Fresno State defensive end Kwami Jones returned to the field last Saturday and he didn’t miss a beat.
Jones, a senior, missed the first eight games due to a back injury, but he came on strong against Utah State finishing with 1 sack, 1.5 tackles for loss and six total tackles.
“I knew I was ready,” Jones said. “There was no rush for me to get back out there. Coaches were real patient with my process, my progress, and once it was time it was time.”
Jones was a key member of the defense last year as he started 10 games and played in all 14. But his performance against Utah State was even better than any single game from last season.
“He came back and produced right off like he’d been playing all season,” defensive coordinator Bert Watts said. “I’m excited about that. I’m excited to have him for the next few weeks.”
His return couldn’t have come at a better time. Head coach Jeff Tedford announced Monday that sophomore defensive end Isaiah Johsnon will miss the rest of the season after undergoing knee surgery. Johnson has played in eight games this season, starting seven of them.
“It’s real tough seeing someone that young with all that talent getting injured, but I’m going to do what I can to replace Isaiah Johnson – do what I can to fill his shoes,” Jones said.
Now that Jones has proven he’s fully healthy he’ll be a much needed piece as the Bulldogs take on San Diego State on Friday. The directive for Jones and fellow defensive end Mykal Walker is clear: Contain quarterback Ryan Agnew and don’t allow him to make plays with his feet.
“He’s real mobile, so we’re going to have to really communicate in our pass rush what we have to do – one person’s going over, you’re going to have somebody go under, things like that,” Jones said. “We have levels to our pass rush so he doesn’t slip out there.”
The Aztecs’ offense ranks dead last in total offense in the Mountain West, but they’ve won seven games even though Agnew doesn’t have the arm strength that the ‘Dogs saw in Utah State quarterback Jordan Love.
One thing’s clear with Agnew: He’s a playmaker, and he isn’t always conventional.
“He does a great job of making plays,” Watts said. “He finds a way that even when things break down he’s going to continue to get the ball out there. And in a way he makes some plays that you’re like, ‘Oh man I don’t know if he’s getting a low grade or a high grade in the film room for that one,’ but he made it, and somehow they found a way to get it done. He’s a winning quarterback. That’s what winners do, they find a way to get it done.”
Although Agnew has played twice against Fresno State, he’ll be making his first start against the Bulldogs on Friday. In his two times coming off the bench against the ‘Dogs, he’s thrown for a total of 105 yards and 1 touchdown.
Agnew owns a 13-3 record as a starting quarterback.
Bulldogs’ strong safety Juju Hughes acknowledged Agnew’s ability to extend plays with his feet and agreed with Watts, calling the quarterback a winner.
“He’s a winner at the end of the day,” Hughes said. “The guy’s a winner. You look at his record and his career over there, he’s a winner. He has a lot of wins under his belt. That program has a lot of wins. He just knows how to do enough to get the win. No matter how you look at it, at the end of the day, he’s walking out with a W.”
Photo: Fresno State Athletics