Bulldogs use big plays to beat Fresno State 38-35

November 6, 2008

by Justin Phillips

On a night when the struggling Bulldogs desperately needed a home crowd inspired win, the offensive stars finally aligned for the young team as they managed to string together enough big plays on both sides of the ball to close Homecoming week with a thrilling 38-35 win.

With 20,300 in attendance Saturday afternoon, the Bulldog faithful finally got to see the home team’s potent ground game come to fruition against a quality conference opponent. Fresno State walked into Joe Aillet stadium boasting an impressive 5-2 overall record and one of the conference’s best defenses over the past few seasons.

Unfortunately for the over-hyped California-based Bulldogs, Tech’s Daniel Porter-led ground game found its rhythm amassing over 270 yards. Head Coach Derek Dooley said his team played with immense confidence and a short memory as the first half proved to be fruitless for the Bulldog offense.

“The difference for us [against Fresno] was that we didn’t get frustrated when things didn’t go well,” Dooley said. “In the first half, we had five punts, an interception and one scoring drive. And our running game had nine carries for 30 yards so that wasn’t too good going into halftime. Some games we let that affect us, but this game we didn’t.”

The Bulldog offense went on a tear in the second half as Porter and senior running back Patrick Jackson found hole after hole in a reeling Fresno State defense.

Twenty-one second half rushes pushed the Bulldog ground game total to 218 yards while accounting for an impressive 10.38 yard per carry average.

“The running backs were the difference. You don’t block that different [from week to week], but the running backs really made it happen,” Dooley said.

Despite being wrought with injuries, the Bulldogs’ special teams play also accounted for several big plays against Fresno State, changing the momentum in the Western Athletic Conference match up several times in the first and second half.

“On special teams, we were really hurt on punt coverage. We had some personnel changes late in the week and it hurt us,” Dooley said. “We recovered a fumble on kick off, we returned a punt for a touchdown and we blocked a punt. So it was one of those wild special teams’ games.”

Even with the big plays on the offensive side of the ball and special teams frequently occurring all night for the Bulldogs, it was the solid and consistent play of the defense which helped to ensure the Homecoming victory.

“On defense, we made them one dimensional,” Dooley said. “When you go in to play a very balanced football team, you know going in you’re not going to be able to stop everything so you better stop something. And we stopped the run and that’s something they built their program on.”

San Jose State looms on the horizon for the Bulldogs as they get set to continue their fight through a tough WAC conference schedule. Dooley said San Jose is beginning to step out of the league’s basement only to firmly plant themselves among the conference elite.

“San Jose State is probably separating themselves from the rest of the league in their play,” Dooley said. “It’s as good if not the best defense we’ve faced all year. They’re fast, they’re athletic, they’re confident and they play phenomenal at home. It looks like they found some answers offense and of course they have great coaching.”