New Mexico played run early and a lot, loaded up the box. Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion and a deep group of receivers knew that would happen quite a bit Saturday night and when it did they took advantage in a 38-0 victory over the Lobos.
After the Bulldogs went three-and-out on their first two possessions, McMaryion aired it out, launching footballs over the heads of the Lobos and into single coverage. He hit Jamire Jordan with a 70-yard touchdown pass and on the next series KeeSean Johnson with a 75-yard strike that was followed by a 12-yard TD pass to Johnson.
“They showed it on film that they’re going to stack the box and play man coverage outside,” McMaryion said. “We knew coming into the game it was going to be the skill players making plays on the outside and that’s exactly what they did.
“It kind of made my job easy. I just threw the ball out there and they were making plays for me.”
To see that much man outside, though. The reaction?
“That’s bad for them,” Jordan said. “This receivers corps, I’ve been saying it since fall camp, it’s something special. When they line up in man, it’s going to be a long day.”
Those touchdown throws coupled with another slice-and-dice job by the Bulldogs’ defense was all that they needed to get to 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the Mountain West Conference, setting up a West Division showdown next week at two-time defending champ San Diego State.
The Bulldogs actually get there alone in first place; the No. 19 Aztecs (6-1, 2-1) lost at home to Boise State 31-14.
That spot in the standings may be a surprise in town – attendance at Bulldog Stadium was only 28,090.
But the Bulldogs in conference play have taken off under coach Jeff Tedford and staff.
New Mexico (3-3, 1-2) was seen as a test, much more so than Nevada and San Jose State had been the past two weeks anyway.
But the Bulldogs didn’t give the visitors much room to get anything going and when they went up 21-0 on a 4-yard touchdown run by freshman Ronnie Rivers with 10:26 to go in the second quarter, the Lobos and their triple-option offense were in deep.
“It was a team effort,” Tedford said. “I was really proud of the defense. That’s a hard job to do, to stop that group and to shut them out is a big deal. I’m really proud of our staff, the preparation and the kids buying in and working so hard during the week.
“They’re playing really hard, running to the football and tackling well. They came up with some key turnovers.”
New Mexico had rolled up 509 yards on just 50 plays in a 56-38 victory over Air Force last week, but the Bulldogs kept them in bad downs and distances.
In the first half, New Mexico was 0 of 8 converting third downs and its average distance to get a new set of downs was 7.6 yards.
The Lobos, second in the conference and 12th in the nation in rushing offense with 266.8 yards per game, had just 57 rushing yards on 22 plays in the first half.
They finished with 109 yards on 37 carries, averaging 2.9 yards per attempt. New Mexico hadn’t rushed for fewer yards in a game since gaining only 84 yards on the ground in a 49-14 loss to Texas Tech in 2012.
Fresno State put New Mexico into a position it had to try to throw the football, which is not a particularly good look for the Lobos. They didn’t get much done, and the Bulldogs’ recorded their first shutout in a Mountain West Conference game and their second this season.
It is the first time since 1988 that the Bulldogs have had more than one shutout in a season (Fresno State beat Incarnate Word 66-0 to open the season).
The Bulldogs forced a fumble on their first defensive series in the second half – linebacker James Bailey drilled Jay Griffin IV to knock the football free and it was recovered by safety Mike Bell.
Fresno State picked off a pass on its second defensive series – cornerback Tank Kelly put a hit on wideout Chris Davis, the ball popping into the air, and Bell was there to pick it off. It got a stop on a fourth-and-2, playing an option play perfectly, the play put down when safety Juju Hughes took down Romell Jordan for a 3-yard loss.
The Bulldogs added a 37-yard field goal by Jimmy Camacho after the fumble and a 32-yard touchdown pass from McMaryion to Jordan after the fourth-down stop.
▪ Rivers will get an MRI, Tedford said, on an injured elbow that kept him out of the second half. There were no broken bones but the team is concerned there might be ligament damage.
Check back throughout the weekend and in Monday’s edition of The Bee for more on the game.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
FRESNO STATE AT SAN DIEGO STATE
- Saturday: 7:30 p.m. at SDCCU Stadium (54,000)
- Records: Bulldogs 4-2, 3-0 Mountain West; Aztecs 6-1, 2-1 (lost 31-14 at home to Boise State on Saturday)
- TV/radio: CBS Sports Network/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Of note: San Diego State was ranked 19th in this week’s Top 25 of The Associated Press.
Fresno State 38, New Mexico 0
FRE — J.Jordan 70 pass from McMaryion (Camacho kick), 1:30
FRE — K.Johnson 12 pass from McMaryion (Camacho kick), :41
FRE — Rivers 4 run (Camacho kick), 7:26
FRE — FG Camacho 37, 5:04
FRE — J.Jordan 32 pass from McMaryion (Camacho kick), 2:35
FRE — Hokit 12 run (Camacho kick), 5:05
Time of Possession
RUSHING — New Mexico, Chestnut 5-29, Owens 10-29, McQuarley 5-20, Tuioti 5-14, R.Jordan 4-11, Griffin 3-7, L.Jordan 4-0, Moran 1-(minus 1). Fresno State, Hokit 14-70, Mims 10-65, McMaryion 3-52, Rivers 6-39, O’Neal 1-5, (Team) 2-(minus 4).
PASSING — New Mexico, L.Jordan 2-6-0-13, Tuioti 13-24-1-200. Fresno St., McMaryion 13-23-0-299.
RECEIVING — New Mexico, Hart-Johnson 2-56, Drennan 2-49, Umeh 2-45, Shuler 2-23, Griffin 2-13, R.Jordan 2-8, Molina 1-8, Chestnut 1-7, Davis 1-4. Fresno State, K.Johnson 5-105, J.Jordan 3-108, Mims 1-29, Hokit 1-27, Ja.Rice 1-22, Grim 1-7, Scott 1-1.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — New Mexico, Sanders 43.