Phillip Thomas intercepted a Jordan La Secla pass with less than two minutes remaining in the game, but he failed to get in the end zone after being tackled at the San Jose State nine-yard line. It was the theme of the night, as the Bulldogs had six second half drives start inside Spartan territory but netted only 16 points.
“Offensively, we have to get away from shooting ourselves in the foot,” said Fresno State head coach Pat Hill.
“I know three penalties put us in first and 20. None of those penalties were administrative calls, they were all judgment calls. I think we had four holding penalties…we’ve got to stop that, we can’t have those type of penalties in games that are going to very critical games.”
But some credit has to be given to the Spartans, who never gave up. Jordan La Secla threw for a game-high 292 yards and two touchdowns, doubling his passing touchdowns on the season. His second score went to Noel Grigsby for 63 yards that cut the Bulldogs commanding lead to 30-18 with 4:37 remaining in the game.
“I think the defense played good, we played as hard as we could,” said defensive end Chris Lewis, who recovered a fumble on San Jose State’s first possession of the second half.
“We gave up two big plays,” Hill said referring to the 63-yard pass play and 48-yarder La Secla tossed to Kyle Nunn four minutes into the final quarter.
The game had a few highlights for the Bulldogs, most by a Fresno State true freshman receivers and the Bulldog defense – save the two fourth quarter touchdowns – that notched five sacks and held the Spartans to only 12 yards rushing.
Isaiah Burse’s first career pass completion opened up a stagnate offensive game as he hit a wide open Rashad Evans’ for a 43-yard touchdown to give Fresno State a commanding 20-0 lead with 8:30 remaining the third quarter.
“I didn’t think we would run it in this game,” said Burse. “We were saving it for later on in the season.”
The play is called the “Wyoming” pass Hill said in the post game press conference. Chastin West threw the same WR reverse pass play in the New Mexico Bowl last year versus Wyoming.
The drive was set up by the Bulldog defense’s second turnover of the third quarter – a Jermaine Thomas interception that negated a SJSU drive at the FS 21. The four-play, 68-yard drive was easily the most exciting game, and the only second half drive to result in points that didn’t start in Spartan territory.
Robbie Rouse couldn’t build off his strong game from last week for much of the game. At the end of the third quarter, Rouse and Jalen Saunders each had a team-best 52 yards rushing but Saunders had his on two carries while Rouse had 12. Rouse would gain another 64 yards on 15 fourth quarter carries.
Saunders finished with a career-high 59 yards rushing all coming on end-around runs. Rouse, however, did provide a spark out of the Hound formation, but the runs out the pro sets failed to generate any substantial first down production.
Ryan Colburn didn’t help the offense either finishing with just 13 yards passing in the second half. Hill said with one quarterback – that is not redshirting – he isn’t going to take to many chances with a game that is not on the line.
“We got to do a lot better on third downs, I got hit quite a bit a tonight and missed a couple [passes],” said Colburn.
Credit to San Jose State for dialing up the blitz packages as they frustrated Colburn and the offensive rhythm. “Once they saw it work once or twice, they brought the heat all night,” added Colburn.
Nevertheless, the offensive line continues to struggle without Andrew Jackson at right guard. And the Bulldogs faced another setback with Richard Helepiko starting for Joe Bernardi at center. SJSU pressured with seven, and attacked the sophomore center making his first career start.
Colburn was a respectable 8-of-12 for 112 yards in the first stanza but many plays were left on the field.
The run game sputtered for the most part before the half, save Saunders 36-yard gain that set up the Bulldogs for the first score, a 43-yard Goessling field goal.
FS had only one sustained drive against a SJSU defense that surrendered 41 first half points to Boise State last week. The nine-play, 80-yard drive led to Rouse’s first touchdown on the evening, a four-yard run out of the Hound – the first score out of the formation for the ‘Dogs this season.
But the biggest head scratcher was the Bulldogs’ final drive of half. It alone practically defined the Bulldogs inept offensive performance.
With two minutes remaining in the first half, Fresno State had a first down at the Spartans 34 and two timeouts. After a holding penalty on Jamel Hamler brought back an A.J. Ellis run for a first down, the ‘Dogs called on Ellis again to run the same play but from the 44. It went for no gain and the clock kept running, then it got ugly. The Bulldogs not only scored no points on the drive but Colburn took two sacks – the last dropping him at the FS 35 – to end the half.
Fresno State now has a much-needed bye before embarking a road trip to Ruston to face Louisiana Tech on November 6.
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