The Fresno State football team honored 17 seniors on the roster who ended their college eligibility this year. Before kickoff, the players were introduced individually along with their family and loved ones beside them while the Red Wave cheered them on.
The seniors, along with the rest of the Bulldog football team, performed well as Fresno State took the 34-7 win against New Mexico Saturday at Bulldog Stadium.
Before leaving for his final home game at Bulldog Stadium, Ronnie Rivers broke the all-time touchdown rushing record for Fresno State, passing Ryan Mathews. It was full circle for the senior running back as he broke the all-time rushing yards in the season home opener against UNLV.
In the first quarter against the Lobos, Rivers rushed for 4 yards to put the first points on the board for the ‘Dogs. He finished the game with 71 total rushing yards and one touchdown. By the end of the game, he said he was bowing down the crowd for their support throughout his years playing.
“I think I made my mark,” Rivers said, talking about making his own legacy beyond his father, Ron Rivers, who also played for the ‘Dogs. “Coming here, I didn’t want to live in my dad’s shadows, so just being able to create a name for myself is something I took pride in.”
He wouldn’t be the only senior breaking personal records. Kicker Cesar Silva had a career-high by kicking a 51-yard field goal in the second quarter. As he lined up the shot, aiming at a foggy goal post, the ball flew through the field, bounced at the bottom of the post and barely fell to the other side.
Silva also scored in the third with a 48-yard field goal.
This was a significant growth since his first year in his three-season journey as a Bulldog. Coming from the College of San Mateo, Silva went 12-of-21 in field goal attempts in his first year at Fresno State.
Although he wasn’t coaching for the ‘Dogs at the time, head coach Kalen DeBoer said that he knew how hard that first year was for Silva and was amazed by the off-season work he did to get to where he is now.
“[Silva’s] a leader of a specialist unit that continues to grow, and everyone believes in him,” head coach Kalen DeBoer said. “Our team believes that every time he lines up, he’s going to give it a chance. He did that again two times today.”
Senior tight end Raymond Pauwels Jr. also contributed to the Bulldog scoring with a touchdown of his own in the second quarter. Along with Pauwels Jr., tight end Juan Rodriguez and receiver Keric Wheatfall added some receiving yards in their last home game.
In his sixth year for Fresno State, Kevin Atkins said it was an emotional night for the team, and all the seniors were in tears by the end of the night. Atkins has been a veteran and a defensive leader for the team.
He ended the night with three tackles of his own.
“That kind of broke my heart to know that I never play another game here because this is really a special place,” Atkins, talking about Bulldog Stadium. “You know, when you first get here and they tell you that, you don’t really believe it until you actually like play here.”
Out of the seniors honored on the defensive team, DaRon Bland led with 7 tackles, followed by Ryan Boehm with three, Kenny Gagnon and Deonty Perry with two and Arron Mosby with one.
DeBoer wanted to acknowledge the senior’s achievements beyond football as well.
“There are 17 of [the seniors], and by the end of this semester, all 17 are going to have at least their undergraduate degree. And so that’s pretty special… Pretty great group not just on the field, but off the field as well,” DeBoer said.
To start the game, the Lobos won the coin toss and chose to receive. It was quickly a dominating performance for the ‘Dogs as defensive back Cale Sander Jr. intercepted the ball in the Lobos’ first drive.
The Fresno State offense capitalized on the interception in its first drive of the game, but it took a slow start. It was a messy performance for both teams in front of strict referees. In a span of a couple of minutes, the Bulldogs were penalized for holding and a false start and the Lobos were penalized for unnecessary roughness and then for offsides.
Despite a plethora of penalties, the ‘Dogs remained undeterred as Rivers rushed 1 yard for a touchdown. Fresno State led 7-0 with 10:33 remaining in the first.
In the following Lobos’ drive, the Bulldog defense locked them down to multiple incomplete passes and rushes with no gain, forcing a punt. New Mexico would remain scoreless the entire first half.
Fresno State would not score again until the beginning of the second quarter. With a touchdown pass from Haener to Pauwels Jr., the Bulldogs increased their lead to 14-0 with around 4 minutes left of the half.
After that, Fresno State was in complete control of the game. In its next drive. Haener threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to receiver Josh Kelly. Kelly caught the ball a couple of yards before the end zone, but it was unclear whether he’d make the catch as he lost the ball but then caught it mid-air to complete the touchdown.
Fresno State increased its lead 21-0 with 6:42 left of the half. Silva ended the half with a field goal and increased the lead to 24-0.
In the third quarter, the Lobos’ defensive pass coverage did step up in the second half, forcing Haener to throw multiple incomplete passes. But Silva again scored with a 48-yard field goal, increasing the Bulldogs’ lead to 27-0 with about 13 minutes left in the third.
Offensively for the Lobos, running back Aaron Dumas tried to create a spark for his team in the following New Mexico drive. Off four snaps, Dumas continuously cut through the ‘Dogs defensive line for a total of 25 yards. He then rushed for a 1-yard touchdown.
Dumas gave the Lobos the first points on the board, but the ‘Dogs still led 27-7 with around 8 minutes left of the third. The Lobos could not score again the rest of the game.
Fresno State was the last to score in the quarter with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Haener to running back Jordan Mims.
The Bulldogs led with the final score of 34-7.
Fresno State will have a bye week and face San Jose State next on Thanksgiving Day at 12:30 p.m at CEFCU Stadium.