The Fresno State Bulldogs (3-3, 2-0 Mountain West) defeated the San Diego State Aztecs (2-3, 1-1 Mountain West) 24-13, in Fresno, winning the Battle of the Oil Can.
There was no hiding the main storyline for this game. True freshman Nick Bawden was forced to start at quarterback, due to a shoulder injury suffered by senior quarterback Quinn Kaehler last week against UNLV.
At times Bawden flashed his potential not only with his arm strength, but with his ability to make plays with his feet.
However, the true freshman showed his inexperience when it was most crucial in the fourth quarter throwing two straight picks on drives which SDSU could have taken the lead. He ended the night going 9-24 with 84 yards, a touchdown and two picks. Bawden also had 36 yards rushing yards on eight carries.
Bawden came out of the gates sluggish, missing reads in the first half that led him to throw into double, sometimes triple coverage. On the third drive of the game Bawden fumbled while trying to scramble and the Bulldogs capitalized on that scoring a touchdown via a Brandon Connette 1-yard rush on a fourth down.
Trailing 10-0, sophomore running back Donnel Pumphrey and junior fullback Dakota Gordon combined to take SDSU down the field, setting up a 24-yard field goal for junior Donny Hageman. That 10-3 score would hold until halftime.
Gordon had his best game so far this season rushing for 42 yards on six carries. Gordon had just 23 yards rushing going into this game.
After sophomore linebacker Calvin Munson forced a fumble on Fresno quarterback Brian Burrell, the offense again got in range for Hageman who knocked in a 36-yard field goal.
Fresno State would go on to answer, though, with their second touchdown of the game, a 2-yard rush by running back Josh Quezada, which was set up by an extremely questionable roughing the punter call. Sophomore tight end Daniel Brunskill ran into punter Garret Swanson, but replay showed that Brunskill tipped the ball, which would have negated the penalty.
With his back against the wall, Bawden put together his most impressive drive of the game, taking his team 71 yards downfield, and capping the drive off with his first career touchdown pass--a 5-yard dime to senior fullback Adam Roberts.
As mentioned before, though, Bawden’s immaturity was spotlighted at the worst times. After the defense held the Bulldogs, Bawden tried to force a pass to junior wide receiver Larry Clark, and it was tipped then picked off.
Clark was the leading receiver for SDSU for a second straight week, but he was only able to collect 30 yards on three receptions.
The SDSU defense again held Burrell and the Bulldogs to a punt on their next possession, but it only took Bawden one pass to throw his second interception of the game, trying to force a screen pass to Pumphrey.
With the defense keying in on the run, Pumphrey had a lackluster game for his standards, only rushing for 94 yards, and an average of 3.9 yards per rush.
Fresno State running back Marteze Waller put the icing on the cake, following up Bawden’s second interception with a five-yard touchdown scamper with 3:26 left in the fourth quarter.
If you want to isolate a bright spot for SDSU, it was the defense. Sophomore linebacker Calvin Munson continued his stellar season collecting another tackle for a loss. He also had a forced fumble.
SDSU held Burrell to only 143 yards passing and senior cornerback J.J. Whittaker picked him off on a deep pass along the sideline in the first quarter.
SDSU will stay on the road next week and travel this Friday to Albuquerque, New Mexico to play the New Mexico Lobos (1-3, 0-1 Mountain West).