It seemed like another storybook Jake Haener ending. After Oregon State took the lead with 1:50 to go in the 4th quarter, it took Fresno only 45 seconds to drive down the field. With 65 seconds to go, Haener found Erik Brooks in the front of the endzone for a 4yd catch to go ahead 32-29. Abe Montano missed the extra point, leaving the window just open for the Beavers. The defense allowed Oregon to march down the field though, and a PI call on Cam Lockridge had them at the 2 with 3 seconds to go. They looked set to kick the field goal and go to OT, but Jeff Tedford called a timeout to make sure he had 11 on the field. Oregon State came back out with the offense, and Jake Colletto hammered the ball into the endzone to absolutely shock the sell-out crowd 35-32. What looked like a dream ending quickly became a nightmare, and the annual heartbreak for Bulldog fans happened again.
Honestly, it feels like I write generally the same article every year. Sure, the opponent and the circumstance changes, but the article is broadly the same. Fresno State starts to have some hype and expectations, they appear to have a huge P5 win in hand, and it all falls apart. We had the two Minnesota losses, the USC loss in 2019, Oregon in 2021, and now Oregon State in 2022. The chance to take that next step and become a true force in G5 football comes, and the moment proves too big. Doesn’t matter the coach either, as we’ve watched it happen under Pat Hill, Tim DeRuyter, Jeff Tedford, and Kalen DeBoer. It’s just baked into Fresno State’s DNA. But we still come back every year and go through the same emotional rollercoaster.
If there’s something to be taken from this game, it’s that the red zone offense has to improve. It didn’t do great in Game 1, but we all chalked that up to the first game being a glorified scrimmage against FCS Cal Poly. We can’t use that excuse this time, even if Oregon State has a good defense. Fresno State made it to the red zone 7 times, and only got 2 touchdowns out of it. 2 touchdowns, 4 field goals, a missed field goal, and a missed PAT. There was also a missed 51yd field goal that allowed OSU to take the lead for the first time in the final 2 minutes. Meanwhile, OSU made 5 trips to the red zone, and scored 5 touchdowns. That is the glowing difference from this game, and something that will have to be fixed with a trip to USC’s electric offense next. It was certainly a mix of playcalling and execution issues, but it’s something that could truly hold back this offense from fulfilling their potential.
I was a bit impressed by the offensive line in this game. Despite OSU throwing tons of pressures at Jake Haener, they only succeeded in sacking him once. Jordan Mims ran for 122 yards and 2 touchdowns, and Jake was able to throw for 360 yards on 29 completions. After failing to generate a ton of push or protection against Cal Poly, this was a good improvement. They were still hampered by penalties, continuing to be a thorn in the side of Bulldog fans. Over the course of the game, Fresno committed 10 penalties for 67 yards, including the pivotal final PI that set up the Beavers to win. This level of sloppy play is strange to a Jeff Tedford coached team, and is something the new staff needs to get squared away if the Dogs want a chance at the conference title. We know that they’re already eliminated from NY6 conversation by losing last night, so the conference title and a trip the LA Bowl becomes the only goal.
Looking ahead, USC looms large on the horizon. Their offense has been elite through the first two weeks, and their secondary has been creating turnovers in bunches. Fresno State will need to have a third straight turnover free game if they want any chance at all at the Trojans. USC opens as an early 12 point favorite, so they don’t seem to see Fresno as a huge threat. Going into the first bye week 1-2 is not what any Bulldog fan wants to see, but unless they can shock the Trojans, that will be the record. This was their best chance at a big P5 win, in front of a soldout VCS, and national TV. Instead, the Beavers left as the winners, and Fresno State is left shaking their heads at another year, another heartbreaking loss. In a year where the MWC seems down across the board, this was a chance for some good press to go along with Air Force pummeling Colorado. It’s onto the next one though, the team needs a short memory and true belief in themselves when they head to LA next Saturday.
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