Hawai’i Bowl Champions!

Coach Jeff Tedford and the Fresno State football team celebrating their Hawai'i Bowl win against the Houston Cougars, 33-27 at Aloha Stadium on Dec. 24. (Fresno State Athletics)

The Fresno State Bulldogs defeated the Houston Cougars in this year’s Hawai’i Bowl, 33-27 at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawai’i, on Christmas Eve.

“I can’t say enough about this team, the coaching staff. To go from one win to ten wins is a great accomplishment. These guys are such great kids. They worked really, really hard, I’m so proud of the effort they gave all year long,” head coach Jeff Tedford said.

Fresno State finished the season with a 10-4 record. They are the second team in FBS history to win at least 10 games after losing 10 games in the previous season.

Proved to be a pivotal player for the ‘Dogs this season, quarterback Marcus McMaryion was announced the Hawai’i Bowl’s Most Valuable Player. The junior threw for 342 yards, rushed for 50 yards and scored two touchdowns in the contest.

“Thank you for your endless support. Seniors, thank you for setting the foundation for the future of this program and leaving your legacy,” McMaryion said via Twitter. “…it’s good to be home.”

McMaryion also tied former Bulldog Derek Carr in completed passes in a Hawai’i Bowl with 33. Carr set the record in the 2012 Hawai’i Bowl. 

In the last game of the season, seniors Aaron Mitchell, Malik Forrester, Da’Mari Scott and Robert Stanley were chosen as the captains. The ‘Dogs won the coin toss, but deferred to Houston. 

The Cougars were the first to get on the board with a 48-yard flea-flicker followed by a 1-yard touchdown run by defensive lineman Ed Oliver in the first quarter.

While the ‘Dogs tried to bounce back, McMaryion sent a pass Jordan Mims’ way to only be intercepted by linebacker D’Juan Hines. This marked the junior’s fifth interception this season.

The interception did not hurt the team. Houston called on their kicker, Caden Novikoff to extend their lead, but the 45-yard field goal sailed wide left.

After many failed attempts to convert a touchdown on both ends, it was McMaryion at fourth-and-goal who tied the game after a 1-yard rushing touchdown in the second quarter. 

Since the Mountain West Championship game, McMaryion has scored four-straight touchdowns on the ground this season.

McMaryion then connected with junior KeeSean Johnson for a 21-yard gain. This extended the wide receiver’s consecutive games with a reception to thirty-six. 

Unable to convert a touchdown, Fresno State kicker Jimmy Camacho gave Fresno State a 10-7 lead.

Houston’s kicker Caden Novikoff countered back as he chucked one in to tie the game 10-10 with 7:17 left in the half.

Both teams struggled in the battle for the first half.

With less than a minute remaining, McMaryion and wide receiver Jamire Jordan set up a successful 38-yard field goal for Camacho to take the half, 13-10.

This was the eleventh time this season the ‘Dogs controlled the lead at the half.

Houston’s Novikoff quickly kicked in a 31-yard field goal to tie the game in the third quarter. 

McMaryion linked up with Johnson once again for a 29-yard run gain into Houston territory. On third & goal, McMaryion decided to take off on a 6-yard touchdown run after seeing a gap in the Houston defense.

Shortly after, sophomore Juju Hughes recovered a fumble off of Houston’s kickoff to give the ‘Dogs another chance on Houston’s 15-yard line.

Camacho was called on, but his field goal attempt was blocked and returned for a 94-yard touchdown by senior Alexander Myres. 

The contest tied once again, 20-20. 

While McMaryion connected with Johnson to gain positive yards, time quickly ran out in the third quarter. 

Johnson received over 1,000 yards this season. He is the first Bulldog since Josh Harper in 2014 to do so and it’s the 15th time in program history a 1,000 yard season was recorded by a Bulldog.

Camacho came out kicking in the fourth quarter. He knocked in two field goals to take the lead 26-20.

Camacho leads in all-time single-season field goals with 24 and moves to second place in points with 115. He also has the most field goals in Hawai’i Bowl history with four.

With under four minutes to go and a tip to the air, Jaron Bryant completed a 44-yard pick six to extend the ‘Dogs lead to 33-20.

Houston tried to comeback with a 2-yard touchdown pass from D’Eriq King to Linell Bonner, but time was not on their side. 

The ‘Dogs took the Hawai’i Bowl 33-27 over the University of Houston at Aloha Stadium. Fresno State is now the Hawai’i Bowl Champions.

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