In desperate need of a bounceback game, Fresno State delivered on that Saturday, shutting out Wyoming 17-0 in Laramie. While the offensive side of the ball was not what we’ve been used to, the defense put in their best performance of the year, generating 5 turnovers and holding star running back Xazavian Valladay to only 35yds on 9 carries. Coming off the heart-breaking loss to Hawaii and the bye week, this was exactly what Fresno State needed as they begin an incredibly rough 4 game stretch in conference play. Let’s recap what happened Saturday afternoon.
Bulldogs got the ball first, and it was definitely a preview of what was to come offensively. The first drive generated a grand total of 0 yards, as two rushes generated nothing, and Haener’s 3rd down pass was dropped. Carson King did flip the field, as he was definitely an MVP today for his ability to generate good field position for the defense.
Wyoming’s first drive would go even worse, as Sean Chambers fumbled the ball on a 5yd run, recovered by safety Elijah Gates to put the Dogs in plus territory. The second Fresno State drive would be more productive, with Ronnie Rivers, Jalen Cropper, and Jordan Mims getting the ball into the redzone. A targeting penalty on Rome Weber after 3rd and goal would give Fresno State a fresh set of downs at the 2yd line, and a quick pass to tight end Juan Rodriguez got the Dogs on the scoreboard first, the first time they’d done that since their win over UCLA.
That scoring drive was pretty much the only productive offense of the first half. Both teams would trade punts until a Wyoming march down the field was interrupted by Sean Chambers’ first INT of the day to Evan Williams. Unfortunately, Fresno wasn’t able to do anything with it, only generating 11 yards before punting the ball back to Wyoming. Both teams would close out the half by missing field goals, Cesar Silva’s 40yd attempt just missing left, and John Hoyland’s 53yd attempt going not even near the uprights. That got us to the halfway point with Fresno State still up, 7-0.
The second half began in the same way that the first half ended, with both teams trading punts. On Wyoming’s 3rd drive of the quarter though, Chambers was picked off again, this time Levell Bailey tipping a pass to Malachi Langley, who almost ran it all the way back before being tackled at the 6yd line. It would take 3 plays for Jake Haener to find Jalen Cropper in the endzone, extending his touchdown streak to 8 games and going up 14-0.
Chambers would throw his 3rd INT of the day, again to Evan Williams after a punt, allowing Cesar Silva to boot this 41yd field goal through to go ahead 17-0. Even though there was still almost an entire quarter to go, that lead felt insurmountable given how the offenses had performed that day. Wyoming did make a change at QB after Chambers’ fourth turnover of the day (3INTs and 1 fumble), but Levi Williams led a failed drive that turned the ball over on downs, and then threw his own interception after driving to the Fresno State redzone. This time, L.J. Early got in on the turnover action, the first time that the Bulldog defense had forced 5 turnovers in two years, and quite the turnaround from the week before in Hawaii.
At this point, Fresno State was able to just bleed the clock dry, going on a 5 minute march down the field before giving Wyoming the ball back with 7 seconds to go in the game. Williams took a knee, and Fresno State was victorious. It was the first road shut-out for Fresno State since 1974, and Wyoming’s first shutout since 2010. Even though the Cowboys outgained Fresno 271-249, the 5 turnovers were too much to overcome without an offense, and the Dogs got the win.
The win puts Fresno State up to 5-2, 2-1 in the MW conference. They now return home to face Nevada in what should be a West division title eliminator. Wyoming falls to 4-2, 0-2 in the MW, and their hopes of winning the Mountain Division are hanging by a thread. The Cowboys will stay at home to face New Mexico, in a game that should get them back on track and finally in the conference win column.