The Bulldogs defense continues to dominate.
Two weeks ago, College of San Mateo allowed the most points it has all season in an 18-13 loss at American River College. This week, the Bulldogs responded by putting their end zone on lockdown.
CSM (3-1 overall) returned home Saturday to roll to a 31-3 win over Fresno City College at College Heights Stadium.
“Anytime you can hold the other team to three points — [Fresno City is] a talented team — I’m happy with what they did,” CSM head coach Tim Tulloch said.
In getting touched for a mere 21-yard field goal by Evan Rios midway through the first quarter, the Bulldogs defense improves its season average to 8.3 points allowed per game, ranking second statewide in the California Community College Athletic Association.
Fresno City (1-2) — having played one less game this season after having its Week 2 matchup at College of the Siskiyous rescheduled due to Siskiyous’ proximity to the Delta Fire — turned the ball over six times, with three interceptions and three fumbles.
“Our whole defense contributed to that,” said Hulu Ahoia, CSM’s defensive tackle who had a strip and fumble recovery late in the third quarter. “It created time for us to get to the quarterback.”
CSM’s first score was set up on the heels of Rios’ field goal. A kickoff return of 41 yards by freshman Jalen Lampley put the Bulldogs at the Fresno 39. Two plays later, quarterback Terrell Carter hit sophomore receiver Elijah Harper for a 17-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-3 lead.
The Bulldogs’ next two scores were products of turnovers. Near the end of the first quarter, Fresno City quarterback Sam Metcalf was sacked and stripped by sophomore defensive tackle Billy Tuitavake (Serra) at midfield. CSM sophomore kicker Cesar Silva converted on the drive with a 24-yard field goal to up the lead to 10-3.
Sophomore linebacker Bubba Palu (Burlingame) then closed the half with two interceptions, the first of which he picked quarterback Chris Dye on a zone read and returned it 36 yards for a pick-6 score, giving CSM a 17-3 lead at the half.
“The communication from the secondary, he really stepped it up,” Palu said of the heads up he got from CSM’s cornerback when the throw went up. “We were really covering each others’ backs.”
Palu now has three interceptions of the season, though he covered a lot of ground for both on Saturday. Just two days previous, the sophomore had a cast removed that completely covered his left hand and forearm. He injured his wrist prior to the season on the first day of practice in full pads.
It seems unlikely Palu could have nabbed either of Saturday’s interceptions with his left hand casted. He, however, disagreed, saying he could have caught both of them.
“Yeah, I believe so,” Palu said.
CSM’s offense, meanwhile, answered the call after a disappointing performance in the Sept. 15 loss at American River. The Bulldogs outgained Fresno 364-327 in overall yards, while rushing for 205 yards as a team, the third time this season CSM has reached the 200-yard rushing plateau.
“That was the goal,” Tulloch said. “The goal was to rush for 200 yards. So we challenged the offensive line to own the box.”
Sophomore running back Cam Taylor (Hillsdale) paced CSM with 88 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Three fellow San Mateo locals helped front his efforts in sophomore center Kepu Fonua (Serra), sophomore tackle Ray Fobbs (Serra) and freshman guard Ian Tapueluelu (Aragon).
With Carter making his third start at quarterback since transferring to CSM after Week 1 from San Jose State, the Bulldogs are still running a limited version of their offensive playbook. Nothing has changed for the front five, however, according to offensive coordinator Bret Pollack.
“We’re very simple up front so it doesn’t change that,” Pollack said.
Carter continues to impress, more due to sheer ability than technical know-how of the system. The versatile freshman seems to be striking more of a balance in those two facets every day, though.
“He’s caught on fast,” Pollack said.
In addition to completing 11 of 19 passes for 122 yards and a touchdown, Carter rushed 11 times for 44 yards.
“He’s just a high football IQ guy,” Tulloch said, “and he can anticipate. He anticipates the run, anticipates the pass game, he anticipates formations. He does a good job of diagnosing and executing [the] game plan.”
The 6-2, 195-pound quarterback’s most impressive completion was the initial scoring strike to Harper. Carter rolled out left, looking as though he might run. The run fake caught the Fresno cornerback covering Harper off stride, causing him to lose his footing for just a moment. That was all it took for Harper to slip behind the man coverage and run down a throw in front of him with a strong-handed fingertip grab.
Carter’s most impressive throw of the day, though, was after Palu’s second interception in the waning seconds of the first half. From the Fresno 40, Carter aired it out on first down, sending a lofty rainbow pass for Harper up the left sideline. Tight coverage interrupted the catch attempt, causing Harper to drop the pass, but the throw was placed right in his hands some 40 yards downfield.
Sophomore quarterback Matt Adamkiewicz entered late and showed a great feel as well with his only pass of the day. With 2:22 remaining in the game, Adamkiewicz threw a fastball through the middle of the field for a strike to sophomore receiver Jordan Bains on a slant route for a 37-yard score.
CSM’s other score came in the third quarter on a 27-yard strongman’s scoring run by Taylor. The 5-10, 190-pound sophomore capped a 13-play, 80-yard drive by slamming through the middle line, shaking off several tackles and finding the daylight to the end zone. It was such an impressive second-effort showing, hardly anyone recognized he was still on his feet. As a result, only one CSM player, Carter, ran to the end zone to celebrate with him.
“He runs hard; he runs with passion,” Tulloch said. “Half the time you think he’s down and he keeps going.”
CSM now takes to the road for its final non-conference game of the season. The Bulldogs travel to Modesto Junior College Saturday for a 6 p.m. kickoff.