Below-freezing temperatures? Brisk winds? High altitude? Mere speed bumps for this hungry, motivated bunch of Bulldogs.
Powered by its defense and taking advantage of key turnovers, Fresno State stifled a punchless Wyoming squad 13-7 on Saturday afternoon at War Memorial Stadium to win both the division title and clinch a spot in the Mountain West football championship game.
Wyoming scored with 2:25 left, forced a Fresno State punt and got within striking distance of a go-ahead touchdown before Robert Stanley’s sack ended the game.
“I’m really proud of my guys,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said in a postgame interview.
Wyoming’s defeat meant Boise State clinched the Mountain Division. Boise State plays at Fresno State next Saturday in the regular-season finale. The conference announced that the Dec. 2 Mountain West championship game will kick off at 4:45 p.m. PST but the site is to be determined. According to the conference, the host will be the team with the highest College Football Playoff Selection Committee ranking or composite computer ranking. This week, Boise State is No. 25 in the CFP rankings.
Offensively, the Bulldogs (8-3 overall, 6-1 MW) leaned primarily on their ground game with 45 rushing attempts. But quarterback Marcus McMaryion did complete four passes of 21 yards or longer that flipped field position and gave Fresno State scoring opportunities.
McMaryion finished 14 of 23 for 186 yards and a touchdown. The graduate transfer did not throw an interception after getting two tipped passes picked off last week against Hawaii. Josh Hokit led the ground attack with 74 yards on 21 carries.
Star quarterback Josh Allen did not play for the Cowboys due to injury.
The Bulldogs carved out a 10-0 halftime lead after taking advantage of two Wyoming turnovers.
The first, a muff by the punt returner, was recovered by George Helmuth and gave Fresno State possession on the Cowboys’ 21-yard line. On the next play, McMaryion lofted a perfect pass to Ronnie Rivers for a 21-yard touchdown with 11:12 left in the second quarter.
The second came just before halftime and during Wyoming’s deepest drive of the half. After Nick Smith completed a pass to Drew Van Maanen to the 14-yard line, Bulldogs cornerback Jaron Bryant dislodged the football and Jeffrey Allison plucked the football out of the air.
Fresno State scored the game’s first points on a 27-yard Jimmy Camacho field goal with 8:17 left in the first quarter.
The Cowboys were without Allen, the Firebaugh native and projected NFL first-round pick who sustained a shoulder injury in Wyoming’s Nov. 11 victory over Air Force. Allen, a junior, suited up for the game and took part in the pregame Senior Day ceremony. Which is a pretty good indication the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder plans to declare for the draft.
Check www.fresnobee.com/sports this weekend for Robert Kuwada’s analysis and look ahead to next week’s regular-season finale vs. Boise State.
FRESNO STATE VS. BOISE STATE
- Saturday, Nov. 25: 12:30 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium
- Records: Bulldogs 8-3, 6-1 Mountain West; Broncos 8-2, 6-0 (pending Saturday night game vs. Air Force)
- TV/radio: CBS Sports Network/KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
- Of note: Boise State leads series 13-5, including two wins in Boise when the teams last met in 2014 – 37-27 in the regular season and 28-14 in the conference championship game.