No. 20 Oregon 31, Fresno State 24
FRESNO, Calif. (AP)—Oregon’s two biggest plays in the second half came after the Ducks lined up for field goals. And get this, neither time did the ball split the uprights.
Kicker Paul Martinez scored on a 4-yard run on a fake field goal with 4:55 left and No. 20 Oregon also scored one play after Fresno State botched a blocked field goal, beating the Bulldogs 31-24 Saturday night.
“Two field goal attempts turn into 14 points. That’s obviously the difference in the ballgame,” Fresno State coach Pat Hill said.
After another narrow win against the Bulldogs, the Ducks (2-0) return home next week with a showdown against No. 15 Oklahoma.
They’ll feel lucky to survive this one. With the score tied at 24 late in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs (1-1) stopped the Ducks on third-and-goal from the 4.
Holder Brady Leaf then took the snap for the field goal and ran to his left, drawing the outside defender.
“The way they lined up I thought we had it,” Leaf said. “I had one-on-one on the outside guy and knew I had Paul there. I just had to get him to commit to me and get Paul the ball.”
Leaf did just that, tossing the ball to Martinez on the option play. Martinez stumbled in from the 4 for his first touchdown in eight years of playing football.
“He’s a kicker. He doesn’t run the ball,” running back Jeremiah Johnson said. “But he got into the end zone and got some points. That’s all that matters.”
Coach Mike Bellotti called the play after seeing the Bulldogs block Martinez’s previous attempt, but gave Leaf the option to audible out of the fake if Fresno State had more help this time on the outside.
Martinez didn’t know what Leaf had decided to do until after the ball was snapped.
“I started going at the ball to kick it,” he said. “Once I saw him stand up and pick up the ball, that’s when I took off and ran behind him.”
Oregon’s previous touchdown was also set up on a key play from a field goal after Fresno State tied it at 17 on Dwayne Wright’s 1-yard run on the opening drive of the second half.
The Bulldogs appeared to seize the momentum when Bear Pascoe blocked Martinez’s 36-yard field goal attempt. But instead of letting the ball roll dead and taking possession, Fresno State’s Ryan Machado tried to recover the ball. The ball squirted loose and Matt Toeaina recovered at the 5 for the Ducks. Johnson ran it in on the next play to make it 24-17.
“That was pretty cool,” Martinez said. “It turned out to be good because we got more points. But it’s not fun getting that field goal blocked. Luckily, it turned out for the best.”
Fresno State answered with a 74-yard drive to open the fourth quarter, started by a 40-yard run by Wright. Brandstater added a key 15-yard scramble on second-and-14 to set up his own 1-yard score that tied it at 24.
Johnson ran for 74 yards and two touchdowns and set up two scores with long punt returns as he starred in place of injured starter Jonathan Stewart.
Stewart, who sprained his right ankle after running for 168 yards last week against Stanford, made the most of his one carry against the Bulldogs by scoring on a 3-yard run in the first quarter but didn’t feel healthy enough to stay in the game.
Dennis Dixon was 33-for-36 for 240 yards for the Ducks, adding a few key scrambles as well. Jaison Williams had six catches for 106 yards, but also had some key drops.
Dwayne Wright ran 29 times for 154 yards and a score for the Bulldogs, who are 0-5 against Oregon under Hill. They lost twice in overtime, by three points last year and by four points in 2002. This one was just as tough, coming on a fake field goal.
“That caught us by surprise,” Hill said. “It takes a lot of courage to run a fake field goal in a tie ballgame.”
Fresno State got the sellout crowd into a frenzy after just the first play from scrimmage when Ahijah Lane stripped the ball from receiver Jordan Kent and Dwayne Andrews recovered at the Oregon 45. That set up a 32-yard field goal from Clint Stitser that gave the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.
Johnson’s 20-yard punt return set up his own 5-yard TD run late in the first quarter to make it 14-3 and his 27-yard punt return set up a 38-yard field goal by Martinez with 38 second left in the half to make it 17-10.
Brandstater struggled in the opening half, going 8-for-19 for 56 yards and an interception. Most of his completions were short balls, including a 4-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Fairman early in the second quarter.