Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Fresno State's student-run newspaper

The Collegian

Column: In Purdue game, Fresno State delivers statement win in more ways than one

Blake Wolf
Wide receiver Josiah Freeman catches the the ball at Valley Children’s Stadium during one of the fall camp scrimmages.

On Dec. 5, 2009, the Fresno State football team went on the road to upset the University of Illinois, 53-52. If that seems significant, it’s because it is.  It had been 5,019 days since the Bulldogs went on the road and defeated a Big Ten opponent, one of the premiere conferences in college sports.

Last Saturday’s 39-35 victory for Fresno State over Purdue ended the drought in what marked the ‘Dogs third straight season with a victory and 41st overall over a current Power 5 opponent. 

In fact, they were the first Mountain West team since 2008 to defeat a Big Ten team on the road when Utah,which is now in the Pac-12, visited Ann Arbor, Michigan to beat the Wolverines 25-23. 

While Purdue is no Michigan or Ohio State, the program is no slouch and after winning the Big 10 West a year ago. The Boilermakers were poised to open the 2023 season with a bang at Ross-Ade Stadium celebrating its 100th year. 

Instead of a bang, it was a bag of money they would be handing over. 

As part of the agreement for inviting Fresno State onto its turf, the Boilermakers paid Fresno State $1.35M to make the trip to West Lafayette, Indiana and beat them. 

If that wasn’t embarrassing enough, the Boilermakers had at least 10 recruits attend the game in person that watched Purdue get upset. 

While the Bulldogs were not huge underdogs (-3.5 via Fanduel), they certainly got some national spotlight with the win, being led by Mountain West Players of the Week Mikey Keene and captain Levelle Bailey. 

Keene steadied the ‘Dogs offense with 366 yards and four touchdown passes, including the go-ahead score with 59 seconds remaining on 31-for-44 completions in what was arguably the best debut by a quarterback in Fresno State history. 

The transfer from UCF became the first Fresno State quarterback to pass for over 300 yards in their first start dating back to at least 1997

Senior wideout Erik Brooks was exceptional, catching nine balls for a career-best 170 yards and two scores. 

Bailey did his part on defense with five tackles, a forced fumble and two pass breakups. The second pass breakup came in Purdue’s final attempt on offense in the final minute. 

The Bulldogs return home on a 10-game winning streak, 3rd best in the Football Subdivision, now ranked 35th in the AP Poll ahead of its home opener against Eastern Washington that is scheduled for Sept. 9. That will be followed by the ‘Dogs going to Tempe the following week to take on Arizona State. 

A pair of commanding victories in the coming weeks could vault Fresno State to a spot where they finished last season, in the top 25. 

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