Cheek plays role in upset of Bulldogs
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) – Pat Hill believed Fresno State’s run at a Bowl Championship Series bid was in trouble long before the Bulldogs’ winning streak ended.
Ryan Dinwiddie threw for 297 yards and four touchdowns, and unheralded Boise State sacked David Carr 10 yards from the end zone with 51 seconds left to beat No. 8 Fresno State 35-30 on Friday night, ending the Bulldogs’ improbable run at college football’s biggest prizes.
“We are really happy, but we took this win with a grain of sand,” said Boise State starting offensive lineman Jeff Cheek, a South Tahoe High grad. “We honestly believed we could win this game.”
Fresno State (6-1, 2-1 WAC) beat Colorado, Oregon State and Wisconsin earlier this fall to become the darlings of the sport. But even as the wins kept coming and the national attention reached a fever pitch, Hill sensed problems with the Bulldogs- and they culminated in a stunning loss.
“As the season goes on, you’ve either got to get better or get worse,” the Fresno State coach said. “We started very well, but now we’ve got to right the ship. … Our dreams of the BCS are over, but this can still be a very successful season.”
The Bulldogs scored just two points in the final 271/2 minutes and played mostly terrible defense against the Broncos (4-3, 3-1).
Led by sophomore quarterback Dinwiddie, Boise State roared from behind for what was easily the biggest victory in school history – a victory that might have cost the school the $1 million share of a multimillion-dollar payout to the WAC if Fresno State made a BCS bowl.
Fresno State’s perfect season ended when Carr, desperately trying to buy time on fourth-and-4 at Boise State’s 5 with less than a minute to play, was tackled as he fumbled. Until Carr went down, the Bulldogs said they firmly believed they would emerge victorious one more time in what seemed to be a season of miracles.
“You kind of get in a euphoric state when you’re 6-0,” said Carr, who went 30-of-49 for 345 yards and three TDs. “Even when you’re going down, you can’t believe it. You look at the clock, and you think, ‘There’s still some time left. We should be able to win this.'”
Fresno State’s 17-game home winning streak ended as well.
Dinwiddie threw a 54-yard TD pass to Jay Swillie for the go-ahead score with 7:12 left as Boise State, in its first WAC season, silenced a sellout crowd at Bulldog Stadium. Boise State, which lost 45-14 to Rice less than two weeks ago, beat a ranked team for the first time in five tries.
“We were really surprised at how passive they were on defense,” Cheek said. “We expected them to blitz on every play, and it didn’t happen that way.”
First-year coach Dan Hawkins was Dirk Koetter’s top assistant as Boise State rebuilt its program over the previous three seasons, culminating in two wins in the hometown Humanitarian Bowl, but almost no national exposure.
Standing in the first-base dugout on Fresno State’s baseball diamond – which doubles as the visiting team’s locker room -Hawkins still was amazed by his young defense’s poise.
“Even as they were driving at the end, there was no deer-in-the-headlights look from our guys,” Hawkins said. “We just weathered everything they had, and we made one more big play at the end. I’m amazed by this team.”
Dinwiddie, from California’s Central Valley, answered every big play made by Carr, a Heisman hopeful.
Dinwiddie went 20-for-32, and he led the Broncos to touchdowns on four of five drives at one point.
“He’s got tremendous poise,” Hawkins said. “He’s been solid for us, making great plays and delivering the football for us all year.”
On Boise State’s first play after Fresno State punted midway through the fourth quarter, Swillie caught Dinwiddie’s perfect pass 30 yards downfield, remained standing after a solid hit and sprinted into the end zone, putting the Broncos up 35-28.
“I dream about that play all the time,” said Swillie, who worked on the play all week after Boise State’s coaches spotted a weakness on film. “One hundred people are counting on me to do that.”
Fresno State got one last chance when its defense – which was carved up by Dinwiddie for much of the night – got a safety with 3:59 left. Nick Burley flew over a blocker and knocked Dinwiddie to the turf.
The Bulldogs got the ball back at their 43, and Carr moved them deep into Boise State’s territory, converting a fourth down with 1:59 left. But Carr got trapped in the pocket and was sacked by a host of defenders, bringing the Broncos halfway onto the field in a wild celebration.
“I never doubted for a second that we were going to pull this one out,” Fresno State tackle Joe Schey said.
“We’ve definitely taken steps backward. It’s not going the right way right now. I think we’ve just got too lax about things.”
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.