Fresno State clinched its spot in the Mountain West Championship game with a 13-7 win on the road against Wyoming on Saturday.
“That was a physical football game,” head coach Jeff Tedford said. “Give Wyoming a lot of credit. They’re a great football team, and those are two of the top defenses you’re going to see around. It was a defensive battle.”
Fresno State had been picked to finish last in the division in the Mountain West preseason poll.
“We just won the west, and we are going to the Mountain West Championship,” Helmuth said. “I want to thank all the new coaches. When they got here, they changed the whole culture of the program and got us to this point.”
With the win, the Bulldogs knocked Wyoming out of the Mountain division race, meaning that Boise State clinched the Mountain division. Not only will Fresno State play Boise State at home next Saturday, but the teams will meet the following week in the Mountain West Championship.
“I can’t be prouder of this team, and I can’t be happier for them,” Tedford said. “The turnaround that they’ve made – the belief and confidence – the hard work they’ve put in. The coaching staff has done a phenomenal job. It’s a great feeling when all the hard work pays off.”
Because a section of Interstate 80 between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming, was closed, the team arrived at War Memorial Stadium about two hours before the start of the game. They were supposed to arrive earlier in the morning.
Tedford said he was anxious about not arriving on time and having the normal amount of warmup time.
“It really throws off your timing as far as warmups are concerned, but we made some adjustments,” Tedford said. “At that point, it’s out of your control really. We got here and did the best we could to get warmed up.”
The Bulldogs opened the scoring with a field goal in the first quarter. In the second quarter, Fresno State was forced to punt, but the Wyoming returner fumbled, and Bulldog linebacker George Helmuth recovered the ball deep in Cowboy territory.
“I broke past my blocker, and when I saw it bounce off his chest, I jumped on the ball,” Helmuth said. “We had confidence in our defense today. We knew we could get stops.”
The ‘Dogs scored on their first play – a 21-yard pass from quarterback Marcus McMaryion to running back Ronnie Rivers for the touchdown.
Fresno State added another field goal in the third quarter.
Wyoming starting quarterback Josh Allen did not play because of a shoulder injury he sustained last week against Air Force. The ‘Dogs held the Allen-less Cowboys to only seven points, with the lone touchdown coming late in the fourth quarter.
The Cowboys then made a late push with under a minute remaining in the game, driving into Bulldog territory, needing a touchdown to take the lead. Defensive end Robert Stanley crushed Wyoming’s hopes of winning late, sacking quarterback Nick Smith on fourth down to seal the game.
McMaryion finished with 186 yards and one touchdown. Running back Josh Hokit led the ‘Dogs’ rushing attack with 69 yards. Wide receiver KeeSean Johnson led the team with six receptions for 48 yards.