Fresno State used a 21-point third quarter to outdistance Western Michigan, 35-30, Saturday and win the eighth California Bowl.
Fresno State is 3-0 in this bowl game, which matches the champions of the Big West and the Mid-American conferences. The Bulldogs also won in 1982 and 1985. Western Michigan was making its first bowl appearance.
Fresno State set a big-play tone early as freshman quarterback Mark Barsotti hit wide receiver Andre Alexander for first-half touchdowns of 55 and 38 yards to give the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead.
But Western Michigan scored 17 points in the final 7 minutes of the second quarter to take a 17-14 halftime lead.
Senior quarterback Tony Kimbrough directed the Broncos' offense on touchdown drives of 70 and 56 yards. He connected with Robert Oliver on a 31-yard touchdown pass and Rob Davis ran for a 51-yard score. Kimbrough then moved the team 55 yards to set up John Creek's 29-yard field goal with 36 seconds left in the half. The scoring drives came on three successive possessions.
Barsotti's two scoring passes were the only bright spots in his dismal first-half passing performance. Barsotti connected on just 6 of 17 attempts for 149 yards, 93 of which came on the two touchdown passes. He also threw 3 interceptions.
The ineffective passing game and Western Michigan's comeback prompted Fresno State Coach Jim Sweeney to go to his running game.
After stopping Western Michigan's opening drive of the second half on a fourth and 2 on its 35, running back Darrell Rosette ran 65 yards for a touchdown on Fresno State's first offensive play of the half to give the Bulldogs a 21-17 lead.
"The turning point for us coming back was Rosette's long run," Sweeney said. "It got us back to what we needed to do: establish running the ball."
But Western Michigan went ahead, 24-17, in the third quarter on a 7-play, 72-yard touchdown drive that was capped by Kimbrough's 15-yard touchdown pass to Davis.
Western Michigan then recovered an onside kick that caught the Bulldogs off guard. The Broncos had the ball on their 47, but turned it over 7 plays later on a bad snap from center.
Fresno State responded with its longest drive of the game, a 10-play, 80-yard effort capped by Rosette's 4-yard touchdown run. Rosette's score was set up, and the drive itself saved, by running back Myron Jones' 33-yard reception of Barsotti's desperation pass. Barsotti was in the arms of a Western Michigan defender as he released the ball.
The score gave the Bulldogs the lead for good.
The success of the running game helped Barsotti improve his passing statistics. Barsotti finished with 15 completions in 29 attempts for 240 yards.
Fresno State scored again on its next series when Jones, formerly of Chatsworth High and Los Angeles Valley College, ran 26 yards for the Bulldogs' third touchdown of the quarter.
The 35-24 score held up until the final minute of the game, when Kimbrough scored on a 6-yard run with 17 seconds left. Western Michigan's 2-point conversation attempt failed.
Rosette, who led all rushers with 149 yards in 23 carries with 2 touchdowns, and Kimbrough, who finished with 366 yards on 24 of 57 passing for 2 touchdowns and no interceptions, were named players of the game.