Bulldogs breathe big sigh of relief as they narrowly avoid loss to Eastern Washington

Fresno State nearly had one of its most embarrassing losses in program history, especially after beating Purdue last week. But an interception in double overtime by Levelle Bailey saved the day.

One week after traveling to Big 10 country and beating Purdue, Fresno State returned home on Saturday for the home-opener only to squeak out a double overtime win against Eastern Washington. 

The 34-31 win over FCS program Eastern Washington served as a wake up call for the Bulldogs, avoiding what would have been a disastrous outcome for a team hoping to compete for a Mountain West title. 


It turned out to be the second time in four years that Fresno State struggled against an FBS team. In 2019, during Jeff Tedford’s first tenure as head coach, the ‘Dogs beat Sacramento State 34-20

What happened: Fresno State got off to a quick start, getting a fourth-down stop and building on that with a five yard touchdown run by running back Elijah Gilliam. 

  • Eastern Washington responded with a field goal, and Fresno State failed to grab any more points until the second quarter. The Bulldogs recovered a fumble at the Eastern Washington 20-yard line, and three plays later quarterback Mikey Keene hit Jake Boust in the end zone to go up 14-3. 
  • In the third quarter the Eagles and Bulldogs traded long scoring drives of over 60 yards each, but Fresno State’s 21-10 lead midway through the quarter would be the most the ‘Dogs would lead the rest of the way. 
  • Eastern Washington had two successive touchdown drives to end the third quarter and begin the fourth to take a 24-21 lead and shock the sold-out crowd at Valley Children’s Stadium. 
  • Mikey Keene threw a poor interception at the end of the third quarter where he rolled out to the right and stared down receiver Erik Brooks. While the Eagles took over at the Fresno State 33 yard line, the ‘Dogs forced a turnover on downs and were not hurt by the mistake. 
  • Fresno State’s game-saving drive came midway through the fourth quarter, seven plays for 44 yards that ended with a Dylan Lynch 44-yard field goal to tie the game at 24. Lynch had an opportunity to end the game in regulation, but his 35-yard attempt with seven seconds left on the clock sailed wide right and sent the game into overtime. 
  • Eastern Washington scored first in overtime and were called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, gifting the Bulldogs field position at the 12.5-yard line when they took possession. Gilliam ran it in for a touchdown on Fresno State’s fourth play of overtime and sending the game to double overtime. 
  • Eastern Washington got called for roughing the passer on the first play of double overtime, once again gifting Fresno State with great field position. The Bulldogs failed to capitalize with a touchdown, but Lynch hit a field goal and on Eastern Washington’s ensuing possession linebacker Levelle Bailey ended the game with an interception. 

By the numbers: While Keene put up impressive numbers last week against Purdue, he was far from perfect on Saturday, completing 23 of 39 passes for 223 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. 

  • Brooks was Keene’s favorite target once again, catching 8 passes for 95 yards and 1 touchdown. 
  • Gilliam led the way on the ground with 86 yards and 2 touchdowns. 
  • Although the Bulldogs benefited greatly from two penalties in overtime, they found themselves behind the sticks for much of the game due to being called for seven penalties for a loss of 52 yards. 
  • The ‘Dogs also struggled on third down, only converting four times on 15 attempts. 

What they’re saying: “This is a good wake up call for us,” Tedford said. “Tough to bounce back from last week and come home. I need to do a better job of making sure we’re ready to play.” 

  • Tedford added, “I don’t think it was distraction or overlooking anybody or anything like that. I just think Eastern Washington did a really nice job with a lot of things that they executed. They made a lot of plays tonight.” 
  • Bailey offered perspective from the players after the game, echoing Tedford’s sentiment that a win is a win regardless of the opponent. 
  • “It’s hard to win, honestly,” Bailey said. “It just comes to show that it’s a wake up call that each and every college football team is good. We can’t take anybody lightly week in and week out. That kind of showed tonight coming off a big win last week. We’ve just got to keep playing. We’re going to get everybody’s best shot, and we’ve just got keep stacking days on days.”
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