Fresno State seized all the moment late in the first half after Isaiah Burse blocked his second punt of the game that was recovered in the back of the end zone by Desia Dunn for a touchdown. It left Cal Poly down 21-3 with 4:47 remaining in the half, and with a struggling offense that could not move the ball effectively on a faster Fresno State defense let alone complete a pass, it seemed the outcome was inevitable.
However, for the 37,069 fans in the stands, the game would swing quickly in the Mustangs favor thanks to a few Bulldog blunders.
After a 13-yard run by quarterback Andre Broadous – a scramble on a pass attempt that was well defended – the Bulldogs committed one of their 11 penalties on the evening. Broadous would run a second consecutive pass play; however, he caught a break on an incompletion as Desia Dunn was called for pass interference. In just two plays, Cal Poly moved from their own 27 to the FS 45 – huge for a run-oriented offense that had yet to complete a pass on the night.
With plenty of time on the clock, the Mustangs slowly drove the ball down the field converting two separate 3rd-and-1 opportunities – running on eight of nine plays. Facing a 2nd-and-goal from the FS 10, Broadous completed his first pass on the evening for a touchdown cutting the Bulldogs lead to 21-10 after the extra point.
There was 46 ticks remaining in the half and Jalen Saunders returning kicks, Fresno State was going to have a chance to score before the break. Taking the ball at about a half-yard deep in the end zone, Saunders cut across the grain of the field only to be stopped well short of the 20-yard line. Bad enough but FS was called for the second of two block-in-the-back penalties on kickoff returns in the game.
The penalty pushed the ‘Dogs back to their own four-yard line and instead of trying to tack on some points before half in the 1-minute offense, FS was just trying to stay out of its own end zone and get to locker room up by 11. On first down, Colburn's exchange to Tracy Slocum was fumbled. Cal Poly's James Chen was credited with the force fumble, and he recovered it at the FS 1-yard line. Two plays later, Cal Poly's Mark Rodgers' struts into the end zone giving the Mustangs a huge boost of confidence with its second touchdown in 22 seconds of play.
The wave continued as Saunders subsequent kickoff return of 55 yards was wasted as Colburn fumbled on the ‘Dogs first snap at the Cal Poly 49. The Mustangs recovered the fumble and took possession at the FS 47 with 10 second remaining in the half. Cornell Banks and Logan Harrell sacked Broadous and Cal Poly elected to let the clock run out instead of calling its last timeout to attempt another pass.
Despite building a 21-3 lead, the ‘Dogs didn't start the game strong as Saunders took the opening kick from four yards deep in the end zone to about the 15. FS was called for a block-in-the-back penalty on the return. Backed up at their 6-yard line, Colburn is tripped up coming out of the snap and stumbles back to the 3. It led to a three-and-out.
After the Bulldog defense held Cal Poly to a three-and-out as well, the offense went aggressive with Colburn attempting the long ball to freshman wideout A.J. Johnson. The ball bounced of Johnson's hands in the waiting arms of Cal Poly cornerback Asa Jackson, who returned 47 yards setting up a 30-yard field goal giving the Mustangs their only lead of the game at 3-0.
The Bulldogs would score on its next two drives both using long pass plays – one to score and one to set up a score. Isaiah Burse scored his first career touchdown taking a swing pass from Colburn 58 yards down the sideline, breaking a few tackles along way, and making the last defender miss with a sweet cutback move at the Cal Poly 15.
Matt Lindsey's 44-yard reception from Colburn highlighted a two-play, 58-yard drive capped by Slocum's 14-yard touchdown run.
Fresno State proved again that it is becoming a second half team outscoring the Mustangs 17-0 and limiting Broadous to 17 yards rushing after allowing him to gain 65 in the first two quarters. Broadous also completed just 2-of-4 passes for 8 yards in the second half despite running many more pass plays. He continually had to tuck the ball and run as he was pressured and couldn't find an open receiver.
If Cal Poly were a competent passing team, the margin of victory could have been closer as Broadous missed some wide-open targets. On the flip side, FS fumbled three times losing two and threw an interception as well the ‘Dogs doubled the Mustangs in penalties yards (11 for 99 compared to 5 for 50) yet still came away with a decisive 21-point win. Regardless of the outcome, the Bulldogs have to eliminate the mistakes. It cannot afford the same mental mistakes next week against Hawaii and expect to win as easily.
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