The Fresno State Bulldogs played a dominant first half against the Cal Poly Mustangs Saturday, but the second half left much to be desired. Fresno State scored just one touchdown in the second half, on their first possession of the third quarter. The score gave the Bulldogs a 41-3 lead, allowing them to bring in back-ups and play more conservatively.
Fresno State failed to play with the same success and intensity after turning to the reserves, however. After a third quarter injury to Cal Poly quarterback Vince Moraga, backup quarterback Chris Brown led the Mustangs’ offense to 22 unanswered second half points. Brown completed 9-of-15 passes for 184 yards and a touchdown, and added 58 rushing yards and two touchdowns on the ground in the second half alone.
The Bulldogs' offense struggled to move the ball with several backups in as well, gaining just 53 yards and one first down on their final six possessions. DeRuyter brought the starting units back into the game after Cal Poly’s touchdown and two point conversion with 4:44 remaining cut the lead to just two possessions. Fresno State stopped the Mustangs on downs with 2:28 remaining to put a stop to Cal Poly's comeback efforts.
"We should have finished the game much better than we did," DeRuyter said. "You have to give Cal Poly a lot of credit… They never quit. We’ve got to do a much better job developing our depth so that when we get our twos and threes in there, they perform much better than they did tonight."
Dominant First Half
Fresno State dominated the first half on offense, defense, and special teams, jumping out to a 34-0 lead by halftime. The Bulldogs shut down the Mustangs' triple-option offense, allowing just 44 first half yards and only two first downs.
“I really liked our defensive effort at the beginning of the football game," DeRuyter said. "I thought they were dialed in on the option. I thought we played with great intensity, tackled well. Much improved from a week ago.”
First down defense was key for the Bulldogs. Fresno State's defense forced seven first half punts by stopping Cal Poly at, or behind, the line of scrimmage on first down five times. Cal Poly struggled to convert on third and long; the Mustangs converted just one-of-eight third down attempts in the first half.
"When you take a triple-option team and you put them in second-and-long, you make it tough on them," DeRuyter said. "They like to be in second-and-five or second-and-two and now they are on schedule and they can do more with their offense. But our guys went out and played very, very hard and they were well-coached on the offense"
Wide receiver Isaiah Burse accounted for three first half touchdowns for the Bulldogs. His 61 yard punt return after an all-out punt block call gave Fresno State their first touchdown of the game. Burse then caught a 15 yard touchdown pass from Derek Carr to push the lead to 17-0. Burse would strike lightning again on special teams with a 58 yard punt return for a touchdown, giving the Bulldogs a convincing 34-0 lead with just 30 seconds left before halftime.
The 34 point first half performance was also highlighted by a touchdown from left tackle Austin Wentworth on a hook and ladder play. Carr threw the ball to receiver Davante Adams, who pitched the ball back to Wentworth as he ran into the end zone untouched for the offensive lineman's first career touchdown.
Fresno State improves to 2-0 and will take to the road for the first time this season, playing at Pac-12 opponent Colorado on Saturday, September 14th. Kickoff is set for 11:00 a.m. PT.