Dejonte O’Neal’s first career touchdown broke the ice and Dontel James’ 17-yard scoring run all but iced the game as Fresno State beat Sacramento State 31-3, pulling away from the FCS Hornets with three fourth-quarter touchdowns Saturday night at Bulldog Stadium.
Chason Virgil threw for touchdowns of 4 and 11 yards to KeeSean Johnson to complete the scoring.
The first came following a Tyquwan Glass interception and made it 24-3 with 10:45 remaining.
Kody Kroening kicked a short field goal that gave the Bulldogs (1-1) a 10-0 lead before Sacramento State pulled back within seven in the closing seconds of the first half in front of 31,817 on hand for the home opener.
A scoreless third quarter left the Hornets (0-2) within a touchdown and PAT of a massive upset, but the Bulldogs strung together a five-play 64-yard drive that ended with James’ touchdown 36 seconds into the fourth to make it 17-3. Virgil, a redshirt freshman, was 3 of 3 for 39 yards on the drive.
Fresno State finished with a 474-185 edge in total yards and 27-7 in first downs. Sacramento State converted 3 of 16 third downs.
Virgil, after going 11 of 23 for 116 yards in the first half, finished 22 of 42 for 274 yards. Jamire Jordan caught seven passes for 100 yards and Johnson seven for 82. James ran for 121 yards on 27 carries.
Sacramento State sophomore quarterback Nate Ketteringham, pulled late in the game, was held to 9-of-25 passing for 89 yards.
O’Neal rushed 8 yards with 62 seconds left in the first quarter, capping a seven-play, 48-yard drive set up by Jamal Ellis’ interception of Ketteringham.
That ended what had been a stalemate, with Fresno State seeing its only other promising first-quarter drive stall at the Hornets 33 before a punt.
Kroening kicked a 21-yard field goal with 7:21 left in the second quarter. That came after sophomore tight end Kyle Riddering dropped a pass in the end zone.
Sacramento State (0-2) capitalized on a Fresno State error just before halftime. Devon Medeiros kicked a 44-yard field goal after the Bulldogs botched a punt return, with the Hornets recovering at the 27 with 6 seconds remaining.
Until then, the Hornets’ best work had come via a few big plays that, while not leading to scores, did flip field position.
Facing first-and-10 from the 1 on the Hornets’ second possession of the game, Ketteringham threw 44 yards to Cody Demps. On its next possession, Sacramento State began at its 11 but Jordan Robinson ran 14 yards and Ketteringham passed 9 yards to John McGill.
Sacramento State also came up with the first turnover, when Nick Crouch picked off Virgil near midfield. But two plays later, Ellis’ interception gave the ball right back to the Bulldogs.
Virgil connected on his first pass, a 17-yarder to Aaron Peck on first down, failed to connect on five straight, but then hit 7 of 10 in one first-half stretch.
James ran 17 times for 58 yards and Virgil had 22 yards on three runs as Fresno State had 203 yards of total offense through two quarters, compared to Sacramento State’s 117.