Fresno State gets off to a flying start in season opener

Fresno State tight end Raymond Pauwels Jr. celebrates the fourth Bulldog touchdown against Cal Poly on Sept. 1, 2022, at Valley Children's Stadium. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

Not even the scorching Central Valley sun could keep the 36,011 fans in attendance from seeing Fresno State.  With temperatures of over 100 degrees, the ‘Dogs beat Cal Poly 35-7 in their season-opener on Thursday night, Sept. 1.

As soon as kickoff started, the Bulldog offense had no problem settling in as they found the endzone in each of their first three offensive drives.

After last season’s match-up against Cal Poly, quarterback Jake Haener said “I want to challenge the guys… We got to start faster. I like to see us start fast, and kind of go from there.”

This time around, Haener made sure the ‘Dogs did just that, going 13-15 and throwing for 187 yards in the first quarter. Haener led the offense into the red zone in each of their first three possessions in the opening period, allowing running back Jordan Mims to capitalize on the offensive drives in two of the three touchdowns.

In the ‘Dogs’ first offensive drive, Haener orchestrated the offense down the field to the 5-yard line. From there, the ball was in Mims’ hands to get them over the line.

Mims was stopped just short of the goal line in his first attempt. After push back from the Cal Poly, defensive line again on 2nd and goal, Mims muscled his way through to find the endzone for the first Bulldog touchdown of the season.

“Jordan [Mims] did a nice job of stepping through some arm tackles… In the past when he was a young guy, he might get tripped up by that. He’s matured. He’s so much stronger and he’s got great balance, and so I thought he did a really good job of making some cuts between the tackles,” said Fresno State head coach Jeff Tedford in the post-game conference.

Running back Jordan Mims makes a run for the end zone against Cal Poly on Sept. 1, 2022, at Valley Children’s Stadium. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

Even with the departure of Ronnie Rivers, who holds Fresno State’s all-time record for most touchdowns, Fresno State has an abundance of offensive options with Mims and wide receivers Jalen Moreno-Cropper and Josh Kelly returning. However, Bulldog fans left Valley Childrens Stadium on Thursday night with a new name in mind. Nikko Remigio.

Prior to the Bulldogs scoring their first touchdown of the game, the Cal Berkeley transfer had fans on their feet as he received a 6-yard pass from Haener, turned up field and soared over an oncoming Cal Poly defender.

Tedford described his performance as “pretty electric.”

“He can do it all, really. Not just catching the football but run after the catch, very tough, puts his pads down. He can really do anything that we ask him to do on offense. He’s a great competitor,” Tedford said.

Remigio didn’t stop there as he leaped over another Cal Poly defender, this time for a 6-yard gain. Remigio finished the game with 126 total yards and one touchdown in his first game as a Bulldog.

Fresno State finished an electrifying first quarter with a 21-0 lead, but the Mustangs turned things around in the second quarter.

After three consecutive scoreless possessions, Cal Poly redshirt freshman quarterback Jaden Jones led the Mustangs down the field and into the endzone.

Cal Poly’s defense would also make things difficult for the Bulldogs, holding them scoreless in the second quarter.

“Very rusty” is how Tedford described his team’s performance.

This was evident as Jones occasionally scrambled out of the pocket for long gains against the Fresno State defense.

“There’s a bunch of little mistakes that led to some explosive plays and we feel like there’s a lot left on the table for us to improve on,” Evan Williams said

Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener passes the ball to Elijah Gilliam against Cal Poly on Sept. 1, 2022, at Valley Children’s Stadium. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)

Lapses of concentration could also be seen, costing the Bulldogs 65 yards in six penalties throughout the game.

“I thought we performed well at times but there were too many penalties. We’re gonna have to learn to keep the grind on, jumping up 21-0 and then after that the floodgates open with the penalties, putting ourselves in bad situations,” Tedford said.

Fresno State’s defense found their footing in the second half. On three 4th and goal instances for the Mustangs, the Bulldogs stood their ground each time, forcing the Mustangs to turnover possession.

Fresno State’s offense also regained their rhythm in the second half, scoring two more touchdowns and holding off the Mustangs en route to a 35-7 victory to open the season.

The Bulldogs remain at home next week as they take on Oregon State on Saturday, Sept. 10 at 7:30 p.m.

Fresno State wide receiver Nikko Remigio outruns three Mustangs in the game against Cal Poly on Sept. 1, 2022, at Valley Children’s Stadium. (Manuel Hernandez/The Collegian)
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