Fresno State offense stymied in 43-10 loss to SMU

Long after he had picked himself off the ground following

another sack, Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr found small

consolation from the beating the Bulldogs took Monday night in the

Hawaii Bowl.

A year ago, they were home watching after a losing season. They

came to Honolulu as the Mountain West Conference champions. Among

the players they return are Carr and Davante Adams, a freshman

receiver and perhaps the most dynamic player on the team.

”I’m so excited for next season,” Carr said.

He’d also like to forget as quickly as possible what SMU’s

defense did to the Bulldogs on national television Christmas Eve in

a 43-10 victory.

Carr was sacked seven times, more than double what Fresno State

had given up all year. Fresno State managed only one touchdown,

when Adams wrapped his arm around the head of Chris Parks and

pulled in a 6-yard pass with one hand and his foot dragging toward

the line. The Bulldogs had minus-16 yards rushing, and even taking

away the yardage lost from Carr getting sacked, they managed only

25 yards from their running backs.

Yes, they’re looking forward to next year. But coach Tim

DeRuyter hopes they can learn something from this debacle.

”Hopefully it’ll be a launching pad for next year,” DeRuyter

said after a 9-4 season. ”Our guys need to realize we didn’t

finish and as far as we’ve made some progress, we’re not where we

need to be. We need to be able to finish games at the end of the

year, and this offseason we’re going to find a way to finish these

games.”

Defensive end Margus Hunt set the tone by forcing two fumbles

that led to field goals and two sacks, one for a safety, that

staked the Mustangs (7-6) to a 22-0 halftime lead and sent them on

their way to a third bowl win in the last four years.

Fresno State has lost its last four bowls.

It lost the turnover margin with two fumbles and two

interceptions. Worse yet, SMU never let the Bulldogs get into any

kind of a rhythm offensively, shutting down the running game and

making Carr run for his life every time he dropped back to

pass.

”We didn’t protect very well and when those things happen, you

turn the ball over and give people short fields and quick scores

and the game got away from us,” DeRuyter said. ”We didn’t do an

effective job protecting all day.”

The Mustangs also returned two interceptions for touchdowns,

giving them eight for the season to tie the NCAA record set last

year by Southern Miss. Hayden Greenbauer picked off Carr and

returned it 83 yards with 1:14 left, the final blow to a miserable

night for the Bulldogs (9-4).

Garrett Gilbert was effective with his arm and his legs, running

for a 17-yard touchdown for the first score of the game and

throwing a perfect strike to Darius Johnson for a 21-yard score to

answer the Bulldogs’ only touchdown. He rushed for 98 yards on 18

carries and threw for 212 yards.

But this game was decided by the Mustangs’ defense, with Hunt

leading the way. He was voted the game’s MVP.

Fresno State, which had averaged just over 47 points in its last

five games, was held scoreless in the first half for the first time

in two years.

The Mustangs were playing in a school-record fourth straight

bowl game since ending a 25-year drought dating to its infamous

NCAA death penalty. They have won three of those bowl games, twice

as big underdogs to explosive offenses – a 45-10 win over Nevada in

2009 and Monday against Fresno State, both in the Hawaii Bowl.

Hunt’s speed made all the difference in his final college game

as he bullied his way through and around lineman and harassed Carr

all night. Carr finished with 362 yards on 33-of-54 passing. The 10

points were the fewest Fresno State has scored since a 20-10 loss

to Boise State this year.

The Bulldogs hardly looked like a team averaging 488 yards a

game. Carr spent more time on his back than stepping into throws as

the Mustangs’ defensive front – particularly Hunt – was

overwhelming.

And when tight end Marcel Jensen dropped Carr’s short pass in

the end zone on the final play of the opening period, it marked the

first time Fresno State was shut out in the first half since it

lost to Boise State in 2010.

That was the only time the Bulldogs even came close to scoring

in the first half.

After a dull, scoreless opening quarter, Gilbert shook off one

tackle and scored on a 17-yard run. The defense took over from

there.

Hunt blew past right tackle Alex Fifita and blindsided Carr,

dropping him flat as the ball came loose and was scooped up by

Aaron Davis, who returned it 23 yards to the Fresno State 16 until

he fumbled it out of bounds. SMU had to settle for a field goal. On

the next series, Carr scrambled backward and couldn’t escape an

18-yard sack to the 6, and then Hunt sacked him in the end zone for

a safety.

Hunt wasn’t finished, though. On second-and-7 from the 33, Carr

gave it to Robbie Rouse on a delayed handoff, right about the time

Hunt showed up to disrupt the play and cause another fumble that

Taylor Reed recovered.