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FRESNO, Calif. (AP) - Ryan Mathews ran for two touchdowns and Tom Brandstater threw two touchdown passes as Fresno State defeated Utah State 38-27 on Saturday to become bowl eligible.
Clifton Smith had 126 rushing yards for Fresno State, which improved to 6-3 overall and 5-1 in the Western Athletic Conference. Mathews rushed for 106 yards in the first half before leaving the game with an injury.
A.J. Jefferson added an 88-yard kickoff return for a touchdown after Utah State (0-9, 0-5) rallied to within 14 points in the third quarter.
Leon Jackson completed 18 of 26 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns for the Aggies, who joined Florida International as the nation's only winless Division I-A teams. Utah State went 1-11 last season, upsetting the Bulldogs 13-12 in Logan for their lone victory.
Fresno State made sure there would be no repeat by cruising to a 31-7 halftime lead. The Bulldogs scored on all five of their first-half possessions.
Mathews capped Fresno State's opening drive by bouncing off tacklers for a 16-yard touchdown and nearly added a 42-yard score in the second quarter, but the officials ruled that the freshman tossed aside the ball before he crossed the goal line. After a lengthy delay, the Bulldogs were awarded the ball on the Utah State 1-yard line. Mathews dove over the pile for a touchdown on the next play.
Mathews' 12 touchdowns are the most of any freshman running back in the nation. The highly touted recruit from Bakersfield's West High left the game in the second quarter with a sprained left ankle and did not return. The Bulldogs finished with 255 rushing yards on 47 carries and 131 passing yards on 18 attempts.
The Aggies got their only first-half touchdown on a 17-yard run by Jacob Actkinson, trimming Fresno State's lead to 14-7.
Brandstater threw first-half touchdown passes to Anthony Harding and Isaac Kinter, and Clint Stitser added a career-long 52-yard field goal.
Utah State outscored the Bulldogs 20-7 in the second half. Jackson threw a 44-yard touchdown pass to Fresno native Kevin Robinson and a 23-yarder to Rob Myers. Robinson finished with five receptions for 87 yards. The senior added 146 yards on kick returns.
Fresno State is looking to return to the postseason after having its seven-year streak of bowl appearances snapped last season.
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-11-03-07 1851MDT