By David Taub
“They forgot how to play football!”
Perhaps that is too harsh of an assessment coming from one frustrated fan following Fresno State’s 26-16 upset loss to UNLV Saturday (Oct. 28). But, that sentiment of frustration echoed among the 27,922 at Bulldog Stadium.
But, fear not, Red Wave. This is just a blip on the radar on an accelerated timetable to make the Bulldogs great again.
The next milestone should have happened Saturday night. Instead, a sixth victory making Fresno State bowl eligible will have to wait at least one more week. The Bulldogs whiffed at a team they should have beaten.
Special Teams Mistakes
Three special teams’ mistakes cost the Bulldogs 11 points. After cruising to a touchdown off the opening kickoff, Jimmy Camacho missed the extra point. A late third-quarter fumble on a punt return led to a UNLV tie-breaking touchdown and 23-16 lead.
Then, the dagger. Down by seven with about seven and half minutes on the clock, Fresno State faced a 4th & 2 from the UNLV 45.
“There was a lot of time left in the game. We felt we could pin (UNLV) down there and have the defense hold them,” Bulldogs Coach Jeff Tedford said. He trusted the defense.
The fans showed their trust in Tedford’s decision with a chorus of boos. A botched snap on the punt led to a 36-yard loss, which UNLV converted into a field goal and insurmountable 10-point lead late in the game.
“We didn’t expect the ball to go over the punter’s head, obviously,” Tedford said in an unintentional understatement.
It Hurts, But Pain is Temporary
This loss hurt more than the clobberings earlier this year on the road versus Top-10 Alabama and Washington. It derailed a four-game winning streak and the rising optimism Tedford has so far provided the Red Wave (even if that hasn’t converted to larger crowds yet).
Last time, I wrote about the hope Tedford stirred among Fresno State football fans. Instead of accepting losing, Bulldog fans expect victories. Instead of accepting that UNLV just outplayed the Bulldogs, fans feel the sting of an upset loss.
But this sting is only temporary. Try telling that to a head football coach. Tedford felt nothing positive can come out of a loss, even if it should be considered a plus that the Bulldogs were favored at all (given their 1-11 record last year).
“I don’t care about being favored. None of that makes any difference, whatsoever,” Tedford said. “The only positive is the correction that we make and how we approach our mindset going into next week.”
The season is two-thirds over. For Tedford, it is too early to think about the postseason, or anything else beyond next week’s opponent.
Never Too Early to Think About Bowl Games
But others are already thinking about the bowl season. The athletic department anticipated a visit from a Las Vegas Bowl representative. Unfortunately, a last-minute personal emergency prevented executive director John Saccenti from watching the game in person.
He and other bowl directors have at least two more home games to see the Bulldogs live (Nov. 4 vs. BYU and the season finale Nov. 25 vs. Boise State).
That should give Tedford enough time to get his team to remember how to play the game.