FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- Fresno State made its national reputation
by surprising big-name opponents. Coach Pat Hill wasn't pleased
when his Bulldogs nearly let Portland State make a name for itself.
Wendell Mathis rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and
Bryson Sumlin added 127 yards in Fresno State's (No. 20 ESPN/USA Today; No. 19 AP) 27-17
victory over the Division I-AA Vikings on Saturday night.
Marcus McCauley scored on a 15-yard interception return for the
Bulldogs (3-0), who took a break from their normally rugged
Though the final outcome was never seriously in doubt, Fresno
State's less-than-inspiring performance after consecutive road wins
over Washington and Kansas State gave Hill plenty of fodder for
practice in the next two weeks.
"I know it's a hard comeback after those two games, but that's
not an excuse," Hill said. "There were some areas where we didn't
really do a good job. Some of the things we preach, we didn't get
Fresno State should keep its first ranking since 2001, when the
Bulldogs upset three BCS conference teams on the road.
But they weren't nearly as impressive in their home opener:
Despite outgaining Portland State 2-to-1 until the final minutes,
the Bulldogs committed 11 penalties and never pulled away.
Hill cited poor tackling, mental lapses and inconsistent
execution, particularly on offense. His players agreed.
"It lets us know that we can't go into any game thinking we're
the better team," defensive end Garrett McIntyre said. "This is
going to help us, because we know that everybody is going to try to
knock us off. We're going to make corrections, and we're going to
come back hard."
The Vikings got within 10 points on Allen Kennett's 6-yard TD
run with 2:42 to play, then drove to the Fresno State 2 in the
final seconds before Joe Wiser was sacked as time ran out.
But thanks to a relentless running game behind one of the
nation's best offensive lines, Fresno State is unbeaten again
heading into its Western Athletic Conference schedule. The Bulldogs
have two open dates in the next four weeks before a showdown at No.
23 Boise State on Oct. 23.
Fresno State had no problem replacing starting tailback Dwayne
Wright, who's out for the season after hurting his knee in last
Saturday's win. Given the strength of their formidable line, it
seems anybody could look good carrying the ball for the Bulldogs.
"This line is the best that I've ever run behind," said
Mathis, a transfer from UCLA. "You feel completely safe behind
them. You just hit your holes, and you do great."
Hill turned the game into a tryout for Wright's job, and both
Mathis and Sumlin gave sterling auditions.
The running backs combined for 149 yards and two scores by
halftime, with Mathis scoring on runs of 8 and 15 yards. They
exceeded 100 yards apiece early in the second half, giving Fresno
State two 100-yard rushers in the same game for the first time
since Sept. 28, 1996.
Sumlin scored nine touchdowns last season as the Bulldogs'
short-yardage specialist. Mathis had just one carry in the first
Shaun Bodiford caught eight passes for 64 yards and a score for
the Vikings, who hadn't played in 16 days. Portland State is
winless in six meetings with Fresno State, though the last two have
been uncomfortably close for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs were welcomed home by a red-clad sellout crowd in
Fresno, where fans bought 13,000 tickets in the seven days
following the team's win at Kansas State. The fans didn't get many
spectacular plays to cheer -- just a sound performance on both sides
of the ball.
Paul Pinegar was 13-for-25 for 142 yards, throwing two
interceptions, but he wasn't required to do much. The Bulldogs
opened the game with 11 straight rushing plays, finishing the
80-yard drive with Mathis' 8-yard score.
McCauley, a backup cornerback, put the Bulldogs up 17-0 early in
the second quarter, sneaking in front of Wiser's pass to a curling
receiver and strolling into the end zone. Fresno State already has
returned three interceptions for scores this season.