Fresno State Football

Bulldogs’ Rivers still rolling, lands on watch list for Doak Walker Award as best back in nation

Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers, who last season led the Bulldogs in rushing and ended a 12-2 championship season with a dynamic performance in a Las Vegas Bowl victory, has been selected to the watch list for the 30th Doak Walker Award.

Rivers, who did not play in the first three games when coming back from a serious foot injury suffered in the spring, rushed for 743 yards at 5.6 yards per play as a sophomore.

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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

In the Bulldogs’ 31-20 bowl victory, he rolled up a career-high 212 yards on 24 plays including a 68-yard touchdown run in the third quarter to put Fresno State in the lead and a 5-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter to extend that margin.

Rivers also caught four passes for 33 yards from quarterback Marcus McMaryion in that victory over the Sun Devils., and was selected as the most valuable player in the Las Vegas Bowl.

The Doak Walker Award is presented annually by the PwC SMU Athleteic Forum to the top running back in college football. Walker was a three-time All-American at SMU, and past winners of the award include Melvin Gordon (Wisconsin, 2014), Reggie Bush (USC, 2005), LaDainian Tomlinson (TCU, 2000) and Eddie George (Ohio State, 1995).

Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor won the 2018 Doak Walker Award.

The Doak Walker is the only major award that requires candidates to be in good academic standing and on schedule to graduate within one year of students in their class.

The 2019 list includes 71 running backs across FBS football – 17 sophomores, 32 juniors and 22 seniors. From the Mountain West Conference, Nevada running back Toa Taua and Hawaii back Dayton Furuta also are on the watch list .

Rivers, who also scored the touchdown in overtime to clinch the Mountain West championship with a 19-16 victory at Boise State, is the third Fresno State player to land on a watch list for a national award. Safety Juju Hughes and linebacker Mykal Walker are on the watch list for the Chuck Bednarik Award, presented to the top defensive player in college football.

The watch list for the Biletnikoff Award will be released on Thursday and the Mackey and Rimington awards will be on Friday.

Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada
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