Fresno State redshirt freshman quarterback Kilton Anderson led the Bulldogs to a come-from-behind victory over UNLV Friday night at Bulldog Stadium. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)
The Fresno State football team ended its five-game losing streak by defeating the UNLV Rebels 31-28 on a rainy Friday night at Bulldog Stadium.
“Our kids have been challenged and they responded,” Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter said. “Everybody is counting them out and everybody is casting them aside but we challenged our guys to make a decision today to find a way to hang together and fight to win a football game, and that’s exactly what they did.”
Coming into the game, the ‘Dogs still had a lot of questions remaining after their latest blowout loss to Utah State last week at home. In search of that first conference victory, they looked to answer those questions back at home against another Mountain West opponent.
With a defense that was allowing on average 42.8 points per game coming in, the ‘Dogs looked to put a stop to the Rebels’ offense in hopes it could spark a win. However, the defense would not start off in great fashion, allowing a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to start the game.
But after that drive, Fresno State’s defense would respond, holding the Rebel offense to -7 yards on their next two drives.
The offense also responded, mounting a 12-play, 83-yard touchdown drive to start the night. Redshirt freshman quarterback Kilton Anderson, who made his second collegiate start, would run it in from six yards out to even the score at 7-7.
Fresno State had to overcome many miscues throughout the game to end up with the victory. The biggest miscue coming halfway through the third quarter when receiver Da’Mari Scott fumbled a punt return that the Rebels recovered. UNLV would put it in the end zone just three plays later to increase its lead to 28-14, its largest of the game.
The fumbled punt return was one of three big miscues for the ‘Dogs in the game. They missed two field goals, a 23-yarder in the second quarter and 38-yard attempt early in fourth quarter to go along with the muffed punt.
Following a field goal late third quarter by kicker Jimmy Camacho, the ‘Dogs entered the fourth quarter trailing 28-17. Coming into the game, Fresno State had been 1-18 in games when they trailed after three quarters over the last four years.
Leading the offense on their great comeback was Anderson. The redshirt freshman was instrumental in the comeback, orchestrating two touchdown drives in the fourth quarter, the first quarterback to lead a fourth quarter comeback since Derek Carr back in 2013.
Anderson scored on a 12-yard run four minutes into the fourth quarter, his second rushing touchdown of the game, to pull the ‘Dogs within five. Thanks to back-to-back stops by the defense, the ‘Dogs had a chance with just over four minutes to go. Anderson once again put together another drive and senior Marteze Waller was able to bust off a 38-yard touchdown run to give the ‘Dogs the lead at 31-28.
“It’s definitely great to get this victory because we can build upon that,” Anderson said. “We executed tonight. We played with great enthusiasm, came out and played our hearts out and it is great to get a victory finally.”
The Rebels got one final chance following the touchdown and, after quarterback Kurt Palandech rushed for 39 yards into Bulldog territory, they thought they had a real chance. That was when the defense took a stand and continued their impressive performance in the fourth.
Seniors Ejiro Ederaine and Claudell Louis sacked Palandech on 3rd-and-4 and then sophomore Justin Green sacked him once again on fourth down to put the nail in the coffin and seal the victory.
“The team as a whole just grew up and said you know what, ‘enough is enough,’” Ederaine said.
Edraine finished his night with a game-high 12 tackles, three for a loss, and 1.5 sacks to lead the Bulldogs on defense. The defense took a tough stand by record six sacks and holing the Rebels’ offense to just 299 yards of offense, the fewest the ‘Dogs have allowed since Week 1.
Following a week where he threw three interceptions in his debut, Anderson had a great bounce back game to lead the ‘Dogs offensively. He finished his night with 193 yards on 19-of-31 passing and also rushed for 78 yards and two touchdowns. Waller also contributed two touchdowns in the game, finishing his night with 111 yards rushing, his 10th career 100-yard game.
“I think in other games our guys had almost not a sense of despair, but a sense of ‘I don’t know if we could do this,’” DeRuyter said. “There was some doubt lingering. Tonight I had no sense of that. Guys were determined on the sideline and there was a look of ‘we are going to find a way.’”