FRESNO, Calif. – The Fresno State football team snapped victory from the jaws of defeat on Saturday night against San Diego State.
Down 28-17 with under four minutes to play in the game, with a big portion of the crowd at Valley Children’s Stadium having already headed to the exits, the Bulldogs produced a comeback they will be talking about for years to come.
Here is how the sequence played out. The Bulldogs…
- finished off an 11-play, 80-yard drive with a Jordan Mims 3-yard touchdown run with 1:09 left to make the score 28-23.
- converted the ensuing 2-point conversion with a Jake Haener to Zane Pope pass to make it 28-25.
- Pope recovered an onside kick off the foot of Fresno State kickoff specialist Dylan Lynch at the San Diego State 37-yard line with 1:05 left.
- got a 37-yard touchdown pass from Haener to Nikko Remigio on the very next play, and after Abraham Montano made the extra point, the Bulldogs had a 32-28 lead with :56 seconds left.
- after a squib kick by Lynch gave it back to the Aztecs at their own 36-yard line with :50 seconds left, Fresno State defensive back Carlton Johnson intercepted quarterback Jalen Mayden on San Diego State’s first play of the drive.
- Haener kneeled down twice to officially clinch Fresno State’s 32-28 win.
Fresno State Head coach Jeff Tedford says it’s one of those wins his players will continue to reflect back on years from now with each other, and a win that helped reinforce a bigger message.
“One of the things that was really cool,” said Tedford at Monday’s press conference. “(I) received a few text messages, of people who brought their children to the game, and said that it was a lesson to their kids, never to give up, and that’s pretty cool, when a football game can have an effect like that, it’s pretty neat.”
The Bulldogs also trailed this game by 18 points (28-10) late in the third quarter, but senior quarterback Jake Haener says he and his teammates never gave up hope, even when things looked dire late in the fourth quarter.
“I just think you gotta have positive energy,” said Haener Monday. “And when you have positive energy and you’re optimistic that really good things are gonna happen, you know, it doesn’t happen all the time, but some times, some of that positive energy will lead into success.”
Of course, Haener made his return from injury in the game, and played pretty well, especially down the stretch. He finished 34-of-45 through the air, with 394 passing yards, and three touchdowns, although he also had two of his passes intercepted in the end zone.
It was his first game back since he suffered a high ankle sprain and chipped a bone in his right leg at USC on September 17. He said Monday the initial diagnosis said it might take 10-to-12 weeks to come back from the injuries, but he got a couple other opinions, settled on a rehab plan, and six weeks later, was back on the field starting at quarterback for the Bulldogs against the Aztecs.
“You know, I was in here everyday (at Fresno State), and going to see other people, and taking flights to see other people,” said Haener. “I was trying to do everything I could to get back here for this program, and finish my career here strong. I was not gonna let that night in September (at USC) be the last game I played for Fresno State.”
In addition to Haener, the Bulldogs also got senior safety Evan Williams back for the San Diego State game, and the preseason All-Conference selection finished with 8 tackles, tied for second-best amongst the Bulldogs.
But there was some bad news coming out of the Aztecs game as well.
Tedford announced Monday that senior right tackle Dontae Bull broke his leg and is out for the season.
The Bulldogs (4-4 overall, 3-1 MW) control their own destiny in the West Division of the conference race, as they are currently tied with San Jose State atop the Division standings, but hold the tiebreaker over the Spartans, by virtue of their 17-10 win over them on Oct. 15.
Fresno State will host Hawai’i (2-7 overall, 1-3 MW) on Saturday night at Valley Children’s Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
The Rainbow Warriors have won two straight in the series, including an upset win over the Bulldogs at Hawai’i last year.
As of Monday night, the Bulldogs were favored by 24.5 points.