Quick takes and rapid reaction from Fresno State’s 28-17 victory over No. 25 Boise State on a sunny, unseasonably warm Saturday afternoon at Bulldog Stadium.
▪ Nathan Madsen couldn’t participate in the onfield celebration following the Bulldogs’ big win on Senior Day.
So teammate and fellow senior defensive lineman Malik Forrester made sure to bring the celebration to him.
Moments after the victory that brought the Bulldogs’ overall record to 9-3 and handed the Broncos their only Mountain West loss, Forrester trotted across the field to grab the Milk Can trophy that symbolizes the rivalry.
Instead of celebrating Fresno State’s first victory over a Top 25 team since 2004 then and there, Forrester toted the trophy back across the field and handed it to Madsen, who was seated on a trainer’s cart after suffering an apparent knee injury earlier in the game.
Madsen raised the trophy above his head using both arms while surrounded by smiling and appreciative teammates.
After they cleared away, I went over and offered my own congratulations to Madsen. He was fighting back tears.
“He’s one of those guys that’s been with me here for five years,” senior defensive end Robert Stanley said. “If anybody deserves (the trophy) he does.”
Madsen has played in 49 career games for the Bulldogs, including 11 starts this season. His status for next Saturday’s Mountain West Championship is uncertain.
“They love their teammates,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said. “Really this was about the seniors and the banquet will be about the seniors and the rest of this team. Really I don’t know exactly (Madsen’s status). I’m sure he’ll get an MRI and we’ll find out the extent of his injury.”
▪ Keep chucking it deep, and sometimes good things will happen.
Or great things, if you happen to be the Bulldogs.
Nine previous times Saturday afternoon, quarterback Marcus McMaryion dropped back and unleashed a pass more than 20 yards in the air.
Eight times, those passes resulted in completions. (The sole exception was a 39-yard pickup to Jamire Jordan in the first quarter.)
Despite not having much success on deep throws, Fresno State offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer didn’t stop calling them. Which is why one play after the Broncos scored a touchdown to pull within 19-17 with 9:05 remaining, DeBoer dialed up deep ball No. 10.
McMaryion dropped back, took advantage of good protection and launched a ball downfield in the direction of KeeSean Johnson that must’ve traveled 50 yards in the air.
Johnson made the catch at the Broncos 36-yard line, juked a couple of defenders and pranced into the end zone for a 81-yard touchdown that gave the Bulldogs an insurmountable lead.
Sometimes, the 10th time is the charm.
"That (play) was big to give us a little bit of space because the game was going back and forth,” Tedford said. “We made some big plays in the passing game and that helped."
McMaryion finished 23 of 36 for 332 yards and two touchdowns. The junior did not throw an interception.
▪ Fresno State’s bowl picture looks a little clearer now. If the Bulldogs beat Boise State for a second straight time next Saturday, they’re all but assured of going to the Las Vegas Bowl.
(The site of the conference title game will be announced Sunday morning. It’s possible Fresno State could host, but that would require quite the leap up the computer rankings that are used to make that determination if neither squad finishes in the College Football Playoff Top 25.)
If the Bulldogs lose next week, then things could get interesting.
It doesn’t seem likely the Hawaii Bowl will invite Fresno State for the third time since 2012. So scratch that off the list. Nor will the Bulldogs be asked to return to Boise for a second time in less than a month. That would be cruel.
Which leaves Fresno State as a likely target for the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 16 against an opponent from the Sun Belt Conference.
Are there any other possibilities? Sure, but they would require a lot of backroom maneuverings. For example, it’s possible the Bulldogs could wind up in the Arizona Bowl. However, that game has a lower priority (by Mountain West agreements) than the Hawaii, Potato or New Mexico bowls. Which would need to be satisfied before they release the Bulldogs to another game.
According to conference Commissioner Craig Thompson, the odds are very low that another bowl slot (i.e. Cactus or Foster Farms) would open up for Fresno State. So plan on Las Vegas, Albuquerque or Tucson, Ariz.
MOUNTAIN WEST CHAMPIONSHIP: FRESNO STATE VS. BOISE STATE
- Saturday, Dec. 2: 4:45 p.m. PST, likely at Albertsons Stadium (36,384) in Boise
- Records: Bulldogs 9-3, 7-1 Mountain West; Broncos 9-3, 7-1
- TV/radio: ESPN/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (1600)