This item originally appeared in the October 7, 2004 issue of The Tech Talk.
By KYLE ROBERTS
Associate Sports Editor
"BCS Busters" no more.
The No. 17 Fresno State University Bulldogs finally met their match Saturday night in Joe Aillet Stadium after a stagnant first-half performance by Tech, when the home Bulldogs rallied back to victory with a final score of 28-21.
Tech head coach Jack Bicknell III said he couldn't be happier.
"There's no question it was a huge win, mainly because it was a conference win," Bicknell said.
"It's nice to beat other big schools outside of [the Western Athletic Conference] such as Michigan State and Oklahoma State, but we needed to beat one of the big conference teams because that sets you up for later on down the road."
The rivalry game heated up 43 minutes before kickoff when a fight broke out after a Fresno State player walked through Tech warm-ups.
"It's a shame that ugly incidents like that happen," Bicknell said. "It just doesn't belong in college football. Still, it fired our guys up and made them play that much harder."
After the pre-game brawl, a seemingly unstoppable Fresno State offense put up 13 points off of a 4-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Paul Pinegar to sophomore Robbie Dubois and two ensuing field goals from senior kicker Brett Visintainer; the latter coming with 5:21 on the clock.
"At one point, I felt like we were down a lot more than we really were," Bicknell said of Fresno State's dominating first-half effort. "And then I looked up at the score and we were only down two scores. I knew then that we still had a great chance to win this ballgame."
Tech's offense received its spark on the ensuing possession with a nine-play, 89-yard drive capped off by junior tailback Ryan Moats' first of four touchdown runs of the night from four yards out with 2:31 left in the first half. Moats finished the game with 236 yards on 34 carries.
Halftime began with the Fresno State Bulldogs ahead 13-7.
"Ryan, to me, is the best back in the country," Bicknell said. "He's an amazing player and an amazing person. I think I've seen everything, and then Ryan does something else. He's just a special player."
Tech's dominating performance continued in the second half when Moats ignited the crowd with an 83-yard touchdown run to tie the game with 1:18 in the third quarter. Freshman kicker Danny Howerdel's extra-point was good to give the Dawgs a 14-13 lead.
Fresno State capitalized on a Moats fumble early in the fourth quarter when junior running back Wendell Mathis ran in for a touchdown from three yards out.
Pinegar hit junior wide receiver Jermaine Johnson for the two-point conversion to give the visiting Bulldogs a 21-14 lead.
Tech's ensuing drive ended in another Moats touchdown run, but freshman kicker Brad Oestriecher's extra-point was blocked with the score 21-20.
The home defense remained strong when senior linebacker Byron Santiago returned an intercepted pass to the 16-yard line.
It only took Moats two eight-yard plays to get the ball in for the score for a 26-21 lead.
Junior quarterback Matt Kubik capped off the touchdown with a two-point conversion pass to junior wide receiver Eric Newman to put the Dawgs up 28-21.
Kubik threw 15-of-26 passes for 158 yards.
"Matt did one heck of a job," Bicknell said. "He didn't make many mistakes against Fresno, and it certainly helped win the ballgame."
Fresno State seemed to be in control of their final drive of the night when Pinegar threw his second interception of the night to junior cornerback Tramon Williams inside Tech's 20-yard line to seal the victory for Tech.
Tech travels to Auburn, Ala., this Saturday to face the No. 6 Auburn Tigers at 2:30 p.m. in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
"Auburn has great talent," Bicknell said of Tech's upcoming foe.
"Still, these guys are going to play their hearts out for four quarters, and we'll see how it turns out."