After UCLA defeated SEC powerhouse LSU, no one expected Fresno State to defeat the Bruins in last Saturday’s game at the Rose Bowl. Then Jake Haener threw a thirteen-yard touchdown in the last fourteen seconds, bringing the Bulldogs to victory. This under-bulldog story isn’t the whole story, however. In fact, it’s only the latest episode in a long rivalry.
The first game where the Bruins and the Bulldogs went head-to-head was 34 years ago, in September of 1987. In Pasadena, Fresno State suffered a loss of zero to seventeen. The Bulldogs didn’t play UCLA again until 1995, where the Bruins once again claimed victory.
Fresno State wasn’t able to turn it around until the 2003 Silicon Valley Football Classic when they finally snatched a seventeen-to-nine-point victory. They eked out another victory in 2008 but weren’t to face UCLA again for ten years. In 2018, they won a resounding victory in Rose Bowl Stadium.
This year, however, UCLA was set to break Fresno State’s win streak. With their best team since 2017 and a breathtaking victory against the LSU tigers, UCLA seemed set for success. Then the game began, and senior quarterback Jake Haener threw for a season-high 455 yards.
Despite the general consensus that Fresno State would lose, Head Coach Kalen DeBoer said, “There was never a question coming into the game and we fought for all four quarters. We know what we are capable of. The best thing about this game is that there aren’t any regrets. We missed opportunities and we know that, but we just focused on those last seven minutes of the game. It was a great team effort. The defense did their job when the offense needed them, and the offense came through at the end with two touchdowns when we really needed it.”
The game once again showed that Fresno State is a team to be reckoned with. The Bulldogs’ in-state rivals will have to hope for another bowl game to make an attempt at victory.