Fresno State Finishes Strong At Illinois, 53-52
    Fresno State's Devan Cunningham (79) celebrates with coach Pat Hill, after defeating Illinois 53-52 in the final seconds of an NCAA college football game in Champaign, Ill., Saturday, Dec 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
    Fresno State's Devan Cunningham (79) celebrates with coach Pat Hill, after defeating Illinois 53-52 in the final seconds of an NCAA college football game in Champaign, Ill., Saturday, Dec 5, 2009. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

    Dec. 5, 2009

     

     

    Final Stats |  Notes |  Photo Gallery 1  |  Photo Gallery 2 

     

     

     

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) - Offensive lineman Devan Cunningham caught a deflected pass with 2 seconds left and powered into the end zone for a 2-point conversion, giving Fresno State a wild 53-52 victory over Illinois on Saturday.

    It was Fresno State's 15th win over a BCS Conference opponent this decade, tying Utah for most wins and it was Pat Hill's 100th of his coaching career. Hill ranks fourth in WAC history for most coaching wins. He was drenched with an ice bath by senior receiver Marlon Moore after the game.

    It was also Fresno State's 81st win this decade, most by a Bulldog team for a decade in school history.

    Ryan Colburn connected with Jamel Hamler from 19 yards to get the Bulldogs (8-4) within 52-51, and coach Pat Hill elected to go for the win rather than take his chances in overtime.

    Colburn dropped back under heavy pressure and his pass was tipped, falling into the hands of the 350-pound Cunningham, who leaned into the end zone.

    Ryan Mathews ran for 173 yards and three touchdowns for Fresno State, which had not led since early in the second quarter. Mathews improved on his NCAA rushing lead. He's averaging 151.3 yards per game. Colburn finished with 183 yards and two touchdowns passing.

    Mikel LeShoure ran for 184 yards on 11 carries for Illinois (3-9). He scored three touchdowns.

    The Bulldogs will find out their bowl fate on Sunday evening.

    Quotes from Head Coach Pat Hill.
    "That was a whale of a game. I thought both teams played extremely hard and I have a lot of respect for Illinois. They have terrific personnel. It was a great environment for a game and a great way to win."

    "Our guys never quit and were never intimidated in situations like these. I told Jeff (offensive coordinator Jeff Grady) with about five minutes left that we would go for two and end it if we tied. Based on the flow of the game, I didn't think getting in red zone game would be to our benefit."

    "It's a great way to finish the regular season. We now have 81 wins this decade, most in school history for a decade and we are proud of that. We have played a lot of great teams this decade, USC, LSU, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Wisconsin all on the road, so these guys know what to expect in games like this. We battled and battled and I'm really proud of these guys."

    "Going across country for an early morning game and in the cold and in a tough environment is not easy so these guys deserve a lot of credit. We've been to the Midwest twice already this year and we lost two tough games at Wisconsin and Cincinnati, so it was nice to get this one today."

    Quotes from lineman Devan Cunningham:
    "I'm just happy that we won and our team was able to play hard today and come out with a win in Big Ten country. (Center) Joe (Bernardi) gave me the extra push to get in the end zone, but once I opened my eyes and gathered everything, half of my body was in the end zone so I thought that maybe I did score. I'm glad that I was in the right spot at the right at the right time."

    On Hill's 100th Victory:
    "He works very hard at Fresno State and a lot of people outside of the program don't see how hard he works with this program. I'm just proud to be a part of it and a part of this win because he puts a lot of effort into establishing with us that no matter what school we play, we can hang with them and I think we showed that today."


     

     

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