Joseph Vasquez / The Collegian
It wasnâ€™t the prettiest thing ever, but Fresno State was able to overcome a six-point, halftime deficit and salvage a 17-6 victory over Louisiana Tech Saturday night, despite an inefficient offense and poor tackling.
Although the win was not the flashiest display of football, Fresno State is now 1-0 in the Western Athletic Conference and that is what matters to the Bulldogs.
â€œWe just have to win. It doesnâ€™t matter how it happens,â€ Coach Pat Hill said. â€œBut in the locker room at halftime, this football team made a commitment to find a way to win. Through special teams and short field scores we found a way to win tonight.â€
The game had a listless aura throughout. Neither team could sustain long offensive drives for scores, which put many of the 38,104 in attendance to sleep.
Fresno State finished with 262 yards of total offense, 92 of which were in the air.
With neither team moving the ball offensively, the first half became a display of punting skill between Kyle Zimmerman and Techâ€™s Chris Kaegle.
â€œ[Zimmerman] gave us good position in the kicking game,â€ Hill said. â€œKyle had another outstanding night.â€
After being shut out in the first half for the second time this season, sophomore A.J. Jefferson returned the opening kick off 56 yards to start the second half.
This ignited the offense, which in turn put up two scores in the next eight minutes of play.
With 12:41 remaining in the third quarter, Clint Stitser booted a 46-yard field goal to cut the deficit in half 6-3.
On the Bulldogsâ€™ next possession, quarterback Tom Brandstater found wide receiver Jason Crawley for a 27-yard hookup to put Fresno State up 10-6.
On third-and-eight, Crawley caught the ball on a curl route, broke a tackle and dove in the end zone for the score.
â€œI made a good throw, he made a good catch, made a guy miss and thatâ€™s six points,â€ Brandstater said. â€œWe struggled offensively for the entire game. We didnâ€™t play as well as we wanted to, but we made enough plays to win and our defense kept up in it all game.â€
The defensive unit prevented the opposing team from scoring a touchdown for the third consecutive game at Bulldog Stadium, dating back to November 2006.
â€œWe were going for the shutout in the second half. We just hoped the offense would score once and we were able to shut them out and win the game,â€ senior linebacker Marcus Riley said. â€œWe just gotta keep it rolling. Now we gotta work on first downs and yardage and keeping those at a minimum.â€
Although Fresno Stateâ€™s offense was stagnant, Louisiana Techâ€™s failed to muster much of anything either.
Tech quarterback Zac Champion could not find any rhythm or timing with his receivers and only completed 45 percent of his passes. Champion was also sacked seven times, four of which came at the hands of senior Tyler Clutts.
The final Fresno State score came from running back Clifton Smith.
After Smithâ€™s 34-yard punt return that was one block away from a score, he scored on a six-yard sweep play to the left side to put Fresno up 17-6.
Smith had been having ball-handling problems as of late and felt relieved after his performance.
â€œIt felt good, especially after the times Iâ€™ve had these last couple of games,â€ Smith said. â€œI had been putting the ball on the ground when I was trying to do too much. I finally just let the game come to me. Being able to get in the end zone and create a spark for the team, it felt great.â€
What did not feel great was the loss of wide receiver Marlon Moore. He suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter and his status is unknown.
The loss of Moore and the inconsistencies of the offensive line were some of the main reasons Fresno Stateâ€™s passing game failed to take form.
â€œOur line got pushed back a bit, but I gotta do a better job of standing in there and making a throw,â€ Brandstater said. â€œThe numbers were terrible on my half, but I donâ€™t really care. We got the win and thatâ€™s what it takes. Getting a victory is all that matters.â€
The Bulldogs will now head out for a two-game road trip, which starts at Nevada this Saturday.
â€œWeâ€™re a young team and work in progress,â€ Hill said. â€œIt wasnâ€™t the prettiest win, but weâ€™ll take it. We have a very tough contest in Reno and weâ€™ll see if we can win the next one.â€