BOISE, Idaho (AP) -- A year ago, Pat Hill was sitting at home
during bowl season wondering if his Fresno State program could be
The fallout of a 4-8 season meant re-establishing the Bulldogs'
identity. The task was placed before seniors like Tyler Clutts and
Clifton Smith to make sure winning was again the norm in
California's Central Valley.
"It was not an easy task," Hill said.
The Bulldogs responded, and capped their rebound season by
adding Georgia Tech -- again -- to their list of conquests from BCS
Smith rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns, Tom Brandstater
threw for a score and ran for another and the Bulldogs beat Georgia
Tech 40-28 in the Roady's Humanitarian Bowl on Monday.
Fresno State finished the season 9-4, winning eight of its final
10 and thinking big about 2008, when a talented team will return
with aspirations of following Western Athletic Conference brethren
Boise State and Hawaii into a BCS bowl game.
"We let it get away there one year and it just can't happen,"
Hill said. "We've got too much riding today in college football."
It's Fresno State's second bowl win over Georgia Tech, after
beating the Yellow Jackets 30-21 in the 2002 Silicon Valley
Football Classic, and it made the Bulldogs 3-0 against the ACC in
bowls. Fresno State has won four of its last five bowl games, all
four wins coming against teams from the six conferences with
automatic bids to the Bowl Championship Series.
While Fresno State can use its surprising offensive eruption as
a building block for next year, Georgia Tech will be starting from
Interim coach Jon Tenuta, who took over when Chan Gailey was
fired after six seasons, was added to the list of winless stopgap
coaches this postseason, joining DeWayne Walker (UCLA), Gary
Darnell (Texas A&M) and Chris Thurmond (Houston).
While new coach Paul Johnson watched from the press box as a
fan, the Yellow Jackets defense, orchestrated by Tenuta, was
exposed after being one of the better units in the ACC.
Fresno State scored 27 consecutive points after Tech jumped
ahead 7-0, and rolled up 571 yards of total offense, the most
allowed by the Yellow Jackets this season. Georgia Tech, which led
the country in sacks with 47, never got to Brandstater.
"It's tough, it really is," Tenuta said. "We just didn't play
well. We started out pretty good, but we didn't tackle well and
gave up too many big plays."
Brandstater was Tech's biggest problem early on, before Smith
took over with 135 yards rushing in the second half and both of his
TDs. Brandstater even added a 24-yard TD run in the third quarter,
behind an escort from tight end Bear Pascoe.
But it was his first half that was most impressive, when
Brandstater directed scoring drives of 82, 90 and 91 yards, and the
Bulldogs scored 17 points in the second quarter, including 10 in
the final 2 minutes.
Brandstater, who finished 23 of 30 passing, threw a 3-yard TD
pass to Drew Lubinsky with 1:54 left in the half, the first catch
of the junior's college career.
Georgia Tech drove to the Fresno 47, but on fourth down with 23
seconds left, quarterback Taylor Bennett was sacked. Brandstater
then completed three straight passes and Clint Stitser kicked a
39-yard field goal, his second of the half, to give the Bulldogs a
Smith then started the second half with a 43-yard TD run to give
Fresno State a 27-7 lead.
"It took some physical runs and efficient passing to move down
the field," Brandstater said. "They contested every play, but our
guys [were] digging deep and pushing into them. Nothing was easy
about that game."
Tenuta's team did show some fight after falling behind.
Using young, skill-position backups trying to make an impression
on Johnson, the Yellow Jackets got within 34-28 early in the fourth
quarter. Backup running back Jonathan Dwyer, taking over for a
mostly ineffective Tashard Choice in the third quarter because of
an injury, rushed for 62 yards and had touchdown runs of 36 and 2
"The main thing with all of us is that if we're going to go
out, we're going to go out with a fight," Dwyer said.
Backup quarterback Calvin Booker, in for injured starter Taylor Bennett, threw a towering jump ball that D.J. Donley wrestled from Fresno State defensive backs Moses Harris and Damion Owens, pulling
the Yellow Jackets within six with 13:06 left.
Brandstater tried to answer, leading the Bulldogs inside the
Tech 10. But wide receiver Marlon Moore, who scored on a 6-yard run
in the first half, fumbled on a hit by safety Joe Gaston. After
Darryl Richard recovered, the Bulldogs' defense held and Smith
capped his career-best day with a 32-yard sprint with 1:50
"It was a great way for me to go out," Smith said. "I've had
my ups and downs at Fresno State, but the good always outweighed
the bad and this is just a sweet ending for me."