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Dec. 27, 2004

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BOISE, Idaho (AP) – Paul Pinegar shrugged off midseason criticism and kept throwing for touchdowns.

Pinegar had five TD passes, including the game-winning 25-yarder to Stephen Spach in overtime, as Fresno State beat No. 18 Virginia 37-34 in the MPC Computers Bowl on Monday.

“Winning feels great, especially against a Virginia team that has a great defense,” Pinegar said.

He was fabulous, completing 23 of 36 passes for 235 yards without an interception, helping the Bulldogs (9-3) erase a 21-7 second-quarter deficit and notch another win against a big-name team.

Fresno State, the third-place team in the Western Athletic Conference, added the Cavaliers (8-4) of the Atlantic Coast Conference to a list of victims that has included Colorado, Oregon State, Wisconsin, Washington and Kansas State in recent years.

“We’ve got a lot of great teams in the WAC: Boise State, Hawaii, UTEP,” Pinegar said. “We’ve showed that we definitely can compete with some of the best teams in the nation.”

His five touchdown passes were a record for the game, formerly known as the Humanitarian Bowl.

Virginia got the first possession of overtime, taking a 34-31 lead on a 26-yard field goal by Connor Hughes.

It didn’t take Pinegar long to end it, though. He froze the defense with a play-action call and zipped a pass inside the 5 to Spach, who fought off a pair of would-be tacklers and dropped into the end zone.

“We ought to be able to cover a post pass when we know it’s a post pass situation,” Virginia coach Al Groh said.

“When you catch the ball in that situation, you’re just looking for the end zone,” Spach said. “You just keep on running. I knew I was really close.”

Virginia had things in hand after Wali Lundy followed his big blockers and rumbled across the blue turf at Boise State’s home field on a 20-yard TD run that put the Cavaliers up 31-24 with 6:20 remaining.

But Pinegar wasn’t finished. He started on the 17, turning to the ground game and working the clock to give Fresno State a chance to tie.

Wendell Mathis ran 22 yards to Virginia’s 25 and Bryson Sumlin reached the 15 on a 6-yard burst. On third-and-6 at the 10, Pinegar threaded a 7-yard pass into double coverage to tight end Duncan Reid, then spiked the ball to stop the clock at 28 seconds.

That put the ball at the 3, but soon the Bulldogs faced fourth-and-goal. Pinegar rolled right and connected with Jaron Fairman for a TD with 11 seconds to go.

“My last option was to tuck it and run, but that would have been tough sledding to get in,” Pinegar said. “Jaron made a great catch. After he caught it, they swiped at his arm but he did a great job to hold on.”

Brent Vinsintainer added the point after, and it was tied at 31.

“We never panicked when we were down 14 points,” said Pinegar, who was harshly criticized when Fresno State lost three straight games after a 3-0 start. “We knew we just needed to stop making mistakes.”

“He’s 24-8 now. I’ve always believed,” Bulldogs coach Pat Hill said. “Everybody always wants to change things. I know one thing about him: He wins. I feel very, very comfortable with Paul at quarterback.”

Mathis ran for 126 yards on 15 carries, and Sumlin added 94 yards on 21 attempts. The Bulldogs established a second-half ground game after being outplayed by the bigger Cavaliers in the first half.

“In the first half, we were just a little bit out of sync,” Hill said. “It was a feeling-out process. I felt we were capable of moving the ball. At halftime, we talked about playing a physical game.”

Virginia quarterback Marques Hagans also had a great game, throwing for 162 yards on 18-of-30 passing with one TD. He ran for 85 yards and a TD, and his team’s best play was often a drop-back pass that morphed into a long scramble.

“A very good quarterback,” Bulldogs defensive tackle Garrett McIntyre said. “He’s the best scrambler I’ve ever gone against. He’s a running back who’s playing quarterback.”

AP Sports Writer

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