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Bulldogs get off the mat

Defensive performance drives upset of SJSU

NCAA Football: San Jose State at Fresno State Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

As the great Colorado geologist and agricultural expert Stan Marsh said, “I didn’t hear no bell”. After a 4 game losing streak and a raft of injuries, the Bulldogs had been written off this season. Meanwhile, San Jose State was coming in red-hot and looking like the favorites in the conference. In other words, the exact opposite of how everyone expected this season and matchup to play out. But, a sellout crowd to celebrate the retirement of Davante Adams’ jersey and an inspired defensive performance was enough to drive a huge upset as the Dogs beat San Jose State 17-10 Saturday night. David Perales absolutely took over the game, totaling 4 sacks on the night as the Bulldog defense went from maligned to dominant with 11 total TFLs. Let’s recap a performance that might just rewrite the future for Fresno State’s season.

5 weeks between home games is just ridiculous, but it’s been more than a month since Fresno State was back in the friendly confines of Valley Children’s Stadium. Coupled with the retirement of the number 15 of Davante Adams, the fans were amped up and ready for a big performance. Both Derek Carr and Davante Adams were in the house for the game alongside 40,000 fans. Unlike the last time these two played San Jose State, there would be no offensive shootout tonight. The yardage marks for both teams looked good, but neither offense was truly able to get into a scoring rhythm. Fresno turned the ball over 3 times in the game, two fumbles and an INT, while Chevan Cordeiro threw his first INT of the season to end a potential scoring drive for the Spartans, but this was truly a game all about the defenses.

The first 9 drives of the game looked pretty moribund for anyone looking for offense, as the teams combined for 6 punts, an INT, a fumble, and a turnover on downs. San Jose would convert that Fresno State fumble into the first points of the game, as they worked an 11 play drive into a 24yd Taren Shrive field goal getting the Spartans on the board 3-0.

After two full games with Logan Fife under center, the fans had certainly grown restless. While the first half didn’t result in many points, he certainly did look more poised in the pocket, and was able to distribute the ball much better to his players. 6 different receivers caught passes from Fife tonight for 230yds, but he did still have two turnovers on the night, bringing his season total to 7. Even though he helped engineer the win, I’m still not sure if he’s the answer until Jake Haener can get back on the field. He did look good though on the first scoring drive for the Bulldogs, as the Dogs drove 74yds down the field in 8 plays, before Jordan Mims ran in for 6yds to the left side of the endzone to put Fresno ahead 7-3. While he hasn’t quite been his same explosive self, it was good to see Mims get going tonight and get into the endzone.

San Jose punted the ball after their next drive generated only 3 yards, and it looked like Fresno was going to be able to add on some more points before the half. Fife looked in control on his last drive, and the Dogs looked poised to add more points. The impressive DE for the Spartans, Viliami Fehoko had other ideas though, as he forced a fumble from Fife, and recovered the ball at the Bulldog 32. Cordeiro would instantly make the Dogs pay, as he delivered a strike to Elijah Cooks to go ahead 10-7. The Spartans offense had looked completely out of sorts during the entire first half, but this play was a glimpse of the offense that we’d seen from them over the last few weeks.

The touchdown for San Jose was so unexpected that apparently a Fresno State staffer in the press box threw something at the window, causing it to shatter. Fans seated below the press box were showered with broken glass, and two people were taken to the hospital with cuts and bruises. The staffer has been placed on leave pending an investigation, and hopefully the people injured recover quickly and don’t suffer major injuries. That is never an acceptable response to an opponent scoring. I know that things get heated in a rivalry game, but when fans get injured, things have gone way too far. We’ll await the results of the investigation, but I’m guessing that staffer will no longer be employed by the university. Maybe this will lead to some upgrades to the press box windows, as they’re apparently not using tempered safety glass up there.

Fresno State went into the half down by 3 points, which was both disappointing and better than what many fans had been expecting. The defense had been playing at an elite level led by David Perales, but the offense had not capitalized on their opportunities early in the game. The last two games had been marked by the Dogs hanging tough in the first half, but losing steam in the 2nd to come away with losses. If game was definitely a change to that, as the defense stepped up time and again in the second half, and the offense did just enough to finally capitalize.

After a couple more punts for both teams, Fife lobbed a ball down the field supposedly to Jalen Moreno-Cropper, but it was easily intercepted by Nehemiah Shelton. Moreno-Cropper definitely saw the ball floating, and turned to playing defense at the last minute, but it was not enough. That gave Fife his 5th INT in 3 games, and 7th turnover overall. At least he finally got his first passing touchdown of the season, as the Dogs completed a 9 play, 80yd drive with a 7yd pass to Nikko Remigio to get into the endzone to go back into the lead. The play was reviewed, as it looked like Nikko might have stepped out at the 2, but the call on the field stood and Fife got his first touchdown on the year.

This would prove to be the pivotal score, as SJSU was silenced in the second half. A missed field goal from Schive was the only threat from the Spartans as the defense truly put in a masterful game. They confused Cordeiro with different pressures and packages, and lived in the backfield during this game. Besides one long run, they contained his legs, and it seemed like Chevan just could not get into any sort of offensive rhythm during the game. The commentators were even talking about his body language during the game, as this certainly didn’t look like the Chevan Cordeiro that MWC fans had been used to seeing this year. Fresno fans will hope that this is a defensive turnaround for the year, while Spartan fans will definitely hope that this is an aberration from the offense they’ve seen this year. Like everyone says, rivalry games get wacky.

After having a truly career day, David Perales would put the exclamation point on the game during the 4th quarter, as he sacked Cordeiro for the 4th time deep in his own territory to set up a turnover on downs with a minute left in the game. Fresno State would tack on a short 28yd field goal from Abe Montano as the clock ticked down to 10 seconds left, and Chevan’s final attempt at a Hail Mary pass was batted down by the Bulldog defense to cap off a huge rivalry win, and keep the Valley Trophy in Fresno for another season. The players rushed over to celebrate with the big V, and the party was on. This is the type of win that can turn around the season, and it was exactly what the Bulldogs needed after a rough start to the season. They got more players back from the injury list, and we’re another week closer to Jake Haener returning to the field.

Next up, Fresno State goes back on the road to face a New Mexico squad that just lost to their rivals NMSU, and have already fired their offensive coordinator. The Spartans will take on that same NMSU squad on the road, so both teams are headed off to the Land of Enchantment for a game. Fresno’s game will be at 3:30PM PST, and the Spartans game will be at 3:00PM PST.

As always, keep it here for all of your Mountain West news and updates