Fresno State wins first bowl game in 10 years with 30-21 victory

Published: Wednesday, January 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 1, 2003 at 12:03 a.m.
SAN JOSE, Calif. - Rodney Davis' phone rang in the locker room just before Fresno State took the field for the Silicon Valley Classic.
It was his brother and teammate, calling to wish the Bulldogs good luck. Starting receiver Marque Davis was at home, one of seven players who couldn't participate because of academic problems.
So Rodney Davis ran for them. He carried 37 times for 153 yards and two touchdowns as Fresno State won its first bowl game in 10 years, defeating Georgia Tech 30-21 on Tuesday.
"This win was for the guys who couldn't make it," Davis said.
The Bulldogs (9-5) had not won a postseason game since beating Southern California in the 1992 Freedom Bowl, a string of four straight losses.
And they were even more proud they did it with a depleted roster. Fresno State suited only 45 players, and was missing five starters.
A new Western Athletic Conference rule requires athletes to pass at least six credits to play in a bowl game, and seven didn't meet the requirement. They may have had incompletes or grades that had not yet been finalized, for example.
"For the nation to think we played with ineligible players is a misconception," coach Pat Hill said. "We were playing with non-certified players. . . . I'm so proud of this football team. We had some adversity this season."
Asen Asparuhov kicked a 33-yard field goal with 3:43 left, one of his three in the game, and Davis clinched the victory with a 28-yard TD run just more than a minute later for the Bulldogs.
And the Fresno State defense did an impressive job after halftime of weathering a strong second-half comeback attempt by the Yellow Jackets (7-6).
Freshman backup quarterback Damarius Bilbo passed for a touchdown and ran for another after replacing the ineffective A.J. Suggs, but Bilbo also threw four interceptions as the Yellow Jackets (7-6) committed seven turnovers.
Georgia Tech was the only team in the ACC to throw more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (13) this season.
"I'm disappointed with the execution," coach Chan Gailey said. "Obviously, you have to be able to stop the run and you have to be able to execute on offense, and we didn't do either well."
The game turned into a muddy mess after hard rain fell Monday night. It took only a few plays for Georgia Tech's gleaming white uniforms to turn a dull brown, and there were plenty of slips and missed plays.
In a lackluster first half, the teams struggled to take advantage of their scoring opportunities, with Fresno State leading 13-7 at halftime.
Dee Meza's 48-yard interception return for a touchdown with 14 seconds left in the second quarter highlighted the half.
Fresno State was playing in the Silicon Valley Classic for the third straight year, and Bulldogs fans took up the majority of the seats at Spartan Stadium.
Georgia Tech was trying to protect the nation's top bowl record in its sixth straight postseason appearance, and the Yellow Jackets thought their chances were good with Fresno State missing so many key players.
"We really thought that we could go out and our game plan would work even better," Bilbo said.
Georgia Tech is now 20-11 after coming into the game tied with Penn State for a .667 bowl winning percentage.
Yellow Jackets placekicker Luke Manget made three extra points to give him 160 straight PATs, one shy of the NCAA record for consecutive extra points of 161, set by John Becksvoort of Tennessee from 1991-94.

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