The stage was set for a Fresno State football victory party on Saturday.
It was Senior Night, famed baseball slugger Aaron Judge was in the house, and the opponent was struggling New Mexico, which hadn’t won in Fresno since 1994.
The stunning result: a 25-17 loss by the Bulldogs and a performance that Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford termed “probably one of our worst games I’ve seen us play.”
Fresno State led 14-3 before completely breaking down offensively and defensively. Not even the insertion of quarterback Mikey Keene — injured in a lopsided loss at San Jose State — could save the Bulldogs from being knocked out of the Mountain West Conference title race.
Bulldogs Face San Diego State Next
The challenge for the bowl-eligible Bulldogs (8-3, 4-3) is regaining their spark and avoiding a third-straight loss this week at San Diego State (3-8,1-6).
“We are all responsible for this – players, coaches – we have to do a better job of putting our kids in position to be successful. Somehow, some way,” Tedford said. “Give New Mexico their credit, they have a very good offensive line. They made plays, they stopped our run and pressured our passer.
“We have to regroup. … I feel bad for the seniors because we had an opportunity to be undefeated at home this year.”
For the second straight game, Fresno State surrendered more than 300 yards rushing. New Mexico’s Jacory Croskey-Merritt finished with 204 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.
The Lobos also capitalized through the air. Caleb Medford had six receptions for 122 yards and a 33-yard TD catch against an all-out Bulldogs blitz that gave the Lobos an 11-point fourth-quarter lead.
Why Fife Started, Keene Came Off the Bench
New Mexico (4-7, 2-5 Mountain West), which had lost five of its last six, snapped a three-game skid.
The Lobos scored on three drives of 90-plus yards. The first came when Croskey-Merritt eluded multiple would-be tackles on a 50-yard touchdown run in the second quarter that capped a quick 92-yard drive and trimmed New Mexico’s deficit to 14-12. Croskey-Merritt added a 10-yard TD that gave the Lobos the lead for good late in the third and completed a 93-yard drive.
Logan Fife started at quarterback in place of the hurt–but-cleared-to-play Keene (concussion-like symptoms) and completed 9 of 16 passes for 125 yards and ran for a 1-yard touchdown before being replaced in the fourth quarter.
Keene was 8 of 13 passing and led a scoring drive, moving the Bulldogs into position for a 44-yard field goal with 3:25 remaining.
“Mikey didn’t practice Tuesday and Wednesday; Logan took most of the reps during the week,” Tedford explained of why Fife started the game, only to be replaced by Keene.” Our thinking was, maybe Mikey could create a spark. But, in no way are we laying the blame on Logan for this.
“The injury bug has hit us late (in the season), but no one cares. It’s next man up. We have to find a way to do better.”