Fresno State Football

McMaryion’s legacy goes way beyond glossy stats. Plus Las Vegas Bowl need-to-know notes

Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion talks about his friendship with Arizona State’s Manny Wilkins

The quarterbacks from Fresno State and Arizona State who grew up together and will face each other in the Mitsubishi Las Vegas Bowl, talk about their Las Vegas helicopter ride.
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The quarterbacks from Fresno State and Arizona State who grew up together and will face each other in the Mitsubishi Las Vegas Bowl, talk about their Las Vegas helicopter ride.

Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion has one football game left to play in a Bulldogs uniform, the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday against Arizona State, and he will leave in the company of the Carrs, which obviously is good company to keep.

David and Derek are all over the top five on the program’s single-season lists in just about every statistical category that has anything to do with quarterback play, and McMaryion is right there with them.

Some of those lists:

Passing yards

  1. Derek Carr (2013) 5,082

  2. David Carr (2001) 4,839

  3. Derek Carr (2012) 4,104

  4. Trent Dilfer (1993) 3,799

  5. Derek Carr (2011) 3,544

  6. Marcus McMaryion (2018) 3,453

Total yards

  1. Derek Carr (2013) 5,199

  2. David Carr (2001) 4,906

  3. Derek Carr (2012) 4,105

  4. Trent Dilfer (1993) 3,799

  5. Marcus McMaryion (2018) 3,706

Completions

  1. Derek Carr (2013) 453

  2. Derek Carr (2012) 344

  3. David Carr (2001) 344

  4. Derek Carr (2011) 279

  5. Marcus McMaryion (2018) 278

McMaryion, the Dinuba High product who transferred back home during fall camp last season, is having one of the best seasons for a quarterback in school history. He’s 20-4 as a starting quarterback at Fresno State, and to go with the passing and total yards, the completions and completion percentage, he also has one of the highest single-season passing efficiency ratings in school history and the lowest interception percentage.

And, a Mountain West championship.

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Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion could prove a valuable weapon in the run game in the Bulldogs match up against the Arizona State Sun Devils in the Las Vegas Bowl, Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018. The Fresno State quarterback has rushed the ball 54 times for 322 yards and seven touchdowns, excluding sacks. ERIC PAUL ZAMORA ezamora@fresnobee.com

“It’s honestly just surreal,” McMaryion said, after the Bulldogs’ 19-16 overtime victory at Boise State that clinched that title. “I don’t think it has sunk in, just everything that I’ve done in the past two years with coach Tedford and the program. I’m just thankful and blessed to be in the position I am.”

McMaryion leaves with a legacy that goes well beyond those numbers, transferring in from Oregon State and developing into a program-changer. Tedford got much more than he might have anticipated in that transaction. How much did he really know about McMaryion as he made his way back from Corvallis?

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“Not much,” Tedford said. “I knew he was as good player, physically. But I had no idea what a quality person he was and the impact he would have on the team and how people would gravitate toward him in every way. Not only is he a class guy, he’s a guy’s guy, he’s a teammate. I just think that people on our team, around our university, every one, just has tremendous respect for him.

“It has been a pleasure to be around him, way more than a football player. I hope and anticipate continuing a relationship with him for a long time after football, because he’s going to be successful in whatever he does whether it’s business, football; whatever it is, he is going to be a huge success. I love him for what he has done here, but it’s not just for what he has done, just the person he is, it’s amazing.”

Best of the year?

The Bulldogs this season faced all three 1,000-yard rushers in the Mountain West: Alexander Mattison (Boise State) with 1,415 yards, Nico Evans (Wyoming) with 1,325 yards and Lexington Thomas (UNLV) with 1,067 yards.

The Sun Devils’ Eno Benjamin is a different back, though. The difference? Speed.

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Fresno State Bulldogs linebacker George Helmuth (34) tackles UNLV Rebels running back Lexington Thomas (3) during the Bulldogs’ 48-3 victory at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018. Helmuth was in on eight tackles including four solo in the victory. John Locher ASSOCIATED PRESS

“On film, probably the best running back we’ve played all year,” linebacker George Helmuth said. “He can do everything. He’s fast, hard to take down, always keep his feet moving and is dangerous as a receiver, too.”

Benjamin this season has 33 pass receptions for 247 yards and two touchdowns, which could be an issue for Fresno State.

The Bulldogs have not faced many teams that frequently target running backs in the passing game — in the MW championship, Mattison, while rushing for 200 yards, was not targeted with a pass, and Boise’s backs had just one in the game.

The last team to target running backs more than four times in a game against the Bulldogs was San Jose State — and the Spartans got six receptions for 112 yards including a 74-yard touchdown.

Now that’s impressive

Benjamin has not lost a fumble on a rushing play this season, carrying the ball 277 times.

Arizona State has had not a running back lose a fumble on a rushing play since 2016, its streak going into the Las Vegas Bowl at 31 consecutive games and 875 carries.

Tedford on 12

The Bulldogs have a chance to win 12 games in a season for the first time in school history, which has been an inescapable topic during the week of bowl practice.

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Fresno State linebacker Jeff Allison (9) upends Boise State tight end Chase Blakley (86) in the Bulldogs’ 24-17 loss to the Broncos Friday, Nov. 9, 2018 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise. Allison is closing in on the single-season Top 10 for tackles at Fresno State. Darin Oswald doswald@idahostatesman.com

Tedford’s take: “I would be lying if I didn’t say that to the team, but really it’s about one game,” he said. “We just happen to be in a position if we’re fortunate enough to win a game then that would equal 12. That’s all that means. It’s not that we’re going in with the pressure of wining 12 games or anything like that. We take each week one game at a time. We’ve played a lot of quality opponents and we try to go out and reach our full potential and if we were fortunate to come out on the right side of this game it would equal 12 and that would mean a lot to this team.

