Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Sad Day in Bulldog History

Four years ago on this day, the Bulldogs suffered their most heartbreaking loss, ever, on the Island.

On Friday October 26, 2001, the 18th ranked Bulldogs went into Aloha Stadium fresh off their upset loss at home versus Boise State. Fresno State still controlled their own destiny to at least tie for a Western Athletic Conference title. The Bulldogs also still had the opportunity to have the best season in the history of the program.

With a 6-1 record, a national ranking, and with five games still left on the schedule, Fresno State had a great chance to finish in the top ten to end the season. Any shot at a Bowl Championship Series bowl game was gone, after the loss to the Broncos the week before.

The Bulldogs run game never got going rushing for only 68 yards on 33 attempts, but David Carr passed for a career high 400 yards and 4 touchdowns. It was not enough as Hawaii rallied for 22 fourth quarter points, aided by two Fresno State fumbles, for the 38-34 come from behind win.

Fresno State jumped out to a 10-0 lead early in the first quarter on a 8 yard touchdown pass from Carr to Charles Smith and a 35 yard field goal by Asen Asparuhov. Hawaii answered back with two Justin Ayat field goals. Carr added a 27 yard touchdown pass to Smith to build a commanding 17-6 lead with 10:07 left in the half.

Hawaii would answer with a 3 yard touchdown reception by Ashley Lelie to cut the lead to 6. Fresno State drove into field goal range and Asparuhov kicked a 35 yarder as time expired to gain the momentum heading into halftime.

The Bulldogs carried the momentum into the third quarter with David Shabaglian's 10 yard touchdown catch from Carr. Hawaii answered with another Ayat field goal, but the Bulldogs looked to be in control going into the final quarter of play leading 27-16.

Then all hell broke loose. Hawaii's quarterback Nick Rolovich, playing for the injured Timmy Chang, took over the game. His first of three fourth quarter touchdown passes pulled the Warriors with three, 27-24, after they successfully converted the two point conversion.

Then the first of two costly Bulldog fumbles occurred. Fresno State was about to add to their lead when the Bulldogs botched the center-quarterback exchange at the Warrior's 3 yard line. Hawaii would drive the length of the field for the go ahead score on Rolovich's second touchdown pass.

Carr and company fought back and answered the Warriors fury. Carr hit Rodney Wright on a 35 touchdown pass, and Fresno State took the lead, 34-31, with just under five minutes to play in the game.

The Bulldogs continued their late game perseverance by forcing the Warriors into a three-and-out, and got the ball back on their own 38 yard line with 3:22 to play. Then the unthinkable happened.

After Paris Gaines was stuffed for no gain on first down, Fresno State was forced into a passing situation on second down. Carr dropped back to pass and was hit from the blind side and fumbled the ball. Hawaii recovered, and drove down the field for winning score with :13 left in the game on a 13 yard touchdown pass from Rolovich to Lelie.

Freshman All-American Logan Mankins allowed only two sacks in 2001, but only one is remembered by Bulldog fans. His missed block was just one of few mistakes he would make in his historic career as a Bulldog. Mankins can not be blamed fully. If Fresno State had any sort of run game, the Bulldogs would not have been forced to pass in that situation.

For those who believe the 2001 Bulldog team was the best ever just have to look at this game. The 2005 Bulldogs are a complete team with a balanced offensive attack, an aggressive defense, and dominant special teams. The 2001 version had a great passing attack with Carr and a plethora of receivers, but could not run the ball when they had to.

The 2005 version would beat the 2001 team on any given day and twice on Sunday. The 2005 team will also do what few Bulldog teams have ever done. They will win on the Island.

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