What a way to finish off the best season in program history.
The Fresno State Bulldogs football team notched it’s 12th win of the season on Saturday with a 31-20 victory over the Arizona State Sun Devils in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Coming off of a two-week layoff, there was undoubtedly some rust evident in the ‘Dogs play at times during the game.
A team that had taken care of the ball so thoroughly throughout the regular season had its worst game of the season in terms of turnovers.
At one point in the third quarter, the ‘Dogs committed three turnovers in the span of 11 offensive plays, including a very uncharacteristic interception by quarterback Marcus McMaryion, during which the senior signal-caller scrambled out of the pocket, reversed field and threw a prayer of a pass down the left sideline, only to be swallowed up by a Sun Devil defender.
“The scrambling [interception] was kind of a dumb one,” McMaryion said. “I shouldn’t have done that, and it’s not like me to do that, just throw the ball up.”
The Bulldogs defense didn’t seem to mind. A unit that had been so dominant all season long appeared to have not missed a beat, as it limited ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins for much of the contest, allowing him to complete just 19 of 31 passes for 129 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
Perhaps the only blip on the radar for the defense was that it allowed 118 yards rushing and a TD to running back Eno Benjamin on 23 attempts. But Benjamin is a talented back with rare elusiveness, so it shouldn’t be surprising that he found success.
But Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers was not to be outdone in this contest. Rivers–who had been a shot in the arm of the Bulldogs offense ever since his return to the lineup from injury against Toledo early on in the regular season– carried the offense on his back, rushing for 212 yards and two scores, including a 68-yard scamper to the end zone to give the team much needed momentum.
“It created a big momentum swing for us and I couldn’t have done anything without my O-line creating that seam for me,” Rivers said. “I just had to run through an arm tackle and use my speed to get to the end zone.”
Add to that another 33 yards receiving and you have an offensive performance that undoubtedly will be a part of Fresno State football lore in perpetuity. Rivers was named the Las Vegas Bowl MVP after the game.
Head coach Jeff Tedford reflected on what the victory means to the team.
“It’s a good feeling. It’s for the players. The memories that they are going to take away from this are going to last them a lifetime,” Tedford said. “Last night in our team meeting, we talked about the bond they’re going to have for the rest of their lives. They can say they did something that no one else has done.”