Fresno State’s Karl Mickelsen (left) and Ejiro Ederaine celebrate after a defensive stop during Fresno State’s win over UNLV Oct. 19. Photo by Roe Borunda/The Collegian
It was not easy, but the No. 16 Fresno State Bulldogs remain undefeated after a close victory over the San Diego State Aztecs on Saturday.
The Bulldogs and Aztecs slugged it out – defensively in the first half, offensively in the second half – in an overtime battle that went to the final play.
“It was a heavyweight fight,” said Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter. “Both teams were landing haymakers on each other. Luckily, we caught the last one.”
It was a record-setting day for Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr and wide receiver Davante Adams. Carr threw 35 of 57 for 298 yards in the contest to become the Bulldogs’ all-time leader in total offense (10,470 yards).
Adams caught Carr’s only two touchdown passes to set the all time school record with 27 touchdowns.
“You have to give so much credit to the Aztecs and their coaches,” Carr said. “They came out there, were very emotional and wanted to beat us physically. This is always the most physical game I play.”
In the overtime period, Fresno State running back Marteze Waller scored a 1-yard touchdown. During San Diego State’s chance to tie the game, Fresno State safety Derron Smith knocked down a pass from Aztec quarterback Quinn Kaehler to seal the Bulldog victory.
It was an exciting ending to a slow-starting game.
After the first three drives of the game ended in punts, Fresno State was able to score the first touchdown through an Isaiah Burse 10-yard rush. In their next drive, the Aztecs tried to get on the board after Kaehler led the team to field-goal range. But sophomore kicker Seamus McMorrow sailed the ball wide right, missing his first career three-point attempt.
The Aztecs flexed their defensive muscle in the second quarter and prevented the Bulldogs from scoring. With less than eight minutes remaining in the first half, San Diego State running back Adam Muema rushed 10 yards for an Aztec touchdown.
At halftime, Fresno State and San Diego State were tied 7-7.
“It was a wake-up call for us,” Carr said. “Once we got some of their blitzes down in the second half, we got more into a rhythm.”
In the third quarter, San Diego State scored through a Muema 1-yard run to take a 14-7 lead. In the next drive, Carr was able to take advantage of an Aztec pass interference penalty and completed passes to wide receivers Davante Adams and Isaiah Burse. After a 20-yard Josh Quezada run placed the ball in the red zone, Carr connected with Adams to tie the game at 14-14.
In the fourth quarter, Carr and Adams scored the second touchdown to retake the lead. In San Diego State’s next drive, Bulldog defensive back Jonathan Norton forced a fumble by Aztec Ezell Ruffin. Ejiro Ederaine then picked up the ball and returned it 78 yards for a Fresno State score.
“I wasn’t sure if the ball was called down,” Ederaine said. “Once I picked the ball up, I looked at the side official and he threw down his bean bag, but I thought he was blowing the whistle.
“He was just looking at me and I was just looking at him, it was awkward. Then, I heard my teammates saying ‘go, go, go,’ so I started running.”
The Aztecs wouldn’t be down for long. Kaehler tossed a 60-yard pass to Tim Vizzi that ended at the 1-yard line. Aaron Boesch then ran the ball in to bring San Diego State within seven.
When McMorrow went to kick off to the Bulldogs, he tapped an onside kick that landed in Vizzi’s arms. San Diego State’s chance ended with a Chad Young 27-yard touchdown rush that tied the game at 28-28 with 6:15 left in the game.
“We practice [the onside kick] every Thursday so if the opportunity arises, we can do it,” San Diego State coach Rocky Long told reporters. “That’s as good of execution as any we’ve ever done in practice, better than about 90 percent of the ones we’ve done in practice.”
The Bulldogs went three-and-out in their next drive and San Diego State, with another opportunity to hand Fresno State its first loss, got the ball into field-goal range for McMorrow. With three seconds left in the contest, Marcel Jensen reached his arm up and blocked McMorrow’s 37-yard attempt to send the game in overtime.
“I didn’t think I had a good enough jump,” Jensen said. “But I had a good enough extension, so whatever I did, I got it.
“Once my number was called, I just went out there and did what I could to help the team win.”
The Bulldogs will return home to host the Nevada Wolf Pack on Saturday.