Dec 31, 2003
By JANIE McCAULEY
AP Sports Writer
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Pat Hill used to watch Rodney Davis grind out yards in the snow and mud in high school - so Fresno State's coach knew the star senior would be well suited for the conditions Tuesday night.
Davis rushed for 77 yards to win his second straight Silicon Valley Classic offensive MVP award in Fresno State's 17-9 victory over UCLA on a messy field at Spartan Stadium.
"I just had to fight through it and stick with it," Davis said. "I've played on fields like this for a long time. The mud is no problem."
It sure seemed to be bad for the Bruins.
UCLA (6-7) lost its last five games to turn what once was a promising season into a disappointment under first-year coach Karl Dorrell. The inefficient offense was again the culprit, going 2-for-14 on third-down conversions.
"I expected to play a whole lot better than we played," Dorrell said. "For us to play like that, it shows where we're at, and we're not a very good football team right now. ... That's been the story of our year, and that's got to change."
Bryson Sumlin made his first career touchdown catch and also ran for a score for Fresno State (9-5), which made its school-record fifth straight bowl appearance and fourth in a row in this game.
Sumlin, a sophomore backup who began his Fresno State career as a cornerback, capitalized on two big chances to score and helped the Bulldogs beat the Bruins for the first time in six meetings.
And once again, the Bulldogs seized the opportunity to spoil things for a bigger, more prominent program in a game dominated by defense.
Paul Pinegar passed for 133 yards, but Fresno State didn't exactly need a prolific offense to beat the inept Bruins, who managed just 164 total yards - 97 in one series shortly before halftime.
Manuel Sanchez intercepted Bruins quarterback Drew Olson with 2:42 left and several Bulldogs celebrated their win by sliding face-first through the mud.
"Our defense just played awesome the whole game," Hill said.
Fresno State seemed to be in control until a drive midway through the third quarter in which a series of mistakes left the Bulldogs facing fourth-and-37. Asi Faoa blocked the ensuing punt in the end zone for a UCLA safety.
Later in the quarter, Pinegar fumbled when he attempted to throw and left Fresno State stranded at its own 1. But the Bruins bailed out the Bulldogs by roughing punter Mike Lingua, and UCLA never mounted another significant drive.
The Bruins swore they were happy with their less than glamorous bowl destination, but they sure didn't play that way. UCLA seemed disinterested and disorganized, struggling to stop Fresno State's offense and failing to move the ball through the air or on the ground while falling behind 17-0 early in the second quarter.
"Same old song and dance, you know what I mean," UCLA defensive end Dave Ball said.
After Fresno State stopped UCLA on fourth-and-1 late in the first quarter, Pinegar completed a 44-yard TD pass to Sumlin, who also had a 1-yard scoring run earlier in the period.
"We're not a very good football team right now. That's been the story of our year, and that's got to change."
First-year coach Karl Dorrell
UCLA starting safety Jarrad Page was ejected 5 seconds later after apparently throwing the final shove in a scuffle involving many players. Dorrell hollered at referee David Witvoet as they ran they off the field at halftime.
Dorrell admitted Monday that he had turned down opportunities to play Fresno State during the regular season, essentially because the Bruins have nothing to gain by facing the upset-minded Bulldogs.
Fresno State lost the first two Silicon Valley Classics, including a thrilling last-second defeat on a failed fake field goal in the inaugural game. The Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech in the game last season, overcoming several injuries for the school's first bowl victory since 1992.
The win makes the Western Athletic Conference 3-0 this bowl season. Boise State beat TCU 34-31 in the Fort Worth Bowl and Hawaii defeated Houston 54-48 in triple overtime in the Hawaii Bowl. The last WAC team to play will be Tulsa, which faces Georgia Tech in the Humanitarian Bowl on Saturday.