8:00 PM ET, November 30, 2007
Aggie Memorial Stadium, Las Cruces, NM
LAS CRUCES, N.M. -- Fresno State's Anthony Harding delivered a career rushing performance last weekend, then topped it again.
The sophomore running back had a career-high 121 yards rushing on a slippery field and freshman Ryan Mathews ran for another 99 yards, leading the Bulldogs to a 30-23 win over New Mexico State on Friday night.
Bowl-bound Fresno State (8-4, 6-2 Western Athletic Conference) improved to 14-0 all-time against New Mexico State (4-9, 1-7) and rebounded from a 4-8 season in 2006, the school's only dip in a decade of success.
Now, they'll wait to see which bowl game offers an invitation.
"I'm proud of these guys for turning it around from 4-8 to 8-4," coach Pat Hill said. "We have one more left. We don't know where we are going. We'll find out later, but I am excited about this team playing hard for 12 weeks."
As a steady rain fell, Fresno State relied on a ground attack and finished with 263 yards rushing compared with 92 for the Aggies.
"It was good," said Harding, who gained 115 yards rushing in last weekend's 45-29 win over Kansas State. "We found what we wanted to do and we exploited their weakness. We stuck with the plan -- running the ball and controlling the clock."
The only drawback for the Bulldogs was seeing Mathews leave in the fourth quarter with an muscle tear near his left collarbone, just 1 yard short of a 100-yard night. He won't play in the bowl game.
"It stinks because you don't want to see great backs go down," Harding said. "You've just got to be ready to come in and play. I've been preparing all season like I would get in."
The Bulldogs scored 24 straight points for a 30-13 lead after Harding's 6-yard TD run in the third quarter. During that burst, quarterback Tom Brandstater also had a 1-run plunge and Mathews scored on a 7-yard run.
But New Mexico State rallied with a 24-yard field goal from Paul Young and Holbrook's 1-yard TD run, trimming the margin to 30-23 with 5:43 remaining.
After Fresno's Clint Stitser missed a late 24-yard field goal attempt, the Aggies took over at their own 20 with 1:04 remaining but stalled on downs near midfield.
"It was kind of a reflection of our season," Aggies coach Hal Mumme said. "We were close the whole way, and we just needed to make a few more plays to pull out the victory."
Remarkably, neither team committed a turnover on a wet, cold night.
The Aggies were hoping to send retiring defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer out with a victory. The former Pittsburgh Steelers assistant and ex-head coach at Missouri and Vanderbilt worked the final game of a 40-year career.
The Bulldogs are bowl-eligible for the eighth time over the past nine seasons. One possibility is a return to New Mexico in a few weeks as the WAC's representative for the New Mexico Bowl in Albuquerque.
Other possible trips include WAC tie-ins with the Hawaii and Humanitarian bowls.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||6-14||6-18|
|4th Down Conversions||1-1||5-6|
|TD||13:56||Kenneth Buckley 66 Yd Pass From Chase Holbrook (Paul Young Kick) |
Drive: 3 plays, 80 yds, 1:04
|FG||11:11||Clint Stitser 20 Yd |
Drive: 7 plays, 53 yds, 2:45
|FG||03:20||Clint Stitser 24 Yd |
Drive: 13 plays, 76 yds, 6:30
|TD||14:49||Jeremiah Williams 3 Yd Run (Pat Blocked) |
Drive: 12 plays, 80 yds, 3:31
|DC||14:49||Damion Owens 89 Yd Off A Blocked Extra Point||8||13|
|TD||09:06||Tom Brandstater 1 Yd Run (Tom Brandstater Pass To Anthony Harding For Two-Point Conversion) |
Drive: 12 plays, 80 yds, 5:43
|TD||04:11||Ryan Mathews 7 Yd Run (Clint Stitser Kick) |
Drive: 7 plays, 75 yds, 3:20
|TD||08:40||Anthony Harding 6 Yd Run (Clint Stitser Kick) |
Drive: 5 plays, 38 yds, 2:20
|FG||04:30||Paul Young 24 Yd |
Drive: 12 plays, 65 yds, 4:10
|TD||05:43||Chase Holbrook 1 Yd Run (Paul Young Kick) |
Drive: 13 plays, 74 yds, 5:06