10:00 PM ET, September 30, 2006
Bulldog Stadium, FRESNO, CA
FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- Caleb Hanie passed for 248 yards and three touchdowns, and Damon Morton returned a punt 58 yards for a score in Colorado State's 35-23 victory over struggling Fresno State on Saturday night.
Morton, Luke Roberts and tight end Kory Sperry caught TD passes as the Rams (3-1) rallied from a halftime deficit with 21 straight points. Morton had five catches for 103 yards as Colorado State bounced back from a lifeless loss at Nevada two weeks ago with a poised victory in Bulldog Stadium -- usually among the West Coast's toughest road stops.
But Morton's blazing return on the final play of the third quarter quieted a Fresno crowd witnessing consecutive home losses for the first time in coach Pat Hill's 10 seasons. Fresno State (1-3) lost 31-24 at home to Oregon on Sept. 9 before a one-point loss at Washington two weeks ago.
"Offensively, we were not in sync," Hill said. "We just couldn't get into a rhythm. We did not run the ball effectively ... I think we've got good football players, but are we a good football team right now? The answer is no."
Tom Brandstater was just 19-of-42 for 205 yards, throwing three interceptions as the Bulldogs got off to only their second 1-3 start since 1998 -- Hill's second year at Fresno State, and his only losing season. The 2002 squad also started 1-3, but recovered to reach a bowl game.
"It's hard, because we worked real hard during the week," linebacker Dwayne Andrews said. "We put a lot of stuff in the bank, and we expect to get dividends. We're not getting the payback right now."
Sperry had a 53-yard TD catch in the second quarter, and Roberts put Colorado State ahead for good with a 14-yard TD reception midway through the third quarter from Hanie, who went 15-of-23.
Morton added a 41-yard scoring catch with 9½ minutes to play for the Rams, who open their Mountain West Conference schedule next weekend against UNLV.
"They're hurting a little bit at quarterback, and that was the difference," Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick said. "(Hanie) made those plays for us, and we ended up doing well."
Chastin West caught a TD pass for the Bulldogs, but the emotional fire that drove Hill's best teams still hasn't emerged in his latest bunch. Even tailback Dwayne Wright struggled, managing just 77 yards after getting more than 100 in each of Fresno State's first three games.
"They were just the better team tonight," Wright said. "They wanted it more, but now the preseason is over. We need to win the WAC, point-blank."
Fresno State's Josh Sherley returned a blocked punt 15 yards for a score with 5:56 to play, but the extra-point attempt was blocked.
Wright scored on a 1-yard dive on Fresno State's first drive, but Colorado State replied with Gartrell Johnson's 1-yard TD run. The Rams went ahead midway through the second quarter when Sperry caught a short pass from Hanie and rumbled through at least four potential tacklers on the way to the end zone.
Fresno State took a 17-14 halftime lead with a 66-yard scoring drive in the final minute, capped by West's 28-yard TD catch with 8 seconds left.
Fresno State's Clifton Smith returned Colorado State's first punt 35 yards the first time he touched the ball this season. The return specialist hadn't played since tearing ligaments in his left knee in the second game of 2005.
Bulldog Stadium's $1.7 million replay board debuted at the game, but malfunctioned for much of the second half.
"We have this big replay board. I didn't see a replay," Hill said.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||7-17||2-13|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||0-2|
|TD||10:11||DWAYNE WRIGHT 1 YD RUN (CLINT STITSER KICK)|
Drive info: 4 plays, 52 yards.
|TD||5:00||GARTRELL JOHNSON III 1 YD RUN (JASON SMITH KICK)|
Drive info: 11 plays, 80 yards.
|FG||8:52||CLINT STITSER 43 YD FG|
Drive info: 6 plays, 29 yards.
|TD||6:29||KORY SPERRY 53 YD PASS FROM CALEB HANIE (JASON SMITH KICK)|
Drive info: 5 plays, 67 yards.
|TD||0:08||CHASTIN WEST 28 YD PASS FROM TOM BRANDSTATER (CLINT STITSER KICK)|
Drive info: 6 plays, 66 yards.
|TD||6:54||LUKE ROBERTS 14 YD PASS FROM CALEB HANIE (JASON SMITH KICK)|
Drive info: 9 plays, 67 yards.
|TD||0:00||DAMON MORTON 58 YD PUNT RETURN (JASON SMITH KICK)||28||17|
|TD||9:26||DAMON MORTON 41 YD PASS FROM CALEB HANIE (JASON SMITH KICK)|
Drive info: 3 plays, 60 yards.
|TD||5:56||JOSH SHERLEY 15 YD BLOCKED PUNT RETURN (BLOCKED XP)||35||23|