LB Justin Rice named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week

Fresno State linebacker Justin Rice recovers and scores a touchdown during a home victory against the University of Nevada Las Vegas at Bulldog Stadium on Friday, Oct. 18, 2019. (Larry Valenzuela/The Collegian)

Fresno State redshirt junior linebacker Justin Rice was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, according to a Fresno State athletics news release.

This is the first career weekly conference honor for the Modesto, California, native and the first for the Bulldogs this season.

Rice lands the first Mountain West Player of the Week honors for the ‘Dogs since Marcus McMaryion and Mykal Walker earned the offensive and defensive honors on Oct. 1, 2018, respectively. He is also the first Fresno State linebacker to earn the honor since George Helmuth did back in 2017.

Rice led the Bulldogs with 10 tackles in last Friday’s home win versus the Rebels. He posted his fifth double-digit tackle performance, which hasn’t been done since Stratton Brown did it in 2016 for the ‘Dogs.

Aside from the 10 tackles, Rice also forced a fumble, recovered it and returned it for an 18 yard touchdown. This hasn’t been done since Ejiro Ederaine did it against San Diego State University on Oct. 26, 2013.

That fumble recovery against the Rebels could be said to have been the turning point of the game. It gave the Bulldogs a chance to go on a 20-0 run in the third quarter and eventually run away with the victory, 56-27.

Rice leads the Bulldogs with 60 tackles this season, putting him second in the conference in tackles. He is also tied for 12 in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in tackles per game, averaging 10 a game, and tied for second in turnovers forced through six games. 

Rice has added a sack, two interceptions, seven broken-up passes, four forced fumbles — tied for first in the Mountain West — and two fumble recoveries, which leads the league, this season. He is the only player in the nation to have four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions this year.

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