In their 3rd ranked game on the road this season, Fresno State racked up their second win of the season, ending San Diego State’s quest for a perfect season 30-20. The Bulldog offense was just too much for the Aztec defense to slow down, and Fresno’s improved defense was able to control the rushing game along with forcing 3 turnovers on the night. Let’s recap what happened in this pivotal MW matchup.
The second game without Ronnie Rivers in the backfield showed just how good Jordan Mims is at full strength, and really reminds fans of how he was back in his first two years in Fresno. The MWC Offensive Player of the Week ran for 186yds and 2TDs against a defense that came into the game ranked 5th in the country for rushing defense.
Fresno State began the game with the ball, and gave Mims two chances to run the ball on the first two plays. That drive would end with a punt, but their second drive would lead them to payback. Jake Haener and the offense went on a 15 play, 86yd drive down the field, punctuated with Jordan Mims running 13yds into the endzone for the first score of the game. This balanced attack of passes to the star receivers and running the ball with Mims would power the team through the game and has put them into 1st place in the West Division.
The Aztec offense looked like it was going in the correct direction before Lucas Johnson threw an interception to Evan Williams that was returned back to their own 31 yard line. This is Williams’ 3rd INT of the year, as the defense continue to generate turnovers. This short field would set up the second Bulldog touchdown, as Jake Haener hit Keric Wheatfall in the front corner of the endzone for a 16yd touchdown pass at the beginning of the 2nd quarter. Fresno had managed to generate two touchdowns, while SDSU had only managed two first downs by the beginning of the 2nd as the Bulldog defense had truly clamped down on the Aztec rushing attack.
Haener and the offense would continue moving the ball solidly in the second quarter, although their next two drives would end up in field goals, with Cesar Silva sending through a 49yd kick and then a 27yd one. Silva has been one of the best surprises for Fresno State fans this year, after an up-and-down career, he has been fantastic in 2021. Along with the glimpses that we saw from Montano while Silva was injured, the kicking game may be a strength again for the first time since before Tedford arrived as coach.
SDSU would get on the board before the half ended, using Lucas Johnson’s arm and legs to get the Aztecs down the field before hitting Tyrell Shavers for a 19yd passing score. Elijah Kothe had two big receptions on the drive to push the ball into Fresno State territory before Johnson’s run set up the Shavers touchdown reception. The half would end though with a missed field goal from both teams, Silva missing from 44 before Araiza missed from 55.
The second half of the game got off to a scary start for Bulldog fans, as Jalen Cropper went down holding his right knee on a fumbled pass down the sideline. He crumpled to the ground as San Diego was able to recover the ball. Thankfully, it would appear that the injury is not as serious as it first looked, as Cropper was back on the sideline by the end of the game, and is practicing this week in preparation of the Boise State game next Saturday. Thankfully though, the Aztec offense was not able to capitalize, and the score stayed at 20-7.
The Aztecs would give the ball away for a second time on their next offensive drive, as Lucas Johnson fumbled a hand-off, which was immediately recovered by Kevin Atkins just inside of SDSU territory at the 49. Jordan mims would take the balls 4 times in a row for 24 yards before 2 straight incompletions would force another field goal, Silva sending this one through from 42yds away.
San Diego was able to counter this Fresno State score with a touchdown of their own, as the running game finally found a bit of space and success. Greg Bell would burst through the line to deliver a 3yd touchdown run, although the ensuing 2pt conversion attempt would fail, moving the margin down to 10 in favor of the Dogs as the 4th quarter began.
Three more punts would follow the Aztec scoring drive before the final turning point of the game would occur. With 5 minutes to go in the game, Lucas Johnson threw a pass over the middle that was deflected by L.J. Early into the hands of Levelle Bailey to stop any potential SD momentum. The final Bulldog drive would only take 2 plays, as the SDSU defense had no answer for Jordan Mims. He went around the right end of the line, made one jump cut back towards the center, and hit the endzone for his 2nd touchdown of the night.
SDSU would get one more score on the board, as they used more than 3 minutes to get down the field, this time utilizing freshman Will Haskell under center. It is surprising that it took this long to get him on the field, given how much the Aztec offense has sputtered this season. He gave a good first impression though, driving the team 75yds in 11 plays before running for his own touchdown to the margin back to 10 points and 1 minute remaining in the game.
There would be another onside kick attempt, but an Aztec player touched the ball after it had gone about 9.5 yards instead of the required 10, so Fresno State took possession to end the game. Two Jordan Mims runs delivered the final first down, and the game ended with Fresno players rushing to bring the Old Oil Can back to their fans. A raucous group of Bulldog fans were there to greet them, and the Dogs completed their 2nd Top 25 win of the season along with sole possession of 1st place in the West Division, and a clear path now to the Mountain West Championship Game in December.
Next up, Fresno State returns home with another appearance in the Top 25 for another trophy game, this time facing rivals Boise State for the Milk Can trophy Saturday afternoon.
The Aztecs must regroup quickly, as they now travel to Honolulu to face off against Hawaii Saturday night.