It's no surprise to hear "Boo!" on Halloween, right?
Well, maybe the sound was a wee bit startling -- considering that it came from a hefty chunk of the crowd at Bulldog Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
There was a clear message, too, since the ominous rumble was directed at the Fresno State players as they trudged off the field at halftime.
The Dogs were trailing Utah State 27-17 and looking decidedly ragged in the process.
Let's tote up some reasons for the fans' displeasure:
A good starting point would be those 363 yards of total offense run up by the Aggies. Slick-footed quarterback Diondre Borel had made Fresno State look positively foolish while winging the ball to open receivers and dancing downfield at will.
The Dogs also chipped in with needless back-to-back turnovers -- A.J. Jefferson got stripped on a kickoff return and QB Ryan Colburn threw an interception late in the second quarter that handed Utah State a field goal.
And Ryan Mathews, the nation's leading rusher?
For what were later described as tactical reasons -- Utah State playing man-to-man coverage on the Dogs' receivers -- Mathews was handed the ball only six times in the first half. He did gain 40 yards and scored a touchdown, but...
"(The coaches) told me I was running 'soft,'" Mathews confessed afterward. "Man, I hate that. I just hate it."
So the Fresno State supporters were unhappy, Mathews was unhappy and Colburn was unhappy.
OK, now imagine Pat Hill's state of mind.
"You can't play this game if you can't take criticism," Colburn said, after noting that every one of his teammates was expecting, um, something less than a hug in the locker room.
"(Hill) has our best interests at heart. He wants us to succeed, to get the most from ourselves, and we hadn't done that."
So would that halftime "discussion" have been audible out in Clovis, then?
"Maybe," Colburn said with a chuckle. "The walls are pretty thick, but nobody was exactly whispering to us."
Hill didn't even hide his halftime histrionics after the Bulldogs rallied with scores in each of the final two quarters to nip Utah State 31-27.
"There's a fine line between love and issuing a challenge," Hill said. "This was love -- tough love.
"Hey, we've got a lot to play for and the guys had to be challenged. I'm proud of how they accepted it in the second half."
Hill's correct that there's plenty still on the line. The Dogs are 5-3 overall and 4-1 in the WAC with Idaho, Nevada, Louisiana Tech and the final road game at Illinois still on the schedule.
Even though Boise State seems a lock to win the conference, second place -- or a title tie if you want to dream -- and Hill's 10th bowl bid at Fresno State are sitting right there.
Back to Halloween: What's left of Hill's hair would have been on fire if the defense hadn't improved against Borel and blue-chip running back Robert Turbin.
But the Dogs clamped down, aided by a move to push a fifth lineman into the mix -- thus hurrying Borel with pressure from the edges -- and held Utah State to 140 yards in the second half.
Mathews, meanwhile, shook off a savage hit near the goal line -- he missed a couple of series -- to carry his team when it mattered. He finished with 185 yards on 23 carries, yet another awesome day at the office.
A 46-yard burst involving two cutbacks set up Fresno State's winning touchdown with less than six minutes to play, and when the Dogs had to run out the clock over the final 3:13, Mathews lugged it every time -- and converted a third-and-9 with an 11-yard ram job.
Colburn: "Sometimes despite all the strategy, football just becomes a matter of will. What we heard at halftime is that we just had to find our will."
And the alternative...
"Trick or treat, huh?" Hill said.
Steve Cameron is a freelance columnist for the Sun-Star.