Last year, while in the midst of one of the greatest turnarounds in college football history, the Fresno State Bulldogs lost to UNLV at home, 26-16.
The loss ended up playing big in the ‘Dogs having to go on the road to face Boise State in the Mountain West Conference championship game.
On Saturday night, the Bulldogs made sure that would not happen again as they routed the Running Rebels, 48-3.
It’s really hard to say what side of the ball was the most impressive, offense or defense. There is a solid case to be made for either.
Of course, the success offensively, as it so often does in football, started with quarterback Marcus McMaryion.
Although he wasn’t quite as sharp on some of the decisions he made about who to throw the ball to, he was still very proficient.
The senior McMaryion found tight end Kyle Riddering and receiver Jamire Jordan, as he so often has this season, for touchdowns.
It really didn’t appear to matter what defense that UNLV threw at the ‘Dogs. McMaryion always seemed to get the ball out of his hands and into that of his best playmakers regardless of whether he faced a blitz or a zone defense or anything in between. Before being taken out in the fourth quarter due to the blowout, McMaryion went 26-35 for 274 yards and two touchdown passes.
So it has gone the whole season for this team. But ever since running back Ronnie Rivers returned to the lineup against Toledo a month ago, the offense and special teams have kicked it into another gear.
Rivers found the end zone once on a run off of a pitch to the right as he waltzed across the goal line. But he also set up another touchdown drive with a huge punt return to inside the UNLV 40 yard line.
The other side of the ball came to play too.
Defensively, the ‘Dogs were as stout as ever, and playing all but one series of the game without leading tackler and middle linebacker Jeff Allison. Allison left the game after the first quarter. No word on what the injury was.
Besides not allowing UNLV into the end zone, the defense was able to sustain a pass rush that, although wasn’t able to generate many sacks, kept quarterback Max Gilliam from finding any type of comfort zone throwing the ball.
Now with seven straight wins, an 8-1 record, including 5-0 in the Mountain West and a place in the College Football Playoff Top 25, the ‘Dogs will go on the road to face the team they feel that they should have hosted in the Mountain West title game last year in Boise State.
That game will be in Boise on Nov. 9.