Photo courtesy of Fresno State athletics
For the 2021 season, the FQ/CFBHome Team of the Week honors went to FCS teams in each of the first two weeks. Last week, a Power 5 school got the nod after traveling across the country to knock off a top-5 opponent on the road.
This week, the honor goes to a Group of 5 team for the first time this season.
For Week 3, Fresno State is the Team of the Week. The Bulldogs came up just short against a very good Oregon team on Sept. 4, but coming up short was not in the cards on Saturday night.
This week, Fresno State got its victory over a ranked Pac-12 school and in thrilling fashion. The Bulldogs went on the road and scored late to stun No. 13 UCLA, 40-37.
Back and Forth
34 of the game’s 77 points in Pasadena late Saturday came in the final quarter. The Bulldogs took a 26-17 lead into the period, but the final 8:10 featured four lead changes.
Down nine, the Bruins scored 13 points in 43 seconds to take their first second-half lead. After Dorian Thompson-Robinson’s 42-yard touchdown pass to Kyle Philips cut the lead to two, Fresno State fumbled on its very next play. It took just three plays for Zach Charbonnet to score from three yards out to give UCLA a 30-26 lead.
From there, the teams exchanged touchdowns the rest of the way. Less than three minutes remained when Jake Haener found Erik Brooks for the 19-yard Fresno State touchdown on 3rd-and-goal.
Up 33-30, Fresno State needed just one stop to seal the victory, but UCLA wouldn’t allow that to happen. Thompson-Robinson marched UCLA 75 yards in nine plays, using his arm and his feet. His 15-yard touchdown strike to Philips with 54 seconds remaining looked as though it would allow UCLA to escape.
54 seconds however, proved to be too much time for Haener and the Bulldogs.
It took just 40 seconds to answer. Haener completed his final five passes on the drive, including a beautiful back shoulder throw to Jalen Cropper for the winning 13-yard touchdown with 14 seconds remaining.
Big Nights in a Big Win
Statistically, Fresno State dominated the contest. The Bulldogs finished with 569 yards of offense to 395 for UCLA. Three turnovers however, kept UCLA within striking distance.
Haener had a monster night, passing for 455 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Ronnie Rivers rushed for 136 yards and added two scores for the Bulldogs.
Cropper and Josh Kelly each broke the century mark receiving. Cropper tallied 14 catches for 141 yards and the winning touchdown. Kelly hauled in eight passes for 120 yards.
Defensively, Evan Williams led the Bulldogs with 12 tackles in the victory. Arron Mosby had two of the team’s three tackles for loss.
A Long Time Coming
For Fresno State, the victory on Saturday night was its first over a ranked team since topping Boise State for the 2018 Mountain West Championship. It was the first win over a Power 5 team since beating Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl to close out the 2018 season.
The Bulldogs had not defeated a ranked Power 5 team since beating No. 18 Virginia in the 2004 MPC Computers Bowl. UCLA became the highest-ranked opponent to fall to Fresno State since a 45-21 rout at No. 13 Kansas State early during the 2004 season.
Following the victory, Fresno State worked its way into the AP Poll. Kalen DeBoer’s team comes in at No. 22 this week. They had not been ranked since the end of 2018.
With the victory, Fresno State improved to 3-1 and equaled last season’s win total. The Bulldogs will begin Mountain West play at home on Saturday against UNLV.
The contest will begin a 10 p.m. ET and air nationally on CBS Sports Network. UCLA, who fell 11 spots with the loss, will open Pac-12 play on Friday night at Stanford.