowing into the endzone for a 2-yard touchdown before the final two drives.
Head coach Jeff Tedford spoke about how important Hokit was for the run game and highlighted the area where Hokit thrived against Sacramento State.
“He (Hokit) and Ronnie (Rivers) are our two backs, and we have a lot of confidence in Josh,” said Tedford in the post-game press conference. “He catches the ball well. He pass protects well and he runs hard…He is a hard-nosed tough kid, and I thought he played really well tonight.”
It was quite refreshing to see Tedford relying on the run game during the final crucial few series and grinding down the defense—which had been difficult to crack up until that point—instead of relying on risk/reward plays.
And now an update on everyone’s least- favorite quarterback—those of you know who you are—Jorge Reyna. After taking a mental break thanks to the bye week following the Minnesota and USC games, Reyna was able to bounce back for a decent performance against Sacramento State.
Reyna was efficient in spreading the ball around to nine different Bulldog skill players as he broke the 300-yard passing mark for the first time in his career, throwing for 326 yards on 28 of 42 completions and two touchdowns.
The most telling takeaway from Reyna’s performance was the fact that despite having two fumbles and three interceptions in the first two games, including two during the most crucial plays of his career, he was able to play turnover free football.
And as the Bulldogs began to incorporate more of the run game, Reyna continued to show that he has the ability to get much-needed yardage with his legs adding 36 rushing yards to his season total.
These are the types of performances you want from Reyna, a performance very reminiscent of Marcus McMaryion, doing just enough to keep his team in the game and get the ball into the hands of his play makers, allowing them to use their skills to win the game.
Kicking with two left feet
Before Saturday’s game, the Bulldogs believed they found a gem in College of San Mateo transfer kicker Cesar Silva after the junior connected on 5 of 6 field goal attempts in the first two games, including a 48-yard blast against Minnesota, and a perfect 9 for 9 on point after attempts (PAT).
But Silva — who I have dubbed “Silver Leg” — looked more like “Copper Leg” following his 0 for 3 night, shanking each of his three field goal attempts to the right from distances of 49, 35 and 35. Silva did manage to be perfect on each PAT, which was his saving grace.
The Bulldogs do have backup kicker Asa Fuller, who was relegated to kickoff duties before the start of the season, if Tedford decides to make the switch. Fuller was 14 of 22 on field goals in 2018 and 57 of 62 in PATs, which isn’t much more reassuring than Silva.
Luckily for Silva, Tedford still has confidence in his starting kicker and chalked up the wide right misses to things not going Silva’s way.
“It was just one of those nights that didn’t go his way, and we need to go back and correct it. But we know he is a good kicker,” said Tedford. “We have to keep his confidence high, get him to examine the tape and what his fundamentals were, but he will bounce back…I have confidence in that.”
Journey to the ‘Land of Enchantment’
Up next for the ‘Dogs is their last out-of-conference matchup and their last “tune-up” game against the 0-4 New Mexico State Aggies (NMSU), before they travel to Colorado to start Mountain West play against Air Force.
The Aggies entered the season with one of the toughest opening schedules in the nation, starting their season on the road against then-ranked No. 23 Washington State and No. 2 Alabama, and following up those matchups with a home game against San Diego State.
Each of the Aggies’ first three games ended in predictable and horrid fashion losing by scores of 58-7, 62-10 and 31-10.
But the Aggies will be entering the game against the ‘Dogs with a bit more confidence than they have had in the first three weeks, as they are coming off a narrow 55-52 defeat in a shootout reminiscent of a spaghetti western against bitter rivals and Fresno State MW cohort, New Mexico.
The one bright spot for the Aggies is that quarterback Josh Adkins may have found a rhythm, as he now currently sits 33rd in the nation in passing yards with 1,000 yards. And after offensive ineptitude in the first three games, Adkins is coming off a stellar showing against NM, scoring six touchdowns in NMSU’s harrowing loss last weekend.
Following a pick six to start off the game, Adkins found his rhythm and was responsible for much of the offensive output against the Lobos, throwing for 30 of 47 for 335 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. The 6-2, 220-pound Adkins was also effective near the goal line for three touchdowns.
Despite last week’s offensive explosion, NMSU ranks 115th in the nation in scoring offense averaging 19.8 points per game and has one of the worst point differentials in the nation, 206-79. The Aggies also boast the 109th total offense in the nation averaging a meager 349.3 yards per game on nearly 5 yards per play.
The Aggie defensive side of the ball has been just as abysmal as the offense, ranking second to last at 129th in the nation in both total defense and scoring defense allowing an excessive 554 ypg, 51.50 ppg on 25 touchdowns and nearly 8 yards per play.
Barring a massive offensive explosion like NMSU had against NM, the Bulldogs should have an easytime against their former Western Athletic Conference foe despite having to travel to Las Cruces, as they look to make it 18 out of 19 in the all-time series.