It may have taken a lot longer than anyone in Fresno expected, but the Bulldogs have notched their first win of 2019. In a game that was both closer and not as close as the final score indicated, Fresno State used 2 4th quarter touchdowns by Josh Hokit to beat Sacramento State 34-20 Saturday night. There was 3 missed field goals and a missed PAT by the Dogs, but the defense surrendered only 12 rushing yards, and found ways to get the offense moving when needed to get the win. Nothing against Sacramento State, they will be a very strong FCS program this year, as evidenced by them pushing around Arizona State in Week 1. This game was probably much closer than the Bulldog faithful were expecting, but any sort of win counts after the first two weeks of extremely close calls against Power 5 teams.
After trading punts to open the game, Jorge Reyna drove the team 93 yards down the field, including a brilliant strike to Zane Pope, and inspired running from Ronnie Rivers. On the 10th play of the drive, Reyna found Josh Hokit for a 14yd touchdown, and the Dogs went in from 7-0. Sadly, it was not to last, as Sac State struck back quickly, but a brilliant blocked PAT by Kevin Atkins kept the Dogs in front, 7-6. After this touchdown, things started going a bit sideways for Fresno State. Yes, they were able to move the ball and get into the redzone, but that was when the problems hit. Sac State was able to stiffen up incredibly well in the redzone, and the attempts at kicking the ball definitely were an adventure. The first missed field goal by Cesar Silva was understandable, it was a 49 yarder, and it hit the crossbar. So, 6 more inches, and that one goes through. The rest of the kicks were pushed hard to the right, including Asa Fuller’s one PAT attempt in the 3rd quarter. Weirdly enough, Silva was dynamite on PATs, but couldn’t connect on the field goals. Next week is a new week though, so hopefully the #collegekicker experience will be done.
The Bulldog defense continued playing well, and limited the Hornets to only two touchdowns, as well as blocking the PAT and stopping their 2pt conversion on their second TD. We also finally got to see Keric Wheatfall in action, as he showed an ability to race past the Sac State defenders with ease, and needed just a bit better touch on the passes from Reyna to be the true hero of this game. Ronnie Rivers came through to score the 2nd touchdown of the game, and helped the Dogs hold a tight 2pt lead at the half. The less said about the trick play fumble by Zane Pope, the better, so we’re just going to move on to the second half, mkay?
If fans thought that the kicking game would improve in the second half, the first drive did not instill confidence. Silva missed his 3rd field goal of the game, this time from 37 yards, and the lead remained at 2. Punt after punt after punt followed, before Fresno State finally broke through in the 3rd quarter. two Sac State penalties sure helped, but a dynamite pass to Keric Wheatfall again got the Bulldogs to the 2 yard line, then Josh Hokit bulldozed his way into the endzone to go ahead by 8. This was the beginning of Josh Hokit truly taking over the game, even though the Hornets would tie the game back up at 20-20 early in the fourth quarter. The offense relied heavily on the legs of Jorge Reyna and Josh Hokit to both get yards and kill the clock in the 4th. An insanely acrobatic catch by Derrion Grim in the corner of the endzone would put the Bulldogs up 27-20,and the threat from the Hornets was done. The Fresno State defense pushed Sac State back on their next drive, and the Fresno State offense finally found a rhythm, and put up one final touchdown to go up 34-20. Sac State’s final drive would end in a turnover on downs, and two kneeldowns gave Fresno State their first win of the season.
Was it a perfect game? Nope. Was it great to see the Bulldogs finally get in the win column? Of course. Are there a lot of things that need fixing before the next game against New Mexico State? Yep. Do I trust Jeff Tedford and the team to make those fixes? Yes I do. I think they just needed that first win to get themselves right, and get rid of the mental black cloud from the first two losses to USC and Minnesota. I think Keric Wheatfall is going to be a star, Josh Hokit has shown that he can will this team forward, and the young players are really starting to find their footing for this team. It may not be another 12 or even 10 win season, but I think the groundwork is being laid for another very good Fresno State team in the future.