PASADENA, Calif. - The Fresno State football team had yet another impressive performance on Saturday, defeating the 13th-ranked UCLA Bruins 40-37 at the Rose Bowl to improve to 3-1 on the season. The Bulldogs won their fourth-straight meeting with UCLA, dating back to 2003.
Senior quarterback Jake Haener did just what he was expected to do on Saturday night. Throwing for a season-high 455 yards, Haener showed true toughness and grit to lead the Bulldogs to their last-minute scoring drive to secure the victory.
How It Happened
Fresno State struck first as Ronnie Rivers broke into the endzone on a one-yard carry with just under six minutes to go in the first quarter. Fresno State was unsuccessful on its 2-point conversion attempt, adding only six points to the board on the score. UCLA answered on its following drive, and took a 7-6 lead into the second quarter.
The 'Dogs outscored the Bruins 17-3 in the second quarter behind touchdowns from Jalen Cropper and Rivers, and a field goal from Abraham Montano. The Bulldogs took a 23-10 lead into the locker room at the break.
UCLA gained some momentum after the half, coming out in the third quarter and scoring on its opening drive to cut the lead. Montano had another field goal to give Fresno State a buffer heading into the fourth.
UCLA took advantage of a Bulldog fumble, recovering it and responding with a touchdown on its following drive to cut the lead to two, 26-24. Fresno State fumbled again on its following drive, and UCLA would recover and respond with another score to take a 30-26 lead with 7:27 to go.
Staying poised under pressure, Haener capped a 10-play 75 yard scoring drive on a 19-yard touchdown pass to Erik Brooks. Fresno State led 33-30 with 2:55 remaining. Defense held tough, but UCLA's Dorian Thompson-Robinson hit Kyle Philips in the end zone to retake the lead, 37-33 with 54 seconds left in the game.
Behind smart play calling, Fresno State made its way down the field and quickly into UCLA territory. Haener had passes of 10, 27, and 26 yards to set the Bulldogs up at the UCLA 38-yard line. Haener used a 13-yard pass to Cropper to score the game-winning touchdown.
• Fresno State won its fourth-straight game in the series with UCLA.
• Fresno State knocked off the No. 13-ranked UCLA on Saturday, marking the highest ranked opponent Fresno State has defeated since defeating then-No. 13 Kansas State on the road (Sept. 12, 2004).
• Fresno State won its first game against a ranked opponent since defeating then-No. 19 Boise State in the 2018 Mountain West Championship (Dec. 1, 2018).
• Fresno State picked up its first road win of the season.
• Fresno State is now 3-1 heading into Mountain West play.
• Fresno State defeated its first Pac-12 opponent of the season.
• Kalen DeBoer earns his first win over a P5 school as Fresno State head coach.
• Fresno State held UCLA to only 81 yards of total offense in the first half. The Bulldogs out-gained the Bruins 276-81 in the half.
• Rivers moved into third all-time in Fresno State history with 161 all-purpose yards on Saturday. The senior back passed his father (Ron Rivers), Robbie Rouse and Rodney Wright on the all-time all-purpose yardage leaders list at Fresno State. He now has 4,458 yards in his career.
• Fresno State had two receivers record over 100-yards receiving in Josh Kelly and Jalen Cropper. Saturday was the first time the 'Dogs had two 100-yard receivers since Keric Wheatfall and Cropper did so against Nevada (Dec. 5, 2020).
• Kelly posted 120 yards receiving, the second-straight game the sophomore has had 100-yards receiving.
Head Coach Kalen DeBoer
On the win…
"I think the biggest thing was the belief that we would win. There was never a question coming into he game and we fought for all four quarters. We know what we are capable of. The best thing about this game, is that there aren't any regrets. We missed opportunities and we know that, but we just focused on those last seven minutes of the game. It was a great team effort. The defense did their job when the offense needed them, and the offense came through at the end with two touchdowns when we really needed it."
"When I sit here and listen to these guys talk, it makes me think about the last 18 months. It hasn't always been perfect and that's what makes this moment even more special. We need to take this moment and celebrate it, but here's still a lot of work to do."
On the Red Wave…
"It's special. I am so happy for the guys. To see them trying to find their coaches and to see the smiles. When you win the big games, you want to celebrate and go crazy, but there's a part of it when you just want to see these guys smile, laugh, take pictures and give big hugs. This team is really close and hopefully you can see that. It's not just talk, this is really what this team is all about. All the credit to them. They have continued to fight the fight, hold each other accountable and keep working."
"It was really cool to see the support from our fans. They were certainly loud tonight, like the guys said. It's a great feeling, because we know how tight-knit we are as a Valley and as a community. The support for the 'Dogs has been there for decades. The passion is truly felt and seen by our guys. We have to enjoy those moments and celebrate them. Life comes and goes, things happen. This a moment we are all going to remember for a long time. These are the classics. These are the great ones."
Fresno State has a short week ahead as it opens Mountain West play this Friday (Sept. 24), hosting UNLV. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.