FORT COLLINS, Colo. - On a chilly Saturday night at Hughes Stadium, the Fresno State Bulldogs (4-2, 2-0 MW) played spoiler to Colorado State’s (1-5, 0-2 MW) homecoming.
The Bulldogs defeated the Rams 28-7 in front of a crowd of 25,814, seizing control of the game from the very beginning.
After forcing a fumble from senior QB M.J. McPeek, Fresno State took over on the CSU 29-yard line midway through the 1st quarter and capitalized on the short field. After a pair of runs from Robbie Rouse, junior QB Derek Carr was able to find Davonte Adams in the side of the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown to give the Bulldogs an early 7-0 lead.
While the Rams’ defense played spirited football to keep the Fresno State offense largely in check through the first three quarters, the Bulldogs’ defense continually applied pressure on McPeek, who was making his first career start. The fifth-year senior was sacked a total of three times and completed just three passes in the first half for 25 yards.
In the first half the CSU defense twice stopped Fresno State on fourth down to keep the Bulldogs’ lead at just 7-0 until deep into the second quarter.
“Our defense played their tails off and they did what they needed to do to win this football game against an explosive offense,” Head Coach Jim McElwain said. “I was really proud of the way our guys scrapped and swarmed to the ball most of the day and played hard.”
The turning point in the game came with just over a minute left in the first half. Unable to do much on offense, Fresno State took over the ball with just under two minutes left in the half at the CSU 33-yard line, thanks to a blocked punt. The offense capitalized, scoring in just four plays. Carr found Josh Harper in the back of the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown pass, his second of the game.
In the second half, the Rams came out aggressive on offense, twice going for it on fourth down on the opening possession. However, CSU was unable to capitalize on its aggression and came away scoreless in the 3rd quarter.
With the game still at 14-0 and not out of reach for the Rams, Fresno State showed its own aggression, lining up to go for it on fourth down from the CSU 15-yard line. Carr found Isaiah Burse down the seam for a 15-yard touchdown, to give the Bulldogs a 21-0 lead and all of the momentum in the game.
On the next possession, CSU started to get some momentum of its own on offense after McPeek found Thomas Coffman for a 29-yard pass to move the ball to midfield. After another completion got the ball to the Fresno 36-yard line, the Rams dug into its bag of tricks. Freshman running back Donnell Alexander took the direct snap and rolled out to his right, throwing the ball downfield to Lou Greenwood. The gamble did not pay off for CSU though as the pass was intercepted.
Fresno State made sure to put the game out of reach for the Rams on the very next possession, marching 71 yards in 12 plays. Carr found Adams in the end zone for a second time to extend the lead to 28-0. It was Carr’s fourth touchdown of the game.
On the final drive of the game, McPeek and the offense found their rhythm, moving the ball 77 yards in six plays. McPeek connected with Charles Lovett on a crossing route in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown, avoiding the shutout.
McPeek finished the game with 192 yards and one touchdown, while Chris Nwoke provided some balance for the offense with 68 yards rushing.
“M.J. (McPeek) did some good things,” McElwain said. “We have to get a running game going though to be a successful football team. We have to get (M.J.) some help.”
As a unit, the defense played very well and was led by defensive end Lanston Tanyi who tallied 12 tackles and 0.5 sacks. The Rams held Fresno State, which came into the game ranking 11th in the nation in passing offense, to just 217 yards through the air.