Fresno State Bulldogs Romp Over Incarnate Word In Tedford’s Debut
Some questions remain, but the Fresno State Bulldogs rolled in Jeff Tedford’s first game as head coach.
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A stunning scoreboard display buried last year’s deadful team for good.
FRESNO, Calif. — On a sweltering Saturday night marked by the retirement of former Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr’s jersey, the honoring of 1977’s “Stadium Builders” and record-breaking temperatures, the newest iteration of the Bulldogs brought enough heat in their season opener to make their predecessors proud.
In its first game under new head coach Jeff Tedford, Fresno State cruised to an 66-0 victory over the Incarnate Word Cardinals. After allowing a couple of big plays on UIW’s first drive, the defense clamped down by forcing seven straight three-and-outs to close out the first half and allowing just 148 yards of total offense. Emeka Ndoh had a strip-sack of Cardinals quarterback Taylor Laird that led to Fresno State’s first points and later added a safety, while Sherman Coleman had Fresno State’s lone interception and blocked a field goal attempt.
The Cardinals finished 3-of-15 on third downs, struggling to move the ball even after the game was out of reach. Taylor Laird and Sean Brophy combined to complete 15 of 31 passes for 155 yards, while Darryl Brooks led with 45 yards receiving. UIW finished with -7 yards rushing.
Fresno State was not without its own issues, though. Despite the overall stat line, 16 of 29 for 246 yards and one touchdown, Chason Virgil had several throws he’ll rue in the film room. He struggled early with accuracy down the field and cost the Bulldogs a few points: An end-zone pass at Derrion Grim’s feet and an overthrow on a Grim post within the first quarter, then two underthrows in UIW territory to running back Ronnie Rivers and Jamire Jordan in the second quarter, both of which probably should have been touchdowns.
Dejonte O’Neal also had an interesting evening as the Bulldogs’ primary punt returner: After returning his first attempt for 44 yards, the sophomore lost the handle on two punts in a row. Neither ended up costing Fresno State anything, but it’s an issue that’ll have to iron itself out quickly.
In addition, the run game was slow to get going. Rivers, a true freshman, got the starting nod and led with 60 yards on nine carries, though half of that came on an electric 30-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. Josh Hokit cemented his status as a goal-line closer with two one-yard scores, while O’Neal chipped in with 37 yards. As a team, Fresno State finished with 199 yards rushing.
Among the many bright spots, however, Keesean Johnson notched his second career 100-yard effort with seven catches and 120 yards. Marcus McMaryion, less than a month after landing with the program after transferring from Oregon State, played most of the second half and tantalized, as well, going 6-for-7 with two touchdowns. And in addition to his touchdown runs, Hokit also fooled everybody with a 65-yard touchdown pass to Jared Rice on an option pass.
In all, the Bulldogs rolled up 613 yards of total offense, its best output since torching Southern Utah in 2014.
Incarnate Word (0-1) will regroup and continue their season-opening three-game road swing at Sacramento State next Saturday. Fresno State (1-0) will head to Tuscaloosa for a date with the Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday afternoon.