Featured photo by Nick Baker – Fresno State receiver KeeSean Johnson makes a play for the ball as a Tulsa defensive back chases him from behind.
Daniel Leon | Editor
Despite blowing a 31-point lead and finding itself in a tough situation late, the ‘Dogs still had a shot.
In the first overtime of Fresno State’s nonconference match against Tulsa, Bulldogs’ wide receiver Aaron Peck caught a pass on a slant but fumbled after a violent collision with a defender, giving the Hurricane the ball in a scenario where a score of any kind would allow it to escape with the win.
With the ball at the 25-yard line, Tulsa decided to play it safe by running the ball for three straight downs before bringing out kicker Redford Jones to attempt the game-winning 42-yard field goal. The kick, however, would be no good as it veered just slightly to the right – giving the Bulldogs life.
In the second overtime period, Tulsa started with the ball and this time capitalized with a go-ahead 18-yard touchdown run from quarterback Dane Evans to go up 48-41.
The Hurricane score put the ‘Dogs in a do-or-die situation and the result proved to be the latter as quarterback Chason Virgil found himself pressured and running for his life in a series that saw three negative plays for the ‘Dogs – three incomplete passes and a sack to end the game.
However, early in the game – before all the late drama – the Bulldogs (1-3) were firing on all cylinders and even built a 31-point lead in the process.
Midway through the second quarter, though, things took a turn.
The Hurricane battled back, putting up three touchdowns in the second period to cut the halftime lead to 10 thanks in large part to Evans. After failing to move the ball early on, the senior took command of the Tulsa up-tempo offense, which led to three scores in the period on throws from 23 yards and twice from 40 yards out.
“We did not have any anticipation that we were going to shut Tulsa out,” said Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter. “We kept telling our guys on the sideline, ‘Hey, this team is going to fight back, they are going to counterpunch.’ They executed better than we did. We didn’t tackle very well. We tried to switch the coverage and we had a guy not see it on a fourth down. There are a half dozen plays that were critical in that ball game that put us into overtime. I don’t want it to sound bad, but we caused a lot of them and there are things in our control that we need to fix.”
Coming out in the second half, Fresno State added to its lead with a Kody Kroening 25-yard field goal but Tulsa responded with a pair of touchdowns to take its first lead of the ballgame at 35-34 late in the third.
The Bulldogs snatched the lead again late with a with five minutes left in the game after Virgil drove the offense down the field to the 1-yard line before running it up the middle himself on a read option.
Tulsa responded by driving down the field but came to a halt inside the redzone, settling for a 28-yard field goal to send the game into overtime.
Virgil completed 21-of-45 attempts for 276 yards, one touchdown and an interception. The redshirt freshman also ran for 47 yards and two scores on 19 carries.
“I wouldn’t say necessarily that we let off the gas, but our energy just kind of died down for whatever reason,” Virgil said. “We just have to stay focused a little bit. But we were still calling plays to go out there and try to execute and put points on the board. It’s not like we were just trying to be conservative or anything. We were still being aggressive, we just have to execute.”
Sophomore receiver Jamire Jordan led all wideouts, hauling in six receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown.
“It is college football nowadays, it is a wide open game,” DeRuyter said. “You play a very explosive team like [Tulsa] and you have to stay even as much as you can. I was extremely proud of the way our guys started this football game. We prepared as well as we had all year, and our guys executed really, really well in all three phases. I thought special teams did a tremendous job. Defensively, we started out really well with some three-and-outs and a takeaway. Our offense took advantage of it; we had a big ball on offense.
“We had that lead, and we knew there was still a lot of ball game left to play. It is difficult. But I do know this, our guys have a lot of grit and our guys are ready to go 1-0 next week when we go on the road to start conference play. Our goals are still ahead of us and our guys know that. I love these guys, and they are going to fight next week.”
The ‘Dogs open the conference portion of their schedule Saturday when they go on the road to
-Former Bullard Knight Dejonte O’Neal had three kick returns for 124 yards and rushed for 21 yards on four carries.
-Clovis High alum Josh Hokit saw some time at fullback and on special teams.