Although the Bulldogs fell short 17-14 last Saturday to Boise State in the Mountain West Championship game, there is no denying the progress the Bulldogs made after a 1-11 record last season.
The team finished this season 9-4, won the West division and will play in the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24.
Coach Jeff Tedford, the Mountain West Coach of the Year, said he is extremely proud of his players, and they have nothing to be ashamed about.
“Even though we fell short, I’m really proud of them,” he said after the championship game. “I love them, and we’ll go back to the drawing board. We’ll be back.”
The team’s players worked extremely well with Tedford and it showed in statistics, awards and, of course, team success.
The Collegian chose to highlight three of the team’s biggest contributors this season in honor of their success on the field.
One of the biggest questions looming over the football team coming into the season was the quarterback position.
Quarterback Chason Virgil and Jorge Reyna were projected to be at the heart of the battle for the starting job. That was before McMaryion, a Dinuba native, decided to transfer from Oregon State and come home to the Valley.
McMaryion seized the starting job before the team’s game against Nevada in Week 5. The quarterback threw for 2,384 yards, 14 touchdowns and a 61.1 completion percentage this season.
His 139.8 passer efficiency rating ranked fourth in the conference.
He quickly established a strong rapport with receiver KeeSean Johnson, which led to Johnson’s team-leading 69 receptions and 918 yards.
McMaryion told The Collegian back in October how happy he was to be a Bulldog, how close the team was – ”brotherhood” was a constant theme among the players – and just how good it felt to be home.
“I expected some excitement, but just the response I’ve gotten from the Valley and the Dinuba community is just unreal and unbelievable,” the junior said. “It’s definitely pushing me that much more every day knowing how many people are behind me.”
McMaryion still has one more year of eligibility so, barring injury, Bulldog fans can expect to see him taking snaps again next season.
Linebacker Jeffrey Allison was a force for the best defense in the Mountain West. The Bulldogs placed first in average points allowed per game with 17.2.
Allison led the team with 113 tackles and placed fourth in the conference in that category, all as a sophomore.
His season started with some emotional challenges. He is a Miami native, and his family was forced to deal with the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma.
Allison said he used that devastation as a motivation to play harder in his game against Alabama on Sept. 9. He finished that game with a career-high 14 tackles.
Performances like that turned into more of a trend than an anomaly, and his efforts were rewarded via two Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week honors and a first-team All-Mountain West selection.
Allison is only a sophomore, but even in his two years here, he has felt a huge change when comparing his first season here to his second.
“As a team, we came more together. I can really say that we’re a family now,” Allison told The Collegian in September. “We probably had our little differences last year, but we’re all together.”
Center Aaron Mitchell will play his final collegiate game on Dec. 24 in the Hawaii Bowl, but he’s made sure to leave a strong legacy during his time as a Bulldog.
Mitchell has been a constant on the Bulldogs’ offensive line, starting and playing in 37-straight games for the Bulldogs, this season being his first at center.
His veteran presence and consistency were rewarded with second-team All-Mountain West honors and his role as a captain all season.
Mitchell has been very clear about how proud he is to be a part of the Fresno State football program.
“It’s really an honor to play here at Fresno State. It’s an honor to play [offensive line] here,” Mitchell said on Nov. 25 after the ‘Dogs’ victory over the Boise State Broncos.
Only time will tell what path Mitchell will take after Fresno State. He told The Collegian his hope is to play in the NFL, but he wouldn’t mind running a Fortune 500 company if he is unable to make it into professional football.