Bulldogs ride Rivers over Rebels for 40-27 win in Vegas

Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers scores his fourth touchdown of the game against UNLV on Nov. 7, 2020, at Allegiant Stadium. (Anthony De Leon/The Collegian)

If senior running back Ronnie Rivers can keep playing at the pace he has this season, he might find himself at the top of the Fresno State record book.

Rivers continued his hot season Saturday afternoon in Las Vegas. He had 232 offensive yards and four touchdowns in Fresno State’s 40-27 victory over UNLV.

But he also climbed up the record books considerably.

For the second consecutive week, Rivers scored three or more touchdowns and has scored in every game for the Bulldogs so far. 

Rivers has seven touchdowns this season and a career total of 43, moving him past Robbie Rouse for the second most career touchdowns at Fresno State. He is just two away from breaking the all-time record. 

Additionally, Rivers has 34 career rushing touchdowns, making him No. 4 on that list.

Breaking records at Fresno State is something Rivers always envisioned himself doing. It’s something he always talked about with his dad, legendary Bulldog running back Ron Rivers.

But while Rivers’ name will be in the record books, he said that the people he plays with are what make performances like tonight possible.

“I can’t do anything without those guys,” Rivers said. “All the success I had on the field today was because of them and I couldn’t have asked for anything else.”

Fresno State got on the board early in the game, as Jake Haener utilized his quickness out of the pocket. Haener escaped for a 54 yard touchdown run.

An unsuccessful extra point attempt held the Bulldogs to a 6-0 lead. 

But UNLV didn’t take long to respond back. The Rebels orchestrated a 12 play, 74 yard drive capped off by a 2-yard rushing touchdown from Fresno native Charles Williams.

The second quarter was a back-and-forth battle between these teams.

UNLV took the lead in the second quarter courtesy of a 28-yard field goal from Daniel Guttierrez. 

But on the next drive, Rivers scored his second touchdown of the game to put the Bulldogs up top 13-10. In the drive, Ben Wooldrige was the featured quarterback, who last week head coach Kalen Deboer said he would see more playing time.

“I want to see better game-situation decisions [from both quarterbacks],” Deboer said. “Ben did a nice job moving us down the field. But I feel good about having either one of them on the football field.”

Not too long after, UNLV quarterback Max Gilliam aired a ball out to Tyleek Collins for a 43-yard touchdown. 

But it was Fresno State that got some momentum heading into the second half. With Haener back in, he threw a screen pass to Rivers for a 33-yard touchdown.

Bulldogs’ defensive end David Perales forced a fumble that was recovered by fellow Bulldog Kurtis Brown. Just two plays later, Rivers had a 15-yard rushing touchdown to put Fresno State up 27-17 early in the third quarter.

Guttirrez made his second field goal of the game to cut UNLV’s deficit to 27-20, and later in the quarter Gilliam scored on a 71-yard quarterback keeper to tie the game at 27.

The Bulldogs went for it on fourth down in the closing minutes of the third quarter. The risk paid off for the ‘Dogs. 

After Rivers successfully converted the fourth down, he scored on the following carry to increase the Bulldogs’ lead 34-27.

“I want to have that aggressive mindset,” Deboer said. “There’s a lot to it. You just trust your gut. I had a pretty good feeling about that.”

Bulldogs’ kicker Cesar Silva made two field goals to add some cushion to the Bulldogs’ lead.

Fresno State cornerback Chris Gaston had two interceptions in the fourth quarter, coming back from a hamstring injury.

“We just play for each other,” Gaston said. “We’re just confident and don’t worry about the other team no more.”

After the 40-27 victory, Fresno State improves to 2-1 on the year with back-to-back wins.

Despite the win, Fresno State’s defense still struggled containing dual-threat quarterbacks. Against Hawai’i, the Bulldogs gave up 116 yards to Chevan Cordeiro. 

They allowed 139 yards to Gilliam.

“We have to do a better job,” Deboer said. “You get focused on threats and the speed and dynamic players around him. If one guy misses his assignment, they have a big play.”

Fresno State will travel to play Utah State on Nov. 14 at 11:30 p.m.

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