Sweet Redemption


Andrew Riggs / The Collegian

It was a special revenge that took place at Bulldog Stadium on Saturday.

Fresno State beat the Utah State Aggies 38-27 in a game driven by special teams.

The seemingly close-scoring game was a result of various injuries plaguing the Bulldog lineup, and another was added Saturday with standout freshman Ryan Mathews.

“We’ve got a lot of guys playing through a lot of stuff right now. This team is a very, very special team,” coach Pat Hill said. “The public doesn’t even know the half of what this team goes through. I’m very proud of the way they’re going.”

Mathews rushed 13 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns before leaving the game in the second quarter with a sprained left ankle.

Mathews’ first touchdown was a 16-yard run in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, he ran to the end zone 42 yards for what appeared to be a touchdown.

Utah State challenged the play, and after a lengthy review, the officials ruled that he tossed the ball before crossing the goal line.

Fresno State remained in possession of the ball at the one yard line where the ball was handed off to Mathews who leaped over the pile to put the ’Dogs up 21-7.

After Mathews’ injury, Clifton Smith was called on to carry the load.

“Whatever the team needs, just count on me,” Smith said. “I’ll get the job done for [the team] as best as I can.”

Smith had 27 carries for 126 yards — a career high.

Special teams was impressive in all aspects of the game.


Juan Villa / The Collegian

Freshman A.J. Jefferson ran 88 yards on a kickoff return in the second half. Jefferson totaled 158 yards on kickoff returns.

“The holes are usually big because our blockers do a good job. I just need a little bit of room,” Jefferson said. “As soon as I see room, I am going to it. I just trust my blocks and get behind them.”

The Aggies’ 44-yard field goal attempt in the third quarter was blocked by freshman linebacker Ben Jacobs and recovered by tight end Bear Pascoe at the Fresno State 20-yard line.

Punter Kyle Zimmerman got in on the action too, after his first punt of the game in the third quarter.

The 40-yard punt was caught by Kevin Robinson. As Robinson approached the 30-yard-line, Zimmerman tackled the wide receiver at Utah State’s 29.

With about three minutes remaining in the half, Clint Stitser made a 52-yard field goal, the longest in his career and the longest by a Fresno State player in 20 years.

“It’s a distance where I expect myself to make it all the time so it was just gratifying to make it,” Stitser said. “It was definitely nice to show my leg strength.”

The Bulldogs continued to score up until halftime, racking up 31 points on five touchdowns and a field goal.

The last score of the half was a 26-yard touchdown pass to Isaac Kinter with three seconds remaining.

Quarterback Tom Brandstater passed for 131 yards and two touchdowns.

The Bulldogs were 7 of 11 on third down conversions, an impressive statistic in comparison to last week, when they were 1 of 13.

Neither team had a shortage of penalties either.

The Aggies had six penalties for 44 yards, and the Bulldogs had eight penalties for 88 yards.

As the injury to Mathews leaves a small uncertainty, there is still the question of whether or not running back Lonyae Miller will play next weekend at Hawaii.

Miller has been out with a bruised quadricep muscle, adding to the list of injuries this team is suffering from.

“I’m very, very satisfied with the win but with all the depth problems we have, we’re a tired football team right now and you could really see that in the second half,” Hill said. “The two turnovers really hurt us cause it kept our defense on the field a long time. But I’m glad we finished the game the way we did.

“Hopefully we don’t have many injuries from this one.”

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