Tech dropped its third straight bowl game in the Humanitarian Bowl on New Year’s Eve against Fresno State, 40-28. The teams played in front of nearly 30,000 fans.
The team was being coached by interim coach Jon Tenuta, who was in his last game as part of Tech’s coaching staff. He had informed new head coach Paul Johnson of his plans to leave the university at the end of the game.
On the opening drive, the offense was able to play well enough to score a touchdown on its first drive, something the team has done several times this season. They took a 7-0 lead. On Fresno State’s ensuing drive, the Bulldogs had a three and out and had to punt.
Unfortunately, the Jackets’ one-score lead and strong start soon turned into a three-score deficit. They allowed 27 unanswered points and Tech found themselves playing from behind, something the team has been unable to do. They did not win a game in which they trailed by more than seven at any point this season and won only one game when trailing at the half.
On the five scoring drives that totaled 27 points, the Fresno State offense averaged about eight plays per drive and almost 73 yards. In the end, the Bulldogs moved at will on Tech for most of the game, totaling 570 yards. The passing and the rushing each went for 285 yards. They were also 8-for-11 on third down plays, stretching out long drives even further.
The defense that led the nation in sacks also failed to sack Fresno State’s QB, Tom Brandstater. He finished with one of his best games of the year, throwing the ball for 285 yards on 23-for-30 passing and one touchdown.
Still, the team’s offensive star was senior Clifton Smith, who had 152 yards on just 18 carries. He added two touchdowns to his total for his last game in a Bulldog uniform.
Tech senior Durant Brooks also had an impressive game in his last time playing for the Jackets. On one particular punt, he was able to evade the rush of Fresno State, sidestep, and still punt the ball. It was one of the many plays that helped pin Fresno State back in its own territory. The defense was unable to capatilize on field position and allowed long drives.
In the second half, Tech came alive and was able to close the deficit to six points behind the running of Jonathan Dwyer, who scored two touchdowns on a two-yard and 36-yard run. The team had a rushing total of 161 yards, including 69 from Choice and 37 from Josh Nesbitt.
Late in the game, the Jackets had a chance at a come back when Daryl Richard was able to recover a fumble in Tech’s red zone, but the offense was unable to capitalize and Smith ran in for the game clinching touchdown.
Tech played many of its younger and more inexperienced players during the second half of the game. It could have seemed like an audition for Johnson, who watched from the stands.
Dwyer was able to establish a rushing game that was largely ineffective during the first half, replacing an injured Tashard Choice.
Taylor Bennett was efficient in the first half but suffered an injury and did not play in the second half.
While no decisions have been made, Bennett may have to compete with the other quarterbacks for time in the option defense Coach Johnson has planned.
The Jackets showed flashes of what may be to come next season. They had three quarterbacks in for at least some time in the game. Bennett made the start, but Calvin Booker and Nesbitt split time in the second half.
Bennett finished with 91 yards on 9-for-15 passing and one touchdown. Booker threw for 116 yards on 7-for-15 shooting. He also had one touchdown and an interception.
Tech lost to Fresno State back in 2002 as well in the Silicon Valley Football Classic. That game was also former head coach Chan Gailey’s first bowl game.
The last time Tech was in the Humanitarian Bowl, they dominated Tulsa, easily winning 52-10. Former running back P.J. Daniels had over 300 yards rushing in the game and scored four touchdowns.
Tech finished at 7-6 .