Fresno State has had its ups and downs this season with such a young team, but it had a chance to send off 15 seniors with a win in front of the Bulldog faithful.
The ‘Dogs welcomed Western Athletic Conference rival San Jose State to Bulldog Stadium for the final game between the two schools for at least one season with the Spartans not currently on Fresno State’s 2012 nonconference schedule and the ‘Dogs making the jump to the Mountain West Conference next season.
The Fresno State defense did its part early off keeping senior quarterback Matt Faulkner and the San Jose State offense off the board.
Then, sophomore quarterback Derek Carr got the ball rolling, orchestrating the offense down the field. The ‘Dogs utilized Carr’s arm on the drive as he found his weapons. Running back Robbie Rouse finished off the drive with guard Matt Hunt leading the way for a two-yard touchdown to give Fresno State an early 7-0 lead.
The offense wasn’t done yet. Later in the quarter, Carr drove the ‘Dogs down the field with the help of a 27-yard strike to sophomore wide receiver Isaiah Burse.
Fresno State settled for a field goal and senior kicker Kevin Goessling nailed a 39-yarder to become Fresno State’s all-time leading scorer and gave the ‘Dogs a 10-0 lead. Goessling now has 371 points for his collegiate career.
The Spartans’ offense answered on the next drive with former Bulldog Faulkner connecting on a 37-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Noel Grigsby. Grigsby finished the game with eight catches for 114 yards and one touchdown. Senior running back Brandon Rutley ran it in from 14 yards out to cut Fresno State’s lead to 10-7.
Faulkner put together another drive of his own on the next Spartan possession, leading San Jose State down the field with an array of passes. Senior kicker Jens Alvernik hit an 18-yard field goal to tie the game at 10 all.
The San Jose State offense would not hold onto the ball for very long as Faulkner gave it back to the ‘Dogs when senior defensive back Isaiah Green snagged his first interception of his career. Rouse would do the rest on the drive, finishing it off with a two-yard touchdown run to give Fresno State the halftime lead, 17-10. Rouse finished the game with 33 carries for 160 yards and two touchdowns.
In the beginning of the second half, San Jose State came out fast with a fumble recovery off the center-quarterback exchange from Fresno State. From there, the Spartans got tricky as they went with the flea flicker as Faulkner found freshman wide receiver Jabari Carr for a 38-yard touchdown, giving San Jose State a 20-17 lead.
San Jose State wouldn’t stop moving the ball there as Faulkner led his team down the field, utilizing his playmakers. Faulkner ended the drive by finding Grigsby again, but this time it was of the 18-yard variety to extend the lead to 27-17. Faulkner finished his first win against Fresno State going 27-of-42 for 363 yards and two touchdowns.
Carr got the offense rolling again in the fourth quarter as he led the ‘Dogs down the field with his own variety of passes. Carr finished the drive off with a 24-yard touchdown pass to his top target, sophomore wide receiver Jalen Saunders, to cut the San Jose State lead to 27-24. .
San Jose State would stop Fresno State’s comeback bid as it drove down the field to run out the clock to win 27-24 for the first Spartan victory over the ‘Dogs since 2006.
The Fresno State offense put up 449 total yards and was led by Carr, who finished the game going 19-of-28 for 276 yards and one touchdown. Carr recognizes it will take everybody wearing Bulldog red to contribute to be able to put a win together.
“All 11 guys that are on the field are trying to win every game,” Carr said during the postgame press conference. “And that’s when it’s tough, when you’re competing hard and you just come up short.”
The defense came up short on Saturday after only allowing 300 yards of total offense to the Warriors, the ‘Dogs let Faulkner and company pile up 424 total yards of offense.
With the loss against the Spartans, Fresno State will finish the season with its worst record since the 2006 season when it posted a 4-8 record. Head coach Pat Hill talked about how the outcome of the game hasn’t been anything new this season.
“I thought we competed hard for the ball, but Faulkner made some big throws,” Hill said. “Just like Derek [Carr] made some great throws. We didn’t do a good job on our third-down conversions. That game, like I said, a big picture of the way our season’s been.”
Now Fresno State will have an opportunity to finish its season against Mountain West Conference member San Diego State next Saturday where a win will help the ‘Dogs avoid ending the season with less than five wins.