The fallout of a 4-8 season meant re- establishing the Bulldogs' identity. The task was placed before seniors including Tyler Clutts and Clifton Smith to make sure winning was again the norm.
The Bulldogs responded and capped their rebound season by adding Georgia Tech -- again -- to their list of conquests from BCS conferences.
Smith rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns, Tom Brandstater threw for a score and ran for another and the Bulldogs beat Georgia Tech 40-28 in the Humanitarian Bowl on Monday.
Fresno State finished 9-4, winning eight of its final 10 and thinking big about 2008, when a talented team will return with aspirations of following Western Athletic Conference brethren Boise State and Hawaii into a BCS bowl game.
It's Fresno State's second bowl win over Georgia Tech, after beating the Yellow Jackets 30-21 in the 2002 Silicon Valley Football Classic, and it made the Bulldogs 3-0 against the ACC in bowls. Fresno State has won four of its past five bowl games, all four wins coming against teams from the six conferences with automatic bids to the Bowl Championship Series.
Georgia Tech interim coach Jon Tenuta, who took over when Chan Gailey was fired after six seasons, was added to the list of winless stopgap coaches this postseason, joining DeWayne Walker (UCLA), Gary Darnell (Texas A&M) and Chris Thurmond (Houston).
While new coach Paul Johnson watched from the press box as a fan, the Yellow Jackets defense, orchestrated by Tenuta, was exposed after being one of the better units in the ACC.
After Georgia Tech jumped ahead 7-0, Fresno State scored 27 consecutive points and rolled up 571 yards of total offense, the most allowed by the Yellow Jackets this season. Georgia Tech, which led the country in sacks with 47, never got to Brandstater.
Brandstater was Georgia Tech's biggest problem early on, before Smith took over with 135 yards rushing in the second half and both of his TDs. Brandstater added a 24-yard TD run in the third quarter, behind an escort from tight end Bear Pascoe.
But it was his first half that was most impressive, when he directed scoring drives of 82, 90 and 91 yards, and the Bulldogs scored 17 points in the second quarter, including 10 in the final two minutes.
Tenuta's team showed some fight after falling behind. Using young, skill-position backups, the Yellow Jackets got within 34-28 early in the fourth quarter. Backup running back Jonathan Dwyer, taking over for a mostly ineffective Tashard Choice in the third quarter because of an injury, rushed for 62 yards and two touchdown runs.
"The main thing with all of us is that if we're going to go out, we're going to go out with a fight," Dwyer said.
Backup quarterback Calvin Booker, in for injured starter Taylor Bennett, threw a towering jump ball that D.J. Donley wrestled in, pulling the Yellow Jackets within six with 13:06 left.
Brandstater tried to answer, leading the Bulldogs inside the Jackets' 10. But wide receiver Marlon Moore, who scored on a 6-yard run in the first half, fumbled on a hit by safety Joe Gaston. After Darryl Richard recovered, the Bulldogs' defense held.
PERFECT FOE: Fresno State is 3-0 in bowl games against teams from the ACC.
SACKLESS: The Jackets, who led the nation in sacks, didn't get one Monday.