Ronnie Rivers scores a trio of touchdowns in Bulldogs victory

Fresno State’s running back Ronnie Rivers celebrates with his teammates after the first touchdown during the first quarter of the game against Colorado State Rams on October 30, 2020, at Bulldog Stadium. (Vendila Yang/ The Collegian)

After last week’s loss against Hawai’i, senior running back Ronnie Rivers took to social media to let everyone know that the Bulldogs had to be better. 

And on Thursday night, Rivers and the rest of the Fresno State football team made good on that promise.

“It felt great to showcase a win for the red wave,” Rivers said. “We had a great week of practice and we emphasized on executing this week and I feel like we did a great job.”

Rivers scored three touchdowns and gained a combined total of 162 yards in Fresno State’s 38-17 victory over the Colorado State Rams. He continues to climb the Fresno State record books surpassing Fresno State legend and current Green Bay Packers wide receiver Davante Adams in career touchdowns with 39.

This is the inaugural victory for a new Bulldogs’ era with head coach Kalen Deober at the helm.

“It’s a fun time,” DeBoer said. “I’m just proud of these guys. I think we’re growing as a football team. We got some great spirit and fight. I think we’re coming together as a football team.”

Rivers scored the first touchdown of the game. He capped off a 12 play, 86-yard drive by getting open in the back of the endzone for a 13-yard touchdown after Jake Haener escaped from the Colorado State rush.

Colorado State answered later in the quarter with a field goal on its second drive to cut the Bulldog’s lead to 7-3.

In the first drive of the second quarter, Colorado State running back Marcus McElroy put the Rams up 10-7 with a 15-yard rushing touchdown.

But that was the last time Colorado State scored until the fourth quarter as the Fresno State defense held the Rams to 4-for-15 third down conversion rate and 158 rushing yards. 

By comparison, Fresno State allowed an 11-for-16 third down conversion rate and 323 rushing yards last week to Hawaii. 

The Bulldog pass rush continued to get to the quarterback, adding three more sacks bringing their season total to seven.

Despite the final score, the game wasn’t without intrigue. To start the first drive of the second quarter, DeBoer subbed in back-up quarterback Ben Woolridge in for Haener.

At the time, Haener was 4-for-5 with 59 yards and the opening drive touchdown.

Woolridge led the Bulldogs down the field, throwing 3 of 5 passes and narrowly missing a touchdown throw to wide receiver Keric Wheatfall. The pass was complete, but the play was overturned as Wheatfall was ruled out of bounds before making a diving, one-handed catch.

DeBoer said the decision to have Woolridge out on the second drive was predetermined.

“Ben knows the offense as well as anyone,” DeBoer said. “That was designed to make sure he got an opportunity. He came in firing right away. We didn’t lose a beat.”

The Bulldogs settled for a 34-yard field goal Cesar Silva to tie the game up at 10-10 in the second quarter,

On the next drive, Haener was once again out on the field at quarterback. And once again the Bulldogs drove down the field and Rivers got his second touchdown of the game, escaping the defense on a 32-yard carry and breaking a tackle on his way into the end zone. 

Following that drive, Haener would be the Bulldogs’ starter for the rest of the night.

With the offense in rhythm, Fresno State added one more touchdown before the half, a 15-yard touchdown pass from Haener to running back Jordan Mims. This was Mims’ first touchdown since Nov. 24, 2018 as a foot injury sidelined him for the entire 2019 season. 

“There’s so many little stories to see right now and he’s one of them,” DeBoer said. “Seeing  Jordan continue to gain confidence each week throughout camp and these first two games. He’s doing something in critical moments and making some big plays.”

Following halftime, Fresno State added two more scores as Rivers completed his trio of touchdowns in the third quarter with a 1-yard run off a direct snap in the wildcat formation.

Jalen Cropper got his first touchdown of the season off a 6-yard pass from Jake Haener to make it 38-10, set up by a David Perales forced fumble, which the Bulldogs recovered.

The Rams got a late touchdown when back-up Patrick O’Brien connected with Trey McBride for a 20-yard touchdown pass to make it 38-17.

The Bulldogs will play its first away game of the season against UNLV on Saturday, Nov. 7 at newly constructed Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas.

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