It was a win for the ages for the Fresno State Bulldogs on Sept. 18 against No. 13 ranked UCLA. With 14 seconds left to go in the game, Bulldogs’ quarterback Jake Haener connected with receiver Jalen Cropper on a 13-yard touchdown pass that gave the Bulldogs the programs biggest win in years.
After the victory, the Bulldogs players celebrated with thousands of the Red Wave who invaded The Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Fresno State is now ranked No. 22 in the Associated Press poll and No. 25 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, both were released on Sept. 19.
"I think the biggest thing was the belief that we would win. There was never a question coming into the game and we fought for all four quarters,” said Kalen DeBoer, Fresno State head coach. “We know what we are capable of. The best thing about this game, is that there aren't any regrets. We missed opportunities and we know that, but we just focused on those last seven minutes of the game. It was a great team effort. The defense did their job when the offense needed them, and the offense came through at the end with two touchdowns when we really needed it."
Fresno State took the early 6-0 lead with 5:54 left in the first quarter, on a one-yard touchdown run by Ronnie Rivers. UCLA answered right back on the ensuing possession and took the 7-6 lead when running back Zach Charbonnet ran in a six-yard touchdown.
The Bulldogs scored 17 of the next 20 points in the game to take a 23-10 lead into halftime. Cropper and Rivers each had touchdown runs in the second quarter, while Abe Montano added a field goal.
After a sloppy third quarter by both teams, Fresno State held a 26-17 lead heading into the fourth quarter. That is where the fun starter.
The Bruins made it 26-24 on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Dorian Thompson-Robinson to Kyle Phillips with 8:10 left in the game. After the Bulldogs fumbled the ball on the ensuing possession, the Bruins recovered and took the lead 30-26 with 7:27 left in the game.
Fresno State, now trailing for the first time since the first quarter, answered right back on the ensuing possession when Haener completed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Erik Brooks with 2:55 left in the game. This gave Fresno State a 33-30 lead.
UCLA once again responded and scored when Thompson-Robinson connected with Phillips on a touchdown pass that gave UCLA a 37-33 with 54 seconds left in the game.
The Bulldogs, who had suffered a heartbreaking loss to now ranked No. 3 Oregon on Sept. 4, once again had a chance to win the game.
Haener, who was playing hurt and winced after every throw on the final drive, led the Bulldogs 75 yards down the field in 40 seconds and scored when he connected with Cropper. This sent the Bulldogs players on the sidelines and the fans into a frenzy.
“It feels amazing,” Cropper said. “It is a dream come true. Being able to score and put the game away for our team. We had trust in the defense to get that last stop. The feeling is surreal and to see everybody faces happy and screaming on the sidelines, it is a different feeling.”
After the game, Haener was in disbelief of what had just happened.
“Oh my God, what just happened,” Haener said to media on the field after the game. “Fresno State is back; we are ready to take on anybody. Anybody, Anytime, Anywhere.”
Haener finished the game with 455 yards and two touchdowns. Rivers had 21 rushes for 144 yards and two touchdowns. Cropper had 14 receptions for 141 yards and one touchdown. He also had the one rushing touchdown.
Fresno State’s defense was led by Evan Williams who recorded 12 tackles. Aaron Mosby and Tyson Maeva each added six tackles.
The Bulldogs return home to Bulldog Stadium on Friday, Sept. 24 when they play UNLV.