Fresno State Football

KeeSean Johnson breaks school record in showcase game for the Bulldogs offense

Bulldogs’ KeeSean Johnson sets school record

Fresno State wideout KeeSean Johnson set a school-record for career receptions in the Bulldogs' 50-20 victory over Hawaii on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Johnson had eight receptions for 102 yards and has 234 catches in his career.
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Fresno State wideout KeeSean Johnson set a school-record for career receptions in the Bulldogs' 50-20 victory over Hawaii on Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018. Johnson had eight receptions for 102 yards and has 234 catches in his career.

Fresno State wideout KeeSean Johnson set a school record for career receptions in the Bulldogs’ 50-20 Mountain West Conference victory over Hawaii, passing Davante Adams on the all-time list.

The record-breaking catch came on an 8-yard reception in the fourth quarter, ending the only real suspense left in a 30-point rout.

It was career catch No. 234, No. 8 in the game and No. 2 from Jorge Reyna, the seventh quarterback and eighth player that he has teamed up with on a pass play in a career that also spans two head coaches, three offensive coordinators and four position coaches.

“It’s a great feeling,” he said. “Breaking records is something you talk about with your friends when you come to college. It’s a dream come true.”

In getting there, Johnson also helped provide perhaps the best snapshot of what the Bulldogs’ offense can develop into as this season progresses.

Johnson against Hawaii wasn’t the Bulldogs’ most targeted receiver. He was not on the end of any of quarterback Marcus McMaryion’s four touchdown passes. He did not have the best play-by-yards gained or the biggest play in a game full of big plays.

At halftime, Johnson didn’t even make the stat sheet.

Listed under receiving …

  • Jared Rice, 4 for 56 yards and one TD
  • Jamire Jordan, 2 for 61 and one TD
  • Dejonte O’Neal, 2 for 41
  • Jordan Mims, 2 for 32 yards and one TD

Johnson at the break had two targets, and one reception for eight yards.

Yet, the Bulldogs had rolled up 350 yards of offense and 37 points, 30 of it coming from the offense.

The other seven came off missed field goal that Jordan ran back for 100-yard return, only the fifth return of 100 yards in FBS history.

“I definitely think this was the most consistent our offense has been,” McMaryion said. “It shows what we’re capable of, and we need to be that consistent all the time. If our offense keeps improving with how good our defense is, the sky is the limit for this team.”

Fresno State at halftime had rushed for 143 yards on 16 plays, a 76-yard chunk of it coming on a touchdown run by running back Ronnie Rivers.

Take that one play out of the equation and the Bulldogs still were averaging 4.5 yards per rush, an improvement over the first seven games this season.

McMaryion completed 12 of his 17 passes for 207 yards, with three touchdowns and brought his streak of consecutive passes without an interception to 141.

The Bulldogs were averaging at that point 10.6 yards per play.

Hawaii obviously has some issues on defense and was without its best player on that side of the ball, linebacker Jahlani Tavai, who was out with an injury.

But Fresno State started the game with its fourth offensive line combination this season and its third in its past four games, with redshirt freshman Dontae Bull moving into the lineup at right tackle in place of an injured Syrus Tuitele.

The Bulldogs still finished with a season-high 562 yards of offense, averaging 7.9 yards per play, 6.5 yards per rush and 9.2 yards per pass.

“I think we played well,” said McMaryion, who is now leading the Mountain West in completion percentage (70.4) and passing efficiency rating (167.21) and tied for the conference lead in yards per pass attempt (8.8).

“We had a lot of sparks of what this offense is capable of, but I think there is a lot that we left on the field as well. There were a couple third-down conversions that I could have had a better read on, I could’ve run a little better and I could’ve thrown a little better. There’s always room for improvement.”

That will come, as the Bulldogs continue to fit all of the pieces together.

They got one back against the Rainbow Warriors – wideout Michiah Quick played in his first game since suffering a foot injury in the second quarter of a 21-14 loss at Minnesota.

The run game has made progress the past two games, the 214 rushing yards against Hawaii surpassed just twice in 22 games under Tedford.

Put that together with a defense that continually puts them in position to put points on the scoreboard, and the Bulldogs get more and more dangerous.

Their average field position against Hawaii: their own 44-yard line.

That is the best it has been this season, but it has not been all that far behind in other games – against Idaho, it was the 43, against Wyoming it was the 36, at UCLA the 33, at Nevada the 32, at Minnesota the 30.

And, of course, Johnson.

“This is well deserved,” Tedford said, of the record. “He has had a great career here. It was nice that he could get it done at home. It was nice to see him get it, it is very well deserved. He works really, really hard and he is a great teammate. I am really proud of him.”

By the numbers

3.5 – Tackles for loss by defensive end Mykal Walker, the most in a game by a Fresno State player since Ejiro Ederaine had 4.0 in a loss at Boise State in the 2014 Mountain West championship game. Walker led the Bulldogs with nine total tackles including six solo and the 3.5 TFLs and also recovered a fumble.

99 – Career coaching victories for Jeff Tedford. He is 99-62 overall in his 13th season, including 17-5 at his alma mater.

4 – Fresno State receivers to catch a touchdown pass from McMaryion – Jamire Jordan, Jared Rice, Jordan Mims and Derrion Grim. The Bulldogs last had four receivers with a touchdown catch in a 66-0 rout of Incarnate Word in their 2017 season opener.

33.3 – The Bulldogs touchdown percentage in the red zone – two TDs in six trips inside the Hawaii 20-yard line. Fresno State went into the game leading the Mountain West and 12th in the nation in red zone touchdown percentage at 77.4 percent. The Bulldogs had scored 24 touchdowns in 27 red zone trips.

15 – Games since Fresno State had a 100-yard rusher. Ronnie Rivers rushed for 125 yards on 11 plays, most of it coming on a 76-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Jordan Mims was the last Bulldogs’ running back with 100 or more rushing yards in a game, gaining 112 yards in a victory at San Diego State last season.

7 – Consecutive drives that the Bulldogs’ offense produced points from the first through the third quarters.

1 – Tackle for loss allowed by the Bulldogs’ offensive line – it came on their last drive of the game (not counting taking a knee three times at the end). The last time Fresno State allowed just one TFL against an FBS opponent? It was the 28-17 victory over Boise State to end the 2017 regular season.

5 – Explosive pass plays of 20 or more yards for Hawaii. The Bulldogs had allowed just 13 in their first seven games, the fewest in the Mountain West. Those five plays accounted for 152 of the Rainbow Warriors’ 374 yards of offense. On the other 56 plays Hawaii ran, it averaged just 3,9 yards per play.

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada

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