“That’s not what we’re playing for. We’re playing to do what we do all the time, and that’s just try to be successful against a great football team. We’re going to have to play our best to have an opportunity to get a victory in this game because we have a lot of respect for Arizona State.”

Red-zone advantage

The Bulldogs defense is ranked fourth in the nation in red-zone touchdown percentage, allowing only 10 touchdowns on 24 possessions, 41.7 percent.

That gives Fresno State a decided edge if the Sun Devils get inside the 20-yard line — no sure thing, given the Bulldogs have allowed fewest red-zone possessions in the nation.

Arizona State has scored a touchdown on 27 of 46 red-zone possessions, 587. percent, eighth in the Pac-12 and 94th in the nation.

The Sund Devils averaged 4.8 yards per rush, but that falls to just 2.9 in the red zone. They also have completed only 47.4 percent of their passes inside an opponent’s 20-yard line (18 of 38) and have averaged only 2.9 yards per pass attempt in the red zone.

Opposite

Fresno State this season has dominated third quarters, outscoring opponents 150-21.

Arizona State, not so much. The Sun Devils have scored 61 points in the third quarter, their fewest in any quarter by 31 points; they also have allowed 93 points in the third quarter, and have allowed more only in the second quarter with 107 points.

Two to Top 10, again

Fresno State linebacker Jeff Allison, the defensive player of the year in the Mountain West, goes into the Las Vegas Bowl with 121 tackles this season and is just two away from hitting the program’s top 10 for single-season tackles.

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Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers runs past the diving tackle attempt by Boise State linebacker Will Heffner in scoring a game-winning touchdown in the Bulldogs 19-16 victory at Boise State in the Mountain West championship game. Steve Conner AP

Allison, who is on that list already in ninth place with 126 tackles last season, would be the third Bulldogs player to have two seasons in the top 10.

Ron Papazian is No. 2 and No. 5 with 158 tackles in 1993 and 139 in 1994, and A.J. Gass is No. 3 and No. 10 with 150 tackles in 1996 and 123 in 1997.

Pulling rank

Fresno State with a victory in the Las Vegas Bowl is likely to end the season as a ranked team for the first time since 2004.

The Bulldogs are No. 19 in the Associated Press Top 25 and No. 21 in the Coaches Poll entering bowl season.

They went into the Las Vegas Bowl in 2013 ranked No. 21 and fell out of the final rankings after a 45-20 loss to USC. They were unranked headed into the bowls in 2004, but after beating No. 18 Virginia in the MPC Computers Bowl were ranked No. 22 in the final AP poll. The only other time Fresno State has been ranked in the final polls was 1992, finishing No. 24 after beating USC in the Freedom Bowl.

Quick hitters

The Bulldogs have held 12 of 13 opponents to this point under their season average for total yards. The one exception: San Jose State, which is ranked 124th of 130 teams in the nation in total offense. The Spartans averaged just 323.7 yards per game, but against the Bulldogs managed to generate 367 yards.

Left tackle Christian Cronk will start his 40th career game in the Las Vegas Bowl, becoming one of five Fresno State seniors with 40 or more. Wideout KeeSean Johnson will be starting career game No. 49, wideout Jamire Jordan game No. 46, right guard Micah St. Andrew game No. 45 and linebacker James Bailey game No. 43.

The Mountain West is 11-11 against the Pac-12 in bowls but was just 3-6 during the 2018 regular season: The Bulldogs beat UCLA, Nevada beat Oregon State and San Diego State beat Arizona State.

The Bulldogs’ Johnson has 93 receptions going into the Las Vegas Bowl and could become the third player in school history to post a season with 100 or more catches. Davante Adams holds the record with 131 receptions in 2013, and also had 102 in 2012. Rodney Wright is the only other receiver in Fresno State history with 100 or more receptions in a season, racking up 104 in 2001.

The Bulldogs have allowed fewer than 100 yards eight times in their past 10 quarters, and in nine games against Mountain West opponents allowed more than 100 yards in a quarter just nine times.

In two games against Power Five opponents, at Minnesota and at UCLA, the Bulldogs allowed 100 yards of offense only once in eight quarters.

Arizona State is the only Power Five conference program with fewer than 10 turnovers this season, tied for third in the nation with nine.

The Sun Devils have outscored opponents 59-20 off turnovers this season. Fresno State has outscored its opponents 107-17, the 107 points more than double what it had in the past two seasons combined (61 and 38, 99).

Tedford has a 6-3 record in bowl games, including a 35-28 victory over Virginia Tech in the 2005 Las Vegas Bowl.

Arizona State quarterback Manny Wilkins on wideout N’Keal Harry, who is skipping the Las Vegas Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft: “He had to make a decision that was going to be the best decision for him. He was hitting me up for advice and all this stuff and I simply told him, ‘Listen, you have to trust your gut and you have to trust what you feel is right. Don’t feel like you owe anybody anything, because you put yourself in this position to have an opportunity to go to the next level.’

“Listen, if people are going to question his heart for not playing in those bowl game, I’ll be the first to tell you he is one of the hardest working, most humble people I’ve ever been around and all these blessings that are about to come to him, he’s earned it and deserved it. I’m just happy for him and the opportunity that he has.”

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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