TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Fresno State Bulldogs fell 41-10 to No. 1 Alabama on Saturday afternoon in front of 101,127 fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium. The Crimson Tide built a 28-3 lead in the opening 30 minutes and retained their lead despite a strong second half effort by the 'Dogs.
Fresno State (1-1) tallied 216 yards through the air while adding 58 yards on the ground. Sophomore quarterback Chason Virgil completed 21-of-34 passes for 180 yards and added a 26-yard scoring strike to sophomore wide receiver Derrion Grim in the fourth quarter.
Junior wide receiver KeeSean Johnson added a team-high eight receptions for 55 yards while senior Da'Mari Scott added a career-high seven catches for 67 yards. Scott added 94 yards on kickoff returns and 10 yards rushing to give him 171 all-purpose yards to match his career-best. Jeffrey Allison led the 'Dogs on defense with a career-high 14 stops, including seven solo, and added a sack. Sophomore defensive back Juju Hughes added a career-best nine tackles, five solo, while sophomore defensive back Jaron Bryant added seven tackles, including six solo stops.
Alabama (2-0) totaled 497 yards of offense with 305 yards coming on the ground and added 192 yards through the air. Sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts accounted for 282 yards individually, posting 154 yards on 10 carries, and went 14-of-18 through the air for 128 yards. Junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley was one of 11 Tide players with a reception in the game as he finished with team-highs in receptions (5) and yards (45). On defense, junior defensive back Ronnie Harrison and sophomore defensive lineman Raekwon Davis each finished with a team-best eight tackles.
How It Happened
Alabama wasted little time getting on the scoreboard, winning the coin toss and running only two offensive plays to get on the board. On the second play from scrimmage, Hurts ran through the Bulldog defense for a 55-yard touchdown for an early 7-0 lead.
After a quick three-and-out for the 'Dogs, the Tide offense picked up where it left off, putting together a 10-play, 62-yard drive that took 4:25 off the play clock. Hurts hooked up with junior tight end Hale Hentges for a 23-yard score to gain a 14-0 advantage.
The Bulldogs were able to get things going on offense on their second drive. A 30-yard connection from Virgil to Scott got the ball down to the Tide 18-yard line, and after a 5-yard run by Ronnie Rivers and a 4-yard carry by Josh Hokit to the nine, a 27-yard field goal by senior kicker Jimmy Camacho put the 'Dogs on the board. The 'Dogs covered 70 yards on nine plays on that drive and rolled 4:21 off the clock.
Taking over with 3:44 left in the first quarter, the Tide continued to pound away at the 'Dogs defense as they put together an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard run into the end zone by Hurts for his second rushing score of the game. The Tide outgained the 'Dogs 198 to 67 in the opening quarter.
Alabama backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa came into the contest with 10:35 left in the second quarter, and after picking up a quick first down, Allison notched a sack for a loss of eight yards, and after a pair of incompletions, the 'Dogs forced Alabama's first punt of the game with 7:51 to play until halftime.
Fresno State began the next drive on their own 8-yard line and moved the ball out to their 44. On third-and-6, Virgil tossed a ball along the sideline inside the Alabama 30 to Jamire Jordan, but the ball was just off of the finger tips as the receiver laid out for the catch. After a Cusick punt, the Tide brought Hurts back into the game and added a touchdown late in the half. Damien Harris punched in a 5-yard score to take a 28-3 lead into halftime.
The second half was a different story for the 'Dogs, owning the scoring advantage 7-6 until Alabama got into the endzone with 2:41 remaining in the game.
Alabama converted on a pair of field goals between the third and fourth quarters to take a 34-3 lead. The 'Dogs found the endzone with 6:06 left the fourth quarter after a 63-yard kickoff return by Scott gave the 'Dogs their best starting field position of the game. Virgil finished the drive with a 26-yard pass play to Grim, the sophomore receiver's first of his career.
Head Coach Jeff Tedford on the outcome...
"There's a lot of positives. Of course we didn't accomplish what we came here to do, but I was pleased with the team in the second half; it would have been easy to roll over. We had a couple of goal-line stands in the second half, so I thought the guys competed all the way through. They played hard, and that's really a sign of what we've been preaching – to compete every single play, and I thought they did that, but there's a lot to learn from this game of course."
Quarterback Chason Virgil on what he learned on Saturday...
"I kind of already knew what type of team we were. I knew we were some guys that are tough and we can play with anybody. This is the No. 1 team in the country and it was a great opportunity to play, and we played really hard. We played really well and we played for each other. We need to build off this and carry it into the rest of the season."
Linebacker Jeffrey Allison on the most difficult thing about shutting Alabama down...
"I couldn't say what the most difficult thing was, because everything they really did, they did well. They are a great team. Like I said, defensively we beat ourselves with the minor mistakes that we had."
- Team captains for the 'Dogs were Malik Forrester, Aaron Mitchell, Da'Mari Scott and James Bailey.
- The announced crowd of 101,127 at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday was the second-largest crowd the 'Dogs have played in front of in program history.
- It was the eighth time in program history the 'Dogs have played an SEC opponent.
- It was the third time in program history that Fresno State has played the No. 1-ranked team in the country.
- True freshman running back Rivers made his second straight start to begin the season as he matched his number of carries from the season opener (9).
- Rivers is the first true freshman to start two games in a season at Fresno State since Derrick Ward in 1999.
- Allison easily surpassed his previous career-best of seven tackles that he posted at Nevada in 2016. It was the most tackles a Bulldog since Stratton Brown had 15 against Air Force (10/28/16).
- Hughes (9) and Bryant (7) each finished with a career-high in tackles.
- Da'Mari Scott matched his career-high with 171 all-purpose yards as he also had 171 all-purpose yards against Utah in 2015.
- It was the 'Dogs longest kickoff return since Scott turned in a 66-yard return against San Jose State (9/26/15).
- KeeSean Johnson and Jamire Jordan extended their consecutive games with a reception to 24 and 26 games, respectively.
- Jimmy Camacho made his first field goal of the season and his third of his career.
- The last time an opposing quarterback ran the ball for two touchdowns against Fresno State was Nebraska's Tommy Armstrong, Jr., in the 2016 opener.
The 'Dogs stay on the road next week traveling to No. 7 Washington on Saturday for a 6:30 p.m. PT kickoff at Husky Stadium.
Fresno State Media Services