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Fresno State players celebrate with the Valley Trophy after defeating San Jose State 27-10. (Nugesse Ghebrendrias/The Collegian)

‘Dogs recapture Valley Trophy

Fresno State spoiled San Jose State’s homecoming Saturday with the defense setting the tone and leading the Bulldogs to a 27-10 victory, recapturing the Valley Trophy for the first time since 2014.

“It’s always nice to come away with a victory,” head coach Jeff Tedford said. “We can get a lot better, but it’s great to bring the trophy home. That’s something we talked all week about, and we take pride in that.”

Behind a defensive effort that culminated in four turnovers and nine tackles for loss, the ‘Dogs moved to 3-2 on the season, but more importantly, 2-0 in the Mountain West Conference.

Senior defensive tackle Malik Forrester contributed two sacks, three tackles for loss and was in the Spartans’ backfield all game.

Fresno State freshman running back Ronnie Rivers attempts to score on Oct. 7, 2017 at CEFCU Stadium in San Jose, California, but ultimately falls short of the end zone. Rivers scored two touchdowns, and Fresno State won 27-10. (Nugesse Ghebrendrias/The Collegian)

The ‘Dogs’ tenacious defensive line sacked Spartan quarterback Josh Love four times and picked him off once.

“The coaches demand more of us,” Forrester said. “They aren’t letting us slack. They’re pushing us past our limits.”

Forrester said the defense is playing more aggressively this year.  

“We’re making a statement,” Forrester said. “The old Fresno State football style is back.”

While the ‘Dogs took care of business in the trenches, the team’s secondary issued a no-fly zone, allowing less than 100 yards passing.

Sophomore defensive back Juju Hughes showcased his versatility with an interception, a sack, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble, all contributing to recapturing the trophy.

“It’s big for us,” Hughes said. “There is a lot of history behind it. Our coaches played in this game, so it meant a lot to them. We had some people come back this week and talk to us about what it meant to them, so it was big for us.”

Although the ‘Dogs scored three rushing touchdowns in the first half, the offense did not produce down the stretch.

A combination of penalties and lack of explosiveness cost the ‘Dogs points throughout the second half.

In the third quarter alone, the ‘Dogs’ were unable to pick up a single first down.

Besides the ‘Dogs’ successful rushing attack, kicker Jimmy Camacho had a career day. He converted field goals from 38 yards and a career-long 50-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Junior quarterback Marcus McMaryion started his second game but didn’t find the success he had last week. He finished the game with 15 of 26 passes completed for 136 yards.

The ‘Dogs’ rushing attack picked up the slack on offense. Led by Ronnie Rivers, who accounted for more than 100 yards and a pair of touchdowns, the Bulldogs punched the Spartans in the mouth early with a 14-play drive that lasted over six minutes and ended with a Rivers touchdown.

“We really wanted to step the run game up this week,” Rivers said. “Our O-line focused on run blocking this past week. We just wanted to do better than previous weeks. There are definitely some things we can improve on, but we worked as a team and just got the job done.”

Running backs Jordan Mims and Josh Hokit each carried the ball more than 10 times. Hokit contributed with a 1-yard touchdown dive to cap off a 17-play drive.

The Spartans found the end zone in the third quarter when Love hit Josh Oliver for a 6-yard touchdown pass, but by that time the game was out of reach.

The ‘Dogs welcome the New Mexico Lobos on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. for homecoming.