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Fresno State running back Josh Hokit runs with the ball against Nevada on Sept. 30, 2017 at Bulldog Stadium. The Bulldogs won 41-21. (Megan Trindad/The Collegian)

‘Dogs open conference play with dominant win

The Fresno State Bulldogs earned their first conference win since 2015, defeating the Nevada Wolfpack Saturday 41-21 behind the performance of newly-appointed starting quarterback Marcus McMaryion.

“I am satisfied for tonight,” said head coach Jeff Tedford. “Like I said, it is one game. I am happy for the team because they worked really hard. We practice really hard every day, and we hold them to a high standard. I think this validates that if we do things how we practice, it will pay off. If anything, the validation of that is what makes me most happy.”

The ‘Dogs accounted for more than 500 yards of total offense. McMaryion led the offense, throwing for more than 290 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver KeeSean Johnson chipped in with seven catches for over 100 yards and three touchdowns.

Coming off a bye week, McMaryion had the chance to earn the starting reps in practice and claim the quarterback position.

“He is smart,” Tedford said. “He is a good leader. He plays with confidence, and he can run. All around, he did a decent job tonight, but we have to get a lot better in all areas. I feel like the bye week came at a good time so he could get more reps and gain some confidence. The more he gets those starting reps, the more confidence he will gain.”

McMaryion gave his teammates the credit for putting him in positions to be successful.

“I didn’t have to do too much,” McMaryion said. “I didn’t have to go out of my comfort zone and try to be a playmaker and do too much. I was just out there, and guys were making plays for me, and I was just playing within the offense and not trying to do too much – credit to all those guys.”

McMaryion is from the Valley. Having played in the Bulldogs’ backyard for Dinuba High, coming back was something special for not only McMaryion, but also his supporters.

“It is great. It definitely comes with a lot of pride behind it,” McMaryion said. “Valley pride is a big thing around here so just to have the support from not only my teammates but the community support. It only pushes me that much more to continue to strive to get better each and every day.”

Right from the opening kickoff, the ‘Dogs’ Jamire Jordan brought the 27,434 fans to their feet.

Jordan opened up the game with a bang when he took the opening kickoff 71 yards before being tackled by a Nevada defender.

The ‘Dogs set up shop on the opponents’ half for their first drive of the game, also the first drive as the starting quarterback for McMaryion.  

McMaryion and running back Ronnie Rivers combined on a four-play drive that resulted in a 16-yard touchdown pass to Johnson early in the first quarter.

The ‘Dogs’ defense also came out tough to start. After forcing the Wolfpack into a fourth down, linebacker George Helmuth flashed through the offensive line and sacked Nevada quarterback Ty Gangi.  

The defensive unit worked fast and smart, forcing the Wolfpack to punt on a majority of its drives.

“We got a lot of three-and-outs,” Helmuth said after the game. “So just on and off the field, we definitely weren’t fatigued.”

The action picked up toward the end of the first quarter when the ‘Dogs picked up a first down after they were forced into a fourth-down conversion by the Wolfpack.

After Rivers converted the first down on a run up the middle, McMaryion utilized bulldozer running back Josh Hokit who showcased his catching ability and also his talent on the ground.

Unfortunately for the ‘Dogs, the drive stalled after consecutive passing attempts by McMaryion were unsuccessful.

Kicker Jimmy Camacho entered the game and recorded his first field goal of the night, extending the lead to 10-0.

The ‘Dogs opened the second quarter with a three-and-out for the Wolfpack. Fresno State’s defensive backfield stuck to its assignments and closed down the opposing receiving corps.

The Bulldogs’ offense followed suit and came out looking to score on its first possession of the second quarter.

McMaryion fired downfield to wide receiver Derrion Grim for a 65-yard gain. Grimm burned his defenders before plotting the flight of the football. He brought the ball in over two defenders, setting up the ‘Dogs in great field position.

Fresno State scored on a trick play in which Hokit tossed a touchdown pass to Johnson for a 17-0 lead.

On Nevada’s following possession, Gangi was picked off inside the Wolfpack’s 20-yard line. Fresno State defensive back Jaron Bryant intercepted the ball and returned it for a touchdown.  

The ‘Dogs wouldn’t stop there. After forcing another punt, the offense came out and capitalized on a shaky Wolfpack defense.

McMaryion completed a pass over 40 yards and later finished off the drive by tossing another touchdown to Johnson, his third in the game.

Just as Fresno State’s victory seemed almost certain, the Wolfpack scored 14 points in under a minute to keep themselves afloat at the end of the half. The Wolfpack’s ensuing kickoff was fumbled by the ‘Dogs which set up the visitors’ second score.

“We were definitely frustrated,” Helmuth said. “When you play good defense, you want the scoreboard to reflect that. So yeah, when you give up two touchdowns late, you don’t feel like you played great.”

The ‘Dogs jogged into the locker room up 31-14.

The second-half action was much slower than the first.

With over nine minutes left in the game, Scott locked onto a McMaryion pass and took the ball over 30 yards for a big gain, leading to a touchdown run by Rivers.

The ‘Dogs led 38-14, and other than a garbage time score for the Wolfpack, the home team ran out the clock for the big win.

Fresno State continues conference play on the road against San Jose State on Saturday.