We said in our preview that Fresno State has years of reveling in the experience of playing Power Five schools, especially from the Pac-12. Point proved as Fresno State throttles Washington State, 29-6 in the second year of the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl.
The afternoon started with WAZZU paying tribute to their former coach Mike Leach who died from heart failure earlier in the week.
For The Pirate🏴☠️#GoCougs | #WAZZU | #JimmyKimmelLABowl pic.twitter.com/jnJu9cyDtN
— Washington State Football (@WSUCougarFB) December 17, 2022
The motivation to represent Leach did not bear out results on the field. Fresno State controlled the game early and throughout.
Fresno State Up Early
On the opening drive of the game Bulldogs quarterback, Jake Haener took Fresno State downfield on a 75-yard scoring drive. He was four of four passing for 67 of the 75 yards. On first down at the Washington State 22-yard line, he connected with Zane Pope in the front corner of the end zone for the touchdown and the early lead.
Even with a missed field goal on their second possession of the game, Fresno State was in control. The Bulldogs’ defense held WSU three-and-out drives on the first two Cougars’ possessions.
WSU Can’t Find Its Offense
Early in the second quarter, Washington State coach Jake Dickert took a chance on his offense and quarterback Cameron Ward. They were in dire need of offensive momentum. So Dickert went for it on fourth and one from his own 23-yard line. Ward’s pass was incomplete and Fresno State took over. They needed just four plays to convert. Jordan Mims picked up the last four yards sprinting to the left corner and getting just inside the pylon for the 14-0 Fresno State lead.
It went from bad to worse for Washington State. Lincoln Victor tried returning the ensuing kickoff but made it to only his own 13-yard line. The Cougars were also called for holding on the play, taking back half the yards. Three plays later, Ward was scrambling in his own end zone and stepped on the end line for the safety. Fresno State’s lead was quickly up to 16-0 and WSU had no signs of life on offense.
With the two-score lead at halftime, Fresno State had outgained Washington State 296 yards to 59.
Too Little Too Late For Cougars
It took Washington State its third drive of the third quarter before the Cougars showed a sign of life. Nearly 12 minutes into the quarter, WSU finally got on the board. Ward engineered a nine-play, 60-yard drive that ended with Nakia Watson bulling up the middle for a one-yard touchdown run. The two-point conversion failed so even with the touchdown Fresno State still had a two-score lead at 16-6. And because WSU took so long to generate any offense, and then burned 4:32 on the scoring drive, there was little sense the Cougars were back in the game.
Fresno State put the game away with what was left of the third quarter. The Bulldogs went 75 yards in 3:04. Mims picked up 51 yards on two carries, gashing the right side of the WSU defensive line. Then Haener hooked up with Nikko Rogeiro for the 11-yard touchdown completion. The PAT was no good but the Fresno State lead was 22-6.
FSU Puts It Away
Early in the fourth quarter, with its collective backs against the wall, Washington State had to go for it on fourth and four at its own 37-yard line . Ward’s pass was batted down and Fresno State took over looking to take the final bite out of the WSU.
From the two-yard line, Mims took the direct snap and barely stretched the ball over the goal line before being pulled down. Mantono’s PAT kick was good and Fresno State’s lead was up to 29-6.
From that point, it was just a matter of Haener controlling the flow of the offense. Washington State’s offense never posed any further threat in the fourth quarter.
Washington State managed only 182 yards of total offense for the day. Ward was 22 of 32 but for only 137 tards passing. Washington State finished the season 7-6 and the Cougars have lost three straight bowl games.
Haener finished the game 24 of 36 for 284 yards and two touchdown passes. Considering he was told his season was over when he broke his ankle against USC back in week three of the season, it was a perfectly good ending. The Bulldogs finished the season 10-3, Mountain West champions, and LA Bowl champions.