FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- The team that nearly knocked off No. 1
Southern California now can't even win in the WAC.
Matt Kubik threw three touchdown passes, and Louisiana Tech
capitalized on five turnovers to deny No. 23 Fresno State a share
of the Western Athletic Conference title with a 40-28 victory
"We had everything going for us. We controlled our destiny and
we screwed it up," Fresno State defensive lineman Garrett McIntyre
said. "I don't think this team knows how to handle success very
well. We proved that the last three games."
Fresno State (8-4, 6-2) was in control of the WAC after ending a
four-game losing streak to Boise State with a 27-7 win Nov. 10.
Then came the trip to Los Angeles when Fresno State put a scare
into USC and caught the attention of the nation before falling
That led to a Liberty Bowl bid even though Fresno State had two
games left and hadn't wrapped up the conference title. The emotions
of the two big games appeared to have taken a toll on Fresno State,
which lost 38-35 at Nevada last week before the collapse against
Louisiana Tech (7-4, 6-2).
"I watched the USC game and said, 'Oh my god," Louisiana Tech
coach Jack Bicknell said. "To come out here to this place and do
this is unbelievable."
Boise State and Nevada are co-champions of the WAC. Louisiana
Tech tied Fresno State for third, but its chances at a bowl bid are
slim. Louisiana Tech could go to the Las Vegas Bowl if Oregon makes
the BCS and or the Motor City Bowl if Ohio State goes to the BCS.
"These kids certainly deserve to go," Bicknell said. "I don't
know how the whole thing works."
Kubik threw two TD passes in the final 2:03 of the first half to
put Louisiana Tech in control and added a 30-yarder to Eric Newman
in the third quarter after Fresno State scored on its first drive
of the second half. He finished 13-for-22 for 251 yards.
Freddie Franklin, who missed the last three games with a
sprained ankle, ran for 120 yards and a touchdown. Newman caught
three passes for 93 yards and two touchdowns.
Paul Pinegar went 33-for-54 for 358 yards and three
interceptions in his final home start, with most of the yardage
coming after Louisiana Tech took the big lead. Pinegar threw eight
interceptions in his final three games after throwing only five in
the first nine.
"We knew what we had in front of us. We had two chances to win
at least a co-championship and we didn't get it done," Pinegar
said. "It's frustrating, especially being a senior, that we didn't
get it done."
Pinegar threw three touchdown passes, and Quaadir Brown returned
a fumble 77 yards for a score in the second half but it wasn't
enough to overcome a mistake-filled first half.
Fresno State fumbled twice, threw two interceptions, botched a
field-goal attempt, committed a personal foul to extend a touchdown
drive and another penalty to negate a touchdown of its own, helping
Louisiana Tech break out to a 26-3 lead.
"I really don't have any answers right now," coach Pat Hill
said. "I don't understand five turnovers. I don't understand the
personal fouls we had in that game. I really don't have the answers
to those things."
Both teams drove inside the 10 on their opening drives only to
settle for field goals. Fresno State had a kickoff return for a
touchdown by Adam Jennings called back because of a holding call on
Richard Marshall before Kyle Zimmerman's 24-yard field goal.
Fresno State then botched a field goal attempt when holder Jason
Christensen got the ball down a little late and Zimmerman decided
not to attempt a kick.
Kubik hit a wide-open Mark Dillard on a 49-yard pass on the next
play, but Fresno State appeared to hold when Kubik was forced to
throw the ball away on third down from the 4. Louis Leonard,
however, hit Kubik late to give Louisiana Tech a first down, and
Dillard ran it in from the 2.
Pinegar threw interceptions on the next two drives, setting up
two touchdown passes by Kubik: a 17-yarder to Newman and a
52-yarder to Johnathan Holland with 28 seconds left in the half.