FRESNO, Calif. (AP) -- Coach Pat Hill prefers a high degree of
difficulty for his season openers at Fresno State. This one wasn't
difficult at all, but Hill still came out pleased with his
Clifton Smith made two long punt returns for touchdowns, Wendell
Mathis rushed for three scores and 24th-ranked Fresno State began a
much-anticipated season with a 55-17 victory over Weber State on
Paul Pinegar went 14-of-18 for 189 yards and two TDs in his 25th
victory as a starter, leading Fresno State to a 42-3 lead before
halftime against the Division I-AA Wildcats (1-1).
While Weber State didn't exactly provide one of Fresno State's
usual early-season non-conference tests, the Bulldogs won their
seventh straight game with an offense that looks just as powerful
as most expected. Fresno State scored touchdowns on six of its
first seven possessions.
"It was good to see us come out for the first game and not miss
a beat offensively," Pinegar said. "We came away believing we can
execute our offense any time."
The victory might be costly for Fresno State's defense, however:
Garrett McIntyre, a star lineman and the preseason WAC defensive
player of the year, was taken to the locker room on a cart after
spraining his left ankle on the last play of the third quarter.
Hill was cautiously optimistic McIntyre will play next week, but
he'll be re-evaluated on Monday.
Smith, the Bulldogs' third-string tailback, provided two
impressive highlights. He returned a second-quarter punt 92 yards
for a score, cutting straight through the heart of Weber State's
coverage team -- and Smith then topped himself with a weaving,
herky-jerky 84-yard return in the third quarter, breaking several
tackles before reaching midfield and sprinting to the goal line.
"When I got here, I wanted to establish myself as one of the
best returners in college football," Smith said. "I really don't
know what I did and how I did it. It just happened."
Smith became the first Fresno State player to return two punts
for scores in the same game, and his 189 yards on returns also were
a school record.
Fresno State, ranked in the AP's preseason poll for the first
time, gets a more typically tough assignment next week at Oregon,
followed 10 days later by a Tuesday-night home game against Toledo.
"The tests will get more difficult as we go, and this week in
Eugene, we've got a very tough test for us," Hill said. "I'd
rather come out of the gates with a big game ... (but) the first
half was pretty darn good football."
This one turned into a laugher early: After Mathis' TD dive on
the opening drive, Tyrone Culver intercepted Ian Pizarro's pass on
Weber State's first play. Seven seconds later, Pinegar connected
with Jaron Fairman for a 28-yard score down the Weber State
Mathis had a 26-yard scoring run late in the first quarter, and
Adam Jennings later caught a beautiful 36-yard TD pass from
Pinegar. Fresno State was up by 39 points when Pizarro hit Lynzell
Jackson for a 32-yard score 22 seconds before halftime.
"Their defensive backs couldn't cover us, and we knew that
coming in," Jennings said.
Pizarro went 23-for-42 for 261 yards and two TDs for the
Wildcats, who beat Western State 61-0 last week in their opener.
"Not only were they a better football team, they were better
than us mentally and physically," Weber State coach Ron McBride
said. "We did some things mentally that were uncalled for, and
just put us in a hole."
Mathis has scored 11 touchdowns in his last six games dating to
last season, when Fresno State rode its late-season momentum to a
37-34 overtime victory over Virginia in the MPC Computers Bowl in
Mathis had 77 yards on just 14 carries -- running so well that
Bryson Sumlin, the other half of Fresno State's vaunted senior
tailback tandem, didn't even get the ball until the second half.
Sumlin finished with 68 yards rushing.
Pinegar has 19 TD passes and just three interceptions in the
seven games since Fresno State's three-game losing streak last
season, when fans booed the veteran quarterback and called for his
The game was a family reunion for McBride. His son-in-law, John
Baxter, is Fresno State's longtime associate head coach and special
"Fresno State does a good job with special teams. They are
well-coached," McBride said.
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