Fresno State started sluggish but ended strong. The ‘Dogs totaled just 49 yards rushing in the first half but rode the legs of Ryan Mathews in the second. He had 163 of the Bulldogs' 206 rushing yards. Tom Brandstater has seen better games but the senior signal caller made the plays when needed.
"The line made some real good adjustments and really took over the game," said Brandstater. "Ryan Mathews had a great game. It's nice to be able to hand the ball with someone like him and watch him go."
Seyi Ajirotutu finished with a career-high 116 receiving on three receptions but two ended inside the five-yard line. The first was a 77-yard on play action in the third quarter where he was tackled at the four. The catch set up Mathews four-yard touchdown run, his first of three.
After a false start, on 3rd-and-18, with just over seven minutes to play in the game, that forced a 3rd-and-23, Ajirotutu got the call again and made the game-changing play of the game. He turned his body 180 degrees to make a crucial 31-yard reception. If not for his acrobatics, FS would have had to settle for a 49-yard field goal attempt, instead the ‘Dogs had a first and goal at the one.
Mathews capped the drive two plays later for his second touchdown.
Mathews fell just five yards short of tying his career rushing mark, but he carried the ball 26 times, which was a career-high. He stole the show in the second half after recording less than 30 yards before halftime.
However, the rest of the offense never seemed to get on track. The Rutgers defense held the Bulldogs in check in the first half. Moreover, the Scarlet Knights nearly had the Bulldogs stuffed on their first drive of the second half. Fresno State's third down conversion rate was abysmal and faced a tricky 3rd-and-4 at midfield. Brandstater, who up to this point had converted just one third down with his arm, hit Devon Wylie on a short route just pass the line of scrimmage. Wylie did all the work gaining 31 yards taking the ball inside the Scarlet Knight's 20. It set up Kevin Goessling's first field goal attempt of his career. The 31-yard attempt was good and opened up the scoring in the game.
The Bulldogs also had their share of luck. At one point in the game, Rutgers had run 37 plays inside Bulldog territory but had not points to show for it. The Knights squandered numerous scoring opportunities in the first half. RU missed two field goals, including a 22-yard chip shot on a muffed snap. In addition, facing a 3rd-and-goal from the three, Rutgers called two run plays, the second on a hurry up snap aimed to catch the FS defense sleeping. Lorne Bell tackled Mason Robinson for no gain on the first run. On the next, Chris Carter tackled Robinson well short of the end zone. It was the closest the Knights got to the goal line until Kordell Young scored their only points on a one-yard run in the fourth quarter.
"We had a two-play plan, we had decided that we were going for the touchdown. We just didn't make it," said RU Head Coach Greg Schiano.
"It had nothing to do with [PK] San San Te, we just felt like it was something we could do. We tried to take advantage and we didn't get it done. We just didn't do it the way we are capable of doing it. I called it a mistake [to ESPN at halftime] because it didn't work. We will be all right. We'll get it fixed."
Fresno State held Rutgers to 369 total yards in the game, but more importantly won the turnover battle. Marvin Haynes picked off two passes, including one on the Knights final drive of the game to wrap up the game. His two interceptions are half of the ‘Dogs total amount from all of last season.
Mike Teel completed just 20 of 39 passes for 263 yards. FS had trouble containing RU receivers Tiquan Underwood and Kenny Britt in the first half. At one point, it looked like the Bulldog secondary would be in for a long afternoon. However, while each recorded six receptions, Underwood and Britt were held to 73 and 89 yards, respectively. Young finished with 95 yards on 26 carries.
Fresno State takes on Wisconsin next on September 13 at 7:30 p.m. PT from Bulldog Stadium. The game will be nationally televised by ESPN2.
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