Sports

Bulldogs wobble after big tumble

The buzz is over.

Much of the momentum Fresno State had going for it was ruined with one game -- a 34-21 loss to Boise State on Friday at Bulldog Stadium that knocked the Bulldogs from the undefeated ranks in the Western Athletic Conference.

And with the loss, Fresno State (5-3 overall, 4-1 WAC) saw its four-game winning streak come to an end.

Now, Fresno State must figure out how to regain its footing and keep its bowl dreams intact after falling behind No. 12 Hawaii (8-0, 5-0) and No. 21 Boise State (7-1, 4-0), which re-entered the national rankings for the first time since losing to Washington two games into the season.

"We've still got a lot of football to play," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. "We've still got a lot to play for. We're not out of this by any stretch of the imagination. We just don't control our own destiny."

That Fresno State lost to five-time WAC champion Boise State wasn't as surprising as the way the Bulldogs did so.

The Bulldogs never established the running game, which, entering Friday, had generated three straight 200-plus yard games. Fresno State had the No. 19 running offense in the nation before Friday. But it dropped seven spots with a 190-yard average after registering just 89 yards.

Fresno State played without starting running back Lonyae Miller, who was sidelined with a knee injury. His status for this week's game against Utah State (0-8, 0-4) remains unclear. Miller averages 57.4 rushing yards and helps soften defenses with his north-south running style. He often has set up true freshman Ryan Mathews to come in later for explosive runs.

Mathews was held to 49 yards on 15 carries, the longest going for 9 yards.

But the injury that seemed to hurt the Bulldogs most was to starting center Joe Bernardi, who went down in the second half with a knee injury and is expected to miss the remainder of the season.

Bernardi, a redshirt freshman, was not a starter at the beginning of the year but had started the past five games. The offensive line appeared to be playing with cohesiveness with Bernardi calling the line-blocking audibles.

Instead, the Bulldogs moved Ryan Wendell back from left guard to center, where the senior started the first two games. And three-year starter Cole Popovich got extensive playing time again at left guard, but the junior was returning from a five-game absence because of a knee injury.

"Got beat up front, obviously," Hill said when asked why the running game struggled against Boise State. "They won the battle in the trenches."

Because of it, Fresno State's offense never got in sync and were held to 15 first downs.

"We thought we had a pretty good game plan to run the ball," quarterback Tom Brandstater said. "That did put a little damper on our game plan.

"We had glimpses of it, and then we'd make a few mistakes, basically tread water for a little while."

And of course, Fresno State continues to have problems with its run defense, which yielded 282 yards.

"We knew they had a good running game," linebacker Marcus Riley said. "Their offensive line is one of the top in the nation."

How do the Bulldogs plan on getting back on track?

For starters, they host Utah State, which has lost 18 of its past 19 games.

Then again, that lone Aggies victory was against the Bulldogs.

"Not going to dwell on it," Brandstater said. "We're not going to let this game put us down."

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