Bulldogs drop homecoming game to San Diego State, 17-3

Fresno State junior running back Dontel James carries the ball during the Bulldogs’ 17-3 homecoming loss to San Diego State. (Photo by Keith Kountz/Fresno State Athletics)

Fresno State turns its attention to Utah State as the ‘Dogs travel to Logan, Utah for a 7:30 p.m. PT kickoff on Oct. 22.

Fresno State Athletics | Contributed

On homecoming, Fresno State held the ball for just under 23 minutes as San Diego State controlled the clock in a 17-3 game on Friday at Bulldog Stadium.

“We played an excellent San Diego State team that is very well-coached, veteran group. They run the ball as well as anyone in the country and defensively they play very hard and their scheme presents problems. I am proud of our guys’ effort, but we need to find a way to get over the top and find a way to win. Give San Diego State credit, they are an excellent football team.”

-Bulldogs head coach Tim DeRuyter

The Aztecs held the narrowest of margins throughout the game: 3-0 after one quarter, 10-0 at halftime and 17-3 following three quarters of play. It was a combination of an Aztec defense that limited the Bulldogs to 10 first downs and 217 yards offense and San Diego State’s ground attack that kept them off the field.

Behind a combined 53 carries from Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny, San Diego State used its run game to control the game, holding a near 15-minute advantage in time of possession. The running back duo accounted for 269 of the Aztecs’ 364 yards.

“It is football. We knew their style of play coming in and we knew they are a very physical team.  We challenged ourselves as a defense to go out and challenge them. I think we did that for the most part, but we just have to challenge ourselves more. I feel like we gave up a couple of easy yards that could have been a tackle for loss instead of a two-yard gain. For an offense like San Diego’s, that is their game plan. We need to go out there just like we did, but give a little bit more.”

-Fresno State linebacker Nela Otukolo

Fresno State’s defense held tight on the opening drive, a possession Jeff Camilli and Tobenna Okeke stuffed Pumphrey on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line. The Aztecs accounted for 92 yards offense to the Bulldogs’ 30 in the opening quarter, but only mustered a 3-0 lead after the first 15 minutes.

Behind a 2-yard TD run, Pumphrey gave the Aztecs a 10-0 lead as he capped an 11-play drive with 9:15 to play in the second quarter. The Bulldogs made a charge late in the half in part to a 28-yard rush by Chason Virgil and a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Aztecs that moved the ball to the opponents’’ 38-yard line. The drive was halted on a fourth-and-8 fake punt from the 36-yard line in which punter Blake Cusick’s pass was intercepted.

For the third time in the last four games, the Bulldogs opened the second half by putting points on the scoreboard as Kody Kroening connected for a 39-yard field goal to cap a 13-play, 54-yard drive to begin the third quarter.

The Aztecs continued to pound the ball on the ground in the second half and broke through late in the third quarter with a 13-yard run by Pumphrey. His second score of the night to make it a 17-3 game. 

Pumphrey finished with 220 yards on 38 carries.

“There is a bunch of disappointed, ticked-off guys in the locker room.  When you pour your guts out in practice, and in a game, without success, it hurts. Our guys got knocked down last week, but they got back up this week in practice. They came today and played extremely hard. We got beat by a team that was better today. I give San Diego State credit. I know that our guys will come back out on Sunday and be ready to go again. We have got a bunch of kids with a ton of character and a bunch of coaches who are ready to coach them. We are battling each and every week to go 1-0.”

-Bulldogs head coach Tim DeRuyter

Fresno State will travel to Utah State for its first Mountain West pairing in Logan since joining the conference. The game will be aired on the CBS Sports Network on Saturday, Oct. 22 at 7:30 p.m. PT.

Notables

• KeeSean Johnson matched a career-high of eight receptions – a mark he set Sept. 3 at Nebraska.

• Aaron Peck hit the mark of at least six receptions in a single game for the third time this season.

• Chason Virgil threw a single-game career-high two interceptions.

• Kody Kroening has now made 11 consecutive field goal attempts.

• Fresno State was held under 100 yards rushing for the fourth time this season.

• Blake Cusick had one punt returned for zero yards. Cusick has yet to have an opponent gain a yard on 49 punts this season.

• San Diego State registered 72 yards passing. It was the second time this season a Bulldog opponent was held to less than 100 yards passing.

• The Bulldogs were limited to 10 first downs vs. San Diego State. The second fewest this season – Toledo (7).

• Fresno State threw a season-high three interceptions. It was the most in a single game by Fresno State since they traveled to Hawai’i on Nov. 14, 2015.

• San Diego State possessed the ball 37:19. It was the most an opponent controlled the ball since Air Force held possession for 42:38 on Oct. 24, 2015.