After a second half meltdown at Air Force last Saturday, the Fresno State football team was looking for redemption on Friday night against the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Rebels at Bulldog Stadium.
Thanks to a stellar second half performance, the Bulldogs defeated the Rebels, 56-27, getting their third win of the season and their first in Mountain West Conference play.
The Rebels started the game on offense and after a couple of short yardage runs, the Rebels were able to complete a screen pass that went for 45 yards.
Despite driving into Fresno State territory, the Bulldogs stopped the Rebels in the red zone, allowing only a field goal.
During the first quarter of the game, the Bulldogs were not able to capitalize on several mistakes by the Rebels.
A fumble recovery by linebacker Justin Rice left the Bulldogs in good position, however, they could not finish the drive with points, missing a 46-yard field goal by kicker Cesar Silva.
Head coach Jeff Tedford said after the game that Silva was a good kicker and that he had no plans of benching him or using backup Asa Fuller..
“[Silva] is a good kicker and he’s a mentally tough guy and we just put him in a bad position…we still have confidence in Cesar [Silva],” Tedford said.
During the next drive, the Rebels’ quarterback Kenyon Oblad threw a ball that popped off the receiver and landed in freshman linebacker Levelle Bailey’s hands.
This gave the Bulldogs a short field, of which they finally took advantage, scoring the first touchdown of the game thanks to a 7-yard run by running back Ronnie Rivers. After a successful point after, the Bulldogs had the lead, 7-3, with less than three minutes left in the quarter.
At the start of the second quarter, the Rebels were inside the Bulldogs’ 20-yard line. They were able to score a touchdown thanks to a 12-yard pass by Obland to Randal Grimes.
The Rebels regained the lead 10-7, however, the Bulldogs answered right away with running back Jalen Cropper showing off his speed with an 82-yard run before being stopped at the 1-yard line by the Rebels.
Running back Josh Hokit scored in the subsequent play, making the score 14-10 and giving the Bulldogs the lead once again.
After stopping the Rebels on offense, the Bulldogs couldn’t capitalize and again missed another field goal, this time from 50 yards out.
The Bulldogs’ defense was stepping up, stopping the Rebels time and time again, giving the offense the ball back and an opportunity to score again.
But, unlike the previous offensive drives, the Bulldogs found success with Rivers, who scored his second touchdown of the night with an 11-yard run.
The Rebels answered the Bulldogs, quickly moving the ball down the field and scoring their second touchdown of the night thanks to a 60-yard pass from Oblad to tight end Noah Bean.
The Rebels cut the ‘Dogs’ lead to four points, 21-17, leaving less than two minutes on the half.
On the next drive, Reyna made the offense move quickly into Rebels’ territory and just before the end of the first half, the Bulldogs found themselves in the UNLV 8-yard line. Eventually, Reyna called his own number from the 3-yard line, scoring the touchdown and making the score 28-17 with less than a minute in the half.
The first half ended with the Bulldogs on top of the Rebels, 28-17.
Reyna said that the team wanted to be consistent and dominant throughout the entire game.
“We understood this was going to be a ‘fist fight,’ and our big emphasis was finishing,” Reyna said. “[At halftime] we reminded each other that we needed to be consistent and dominant, and that’s what happened. We came out victorious.”
The third quarter started with the Bulldogs’ defense stopping the Rebels at the 5-yard line and forcing a 3-point kick. The Rebels scored the kick, cutting the Bulldogs’ lead to eight points.
With a 28-20 lead, the offense got going for the Bulldogs with Reyna hitting Wheatfall and tight end Cam Sutton for two big plays, putting them on the UNLV 5-yard line.
However, the Rebels’ defense stopped the Bulldogs’ offense, forcing a kick that was mishandled by the holder and missed by Silva, his third miss of the game.
The Rebels had momentum on their side after stopping the Bulldogs. But on their first play, the Rebels fumbled the ball, which was recovered by Rice, who scored for the Bulldogs and added to their lead of 35-20.
In the fourth quarter, the Fresno State defense again stopped the Rebels, forcing a turnover on downs.
Reyna started the next drive with a 53-yard pass to wide receiver Darrion Grimm, putting the Bulldogs inside the UNLV 20-yard line.
After a 2-yard run by Rivers, Reyna threw to tight end Jared Rice, who scored with a 12-yard reception.
With tremendous momentum on defense, Bulldog linebacker Arron Mosby took advantage of a pressured pass by the UNLV quarterback and intercepted the ball, taking it to the Rebels’ 1-yard line.
Hokit scored on the subsequent play, giving him his second touchdown of the game and adding to the Bulldogs’ lead of 49-20.
The defense kept making plays for the Bulldogs. Strong safety Juju Hughes intercepted the Rebels, taking the ball to the UNLV 23-yard line. Fresno State took advantage of the short field, running the ball and eventually scoring with a 6-yard run by Hokit.
With the game winding down and down by 36 points, the Rebels weren’t giving up yet. The Rebels kept pushing the Bulldogs back and eventually scored thanks to a pass by Oblad to Grimes, making the score 56-27.
For the last offensive drive, the Bulldogs replaced Reyna with quarterback Ben Wooldridge. Wooldridge didn’t pass, but did have one carry for eight yards, eventually closing out the game for the ‘Dogs.
The game ended with a score of 56-27, giving the Bulldogs their first conference win of the season and their third win overall.
Tedford praised the defense after the game, saying that they played well and that they created good field position for the offense.
“Turnovers were key. We didn’t have any, and we gained five. It was a really good team effort tonight,” Tedford said. “I thought the team had great focus, great energy going into the game and they played really hard.”