A week after an emotionally deflating loss to Boise State, Fresno needed a strong win to get back on track in the season. A cool and gray Senior Day against New Mexico gave them exactly what they needed, as the Bulldogs completed a workmanlike win over the Lobos 34-7. Let’s recap what happened as they honored 17 seniors on the final home game of the season.
The die seemed cast on this game relatively early on. New Mexico’s second play from scrimmage, and their first pass, was intercepted by Cale Sanders Jr for his first INT in college. Fresno’s offense would take over at the Lobo 31, and would only need 6 plays for their first trip into the checkerboard endzone. Ronnie Rivers ran the ball in from 4 yards out to further cement his legacy, as he became the leader in rushing touchdowns at Fresno State with 40. And now with his younger brother Devon Rivers committing to the Bulldogs, the family legacy will continue for another 4 years.
Both teams would punt on their next drives before New Mexico threatened to score as the first quarter ticked down. Aaron Dumas broke off a long run to the Fresno State 18 before 2 negative plays pushed them back 11yds, forcing a field goal attempt that fell harmlessly to the turf keeping the Lobos off the board. The Dogs would take this chance to respond with their own scoring drive, taking the ball 71yds down the field until Jake Haener found Raymond Pauwels in the flat for a 23yd touchdown pass to jump ahead 14-0.
New Mexico’s next drive would be completely non-productive, as they generated -9 yards on the drive, with two rushes making -4, and a false start pushing them even farther back for a 4th and 19. They punted the ball back to Fresno, setting up yet another scoring opportunity for the offense. This looked like a vastly different Jake Haener than last week, as he was calm and collected moving the ball, completing 77% of his passes for 300yds and 3 touchdowns.
The third Fresno State touchdown of the night might have been the most spectacular one. After moving down the field to the Lobo 25, they faced a 4th and 2. Ronnie Rivers dashed forward for 4 yards and a fresh set of downs. Jake threw a pass to Josh Kelly on the east sideline, and he had to catch the ball twice after knocking it out of his own hands before racing down the sideline into the endzone. It showed off the pure athleticism of Kelly, and shows that he will be a star for the rest of his career.
Seeing that it was Senior Day, it was only right that Cesar Silva would set a career record with a 51yd field goal before the half to send the team into the half up 24-0 and in complete control of the game. To this point, New Mexico had only mustered 76 total yards on 20 plays.
The second half started off the same way the first way ended, with Cesar Silva sending through another long field goal, this time from 47yds out to extend the lead to 27-0. New Mexico would respond with their only score of the night, although it almost didn’t happen. Daron Bland picked off a pass by Isaiah Sanchez, but it was nullified by a penalty. Sanchez would respond by completing his second pass of the night, setting the Lobos up for a 1yd touchdown run by Dumas. It did keep Fresno State from getting their 3rd shutout of the year, but surrendering only one score was a great showing from a defense that gave up 40 points the week before.
Fresno would answer New Mexico’s touchdown with their own. A pass to Jordan Mims sent him running 78yds down the field to the New Mexico 5, before one more pass took him into the endzone to bring us to the final score of 34-7. The rest of the game was just trading punts, although it did include a rare and highly uncharacteristic fumble from Ronnie Rivers as the clocked ticked down and the fog rolled in. Not exactly how you want to end Senior Night, but setting another program record definitely should balance it out.
Next up, the Bulldogs will have their second bye week, before heading to San Jose with the Valley Trophy on the line. There is still a valid path to the Mountain West Championship for the Dogs, they just need San Diego State to lose a game against either UNLV or Boise State. This is, of course, contingent on Fresno taking care of business on Thanksgiving and ending their regular season at 9-3.
New Mexico will stay on the road, heading to visit Boise State on the blue turf before returning home for a final game against Utah State.