MOSCOW, Idaho (AP) -- Fresno State got a special win against Idaho.
In a game that was determined by special teams play, Joe Fernandez returned a punt 72 yards for a touchdown, and Jaron Fairman returned a blocked punt for another score as No. 24 Fresno State beat Idaho 40-10 Saturday night.
"In a game of football, you've got three separate phases," Bulldogs coach Pat Hill said. "I thought our special teams play was outstanding and our defense played very, very well."
It took awhile for the Bulldogs' offense to get started, but even that phase pleased Hill in the end.
"In the second half, we got the offense going a little, but give Idaho some credit, they did a good job on defense," Hill said. "In the first half, we had too many penalties and we never
got in sync. But you know, it's a team victory and I'll take 40-10."
The Bulldogs (5-1, 3-0 WAC) started slowly in the first half,
but scored 24 straight points and held Idaho scoreless in the
second half to get the win.
It was the second consecutive week that the Bulldogs roared back
in the second half. Last week, the Bulldogs fell behind early, then
scored 46 straight points in a 53-21 victory over Utah State.
Fresno State quarterback Paul Pinegar was 21-of-33 for 228 yards
and a touchdown. Wendell Mathis, who scored on a 58-yard TD run in
the fourth quarter, finished with 101 yards on 11 carries for the
Idaho (1-6, 1-3), in its first season in the WAC, hung with the
Bulldogs in a gritty first half, forcing four fumbles, before being
worn down in the second half.
Idaho's Steven Wichman was 13-for-22 for 84 yards, and was
sacked four times for losses of 29 yards.
Despite the loss, Idaho coach Nick Holt saw some bright spots.
"I was obviously happy with a lot of things that happened, no
question," Holt said. "I thought our kids were playing with some
tenacity and were really competing. I have been saying all week we
needed to do a good job on the special teams and that made a huge
difference, as you saw. There were some good things in the game
that we can build upon."
Leading just 16-10 at the half, Fresno State got untracked in
the third quarter, when Devyn McDonald hauled in a 1-yard TD pass
from Pinegar after a Vandals punt was blocked at the Idaho 11. The
Bulldogs were never challenged after that.
Bryson Sumlin completed the scoring with a 2-yard run after
Idaho's Mike Barrow was tackled short of a first down on a fake
punt attempt, turning the ball over to Fresno State on the Idaho
Idaho scored first, when Jason Brown ran in from 9 yards out
1:16 into the game.
Fresno State tied it at 7-all after Fernandez's punt return. The
Bulldogs entered the game second nationally in punt returns,
averaging 25.5 yards per return.
Later in the quarter, Barrow bobbled a snap and kicked the ball
from the turf into the arms of Fairman, who returned it 26 yards to
put Fresno State up 14-7.
The Bulldogs took their biggest lead of the first half shortly
after the start of the second quarter when the Vandals' Rolly
Lumballa was tackled in the end zone, giving Fresno State a safety
and a 16-7 advantage.
Barrow hit a 50-yard field goal to bring Idaho within 16-10 with
2:30 remaining in the first half.
Clint Stitser added a 27-yard field goal to cap a 62-yard drive
that stalled on the Idaho 11 to put the Bulldogs up 19-10 with 4:44
remaining in the third period.
Fresno State was the first ranked team to play Idaho at Moscow
since October 1960, when Oregon State won 28-8. It was only the
second time a Bulldog team played inside a dome, having beaten
Idaho here 41-28 in 1978.
It was the first meeting of the schools since 1979, when the
Bulldogs won 30-10 at home.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... the Bulldogs wore down the Vandals and outscored Idaho 24-0 in the second half.
Gameball goes to... The Bulldogs punt return team, which returned one Idaho punt for a score and returned a blocked punt for another TD.
Stat of the game... 1960: Fresno State is the first ranked team play the Vandals in Moscow since Oregon State in 1960.