They were known then-and forever-as the Mercy Bowl team. Alternating "red" and "blue" teams led by quarterbacks Beau Carter and Jon Anabo, they went undefeated and helped raise $125,000 for victims and survivors of the Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo football team plane crash the previous year.
After a 9-0 regular season and their fourth straight California Collegiate Athletic Association title, the Bulldogs of Coach Cecil Coleman were matched against highly favored Bowling Green in the Mercy Bowl at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Nov. 23, 1961.
Bowling Green might have entered the Thanksgiving morning charity game with the better press clippings and the bigger players, but Fresno State and its fans held bragging rights at game’s end, a 36-6 knockout victory highlighted by 368 passing yards.
"We’re No. 1!" and "Rose Bowl!" shouted Bulldog boosters in the crowd of 33,145 who believed their beloved team could handle the big-name powers of the day. The Bulldogs finished as the nation’s No.3 small college team, the equivalent of Division 1-AA today.
Wrote a Los Angeles sportswriter the next day: "It can be said conservatively that Fresno did show the best college passing attack seen in Los Angeles this year."
Said Coleman of his team: "We just wanted to let them know that somebody out here could hit hard. We were tired of hearing that West Coast schools didn’t want to hit."
Carter and his favorite target, Jan Barrett, were named the game’s Most Outstanding Players. Carter completed 14 of 28 passes for 248 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two touchdowns. Barrett caught six passes for 161 yards, including touchdown receptions of 45 and 23 yards.
Team members: Bruce Seifert, Glenn Riggert, Tommy Sommers, George Ward, Bill Kendrick, Don Brockett, Beau Carter, Ron Itskoff, Jerry Allen, Jim Sanderson, Grove Marris, Bill Knocke, Dan Stockton, George Omata, Jerry Nimmo, Mike Slagle, Gary Taylor, Fred Tuttle, Herman Hamp, Gerald Hauser, and Bill Musick, trainer Birger Johnson, assistant backfield coach Bob Van Galder, manager Stan Alloway, Doug Brown, Pete Mehas, Sonny Bishop, Dick Murray, Jon Anabo, Bill Laughlin, Montie Day, backfield coach Kenny Gleason, head coach Cecil Coleman, JV coach Jack Adler, Jan Faris, Jan Barrett, Nick Masich, Jay Buckert, Larry Fogelstrom, Jack Bohan, J.R. Williams, Jack Knight, and line coach Bob Burgess.