The 2013 Fresno State Bulldogs have become accustomed to winning close games and Saturday's game versus San Diego State was no different. After blocking a potential game-winning field goal at the end of regulation, the Bulldogs needed overtime to topple their division rival. While it wasn't pretty, the Bulldogs remain unbeaten and in contention for a potential BCS berth.
Facing constant pressure early on from the Aztec defense, quarterback Derek Carr struggled to find his rhythm with receivers. The entire Bulldog offense only had 111 total yards of offense at halftime. Carr only had 98 yards passing. Stunts and blitzes from the Aztecs kept the Bulldog offense from getting off to the desired fast start.
On the flip side of things, San Diego's offense was able to double the Bulldogs' halftime yardage total and add a few more for good measure. The Aztecs had put up 233 yards of total offense on only one more play than the Bulldog offense ran in the first half. Aztec quarterback Quinn Kaeler had almost doubled Carr's total, as well.
Still, Fresno State managed to keep the game tied 7-7 at halftime. The managed to stay knotted until near the end of the third quarter when Aztec running back Adam Muema found the endzone to cap off an 11-play, 80-yard drive by the Aztecs. Muema would finish with 113 yards on the ground and added two touchdowns. The Aztecs as a whole rushed for 190 yards on the evening.
Fresno State, not to be outdone, immediately responded with an 11-play, 85-yard drive of their own. Carr found receiver Davante Adams in the back of the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown. Adams has caught 36 passes for 493 yards and nine touchdowns in his last three games. Adams is averaging 164 yards and three touchdowns a game during that stretch.
The Bulldog offense was able to find a better rhythm in the second half and Bulldog head coach Tim DeRuyter said that it had everything to do with the way the Bulldogs changed their attack in the second half.
"We decided to pick the tempo up," DeRuyter said. "They were doing a good job of disguising what they were doing, coverage wise and pressure wise. We got into some plays that didn't matter. Early on, Derek was trying to get into perfect protection. We like doing that to give him time. If you change the tempo on a team, they don't have a chance to do all that disguising and bluffing. I think that was a big thing. Dave [Schramm] and our guys, they've seen a lot of different things. It just took a little bit to get everyone settled on what they were doing and how to attack it."
The fourth quarter saw Fresno State begin to pull away off one of the more awkward plays to occur in 2013.
Immediately after catching a pass, Aztec receiver Enzell Ruffin was hit by Bulldog corner back Jonathan Norton, causing him to fumble. Fresno State outside linebacker Ejiro Ederaine recovered the fumble and confusion ensued. Originally believing the officials to have blown the play dead, Ederaine walked the ball to the sideline and almost stepped out before being urged by teammates to run toward the endzone. Ederaine took off while San Diego State stood around trying to figure out what was going on.
Even Ederaine wasn't sure how it happened, but he was more than happy to take it.
"I was pretty certain I got it out," Ederaine said. "I just wasn't really sure if [the official] called it down. Once I picked it up I looked to the side official and he threw down the beanie, but I thought he was blowing the whistle, it was kind of loud out there. I was showing him the ball, then he was just looking at me and I was looking at him, it was awkward. My teammates just starting yelling go, go, so I just started running."
The touchdown stood an appeared to be running away with it until a quick strike Aztec team scored a couple quick touchdowns, including a score set up by an onside kick that caught the Bulldogs napping. Ederaine also added 4.5 tackles for a loss during the game, tying him for most tackle for a loss in a game this season.
The Aztecs were poised to end the Bulldogs' regular-season on a last-second field goal, but Fresno special teams coach Pete Germano had one last trick up his sleeve. Drawing on the idea given to him by the tight end, Germano tapped Marcel Jensen to line up behind offensive linemen Cody Wichmann and Austin Wentworth. If the Bulldogs were going to lose, they were going to have to stave off an attack from three of the most experienced and largest kids he had to offer.
Wentworth and Wichmann did get through the defensive and Jensen was able to block the kick using his large frame. When asked if he had noticed something prior to calling this play in, DeRuyter immediately dismissed the idea, instead suggesting that it comes down to fundamentals.
"No," DeRuyter said. "When we do our block like that, we try to get as good of a push as we can from our front to rest the line of scrimmage so that the guy that comes behind can jump vertically up 'cause you can't jump over. If you jump and land on guys, it's a penalty. The further back you can reset that line, you can get that much closer. Then the kicker's gotta get it up that much quicker. Luckily, Marcel's 6-foot-6 and long-armed. He made a great play. Like I said, we had guys pushing to help him have a great play. I've run out of adjectives for describing this team. I mean, it's unbelievable."
You can say that again. What will the Bulldogs do for an ESPN encore during the unveiling of their new blackout uniforms this Saturday?
Stay tuned to FSBulldogs.com for more updates on the 2013 Fresno State Bulldog season.
Josh Webb is a special contributor to FSBulldogs.com. You can follow him on Twitter at @BulldogsTwist.