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Bulldogs earn 12th win with 31-20 triumph over Arizona State in 2018 Las Vegas Bowl

Ronnie Rivers records fourth-most all-purpose yards in a single game in program history with 286.

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Game Recap: Football | 12/15/2018 6:30:00 PM | Fresno State Athletic Communications

LAS VEGAS – For the first time in program history, Fresno State earned its 12th win in a single season, defeating Arizona State 31-20 at the 2018 Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday afternoon at Sam Boyd Stadium.

 

 Sophomore running back Ronnie Rivers was named the game's Most Valuable Player after accounting for 286 all-purpose yards, the fourth-most in program history. He totaled 212 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 24 carries, while also posting 41 punt return yards and 33 receiving yards.

 

 While Rivers accounted for nearly half of the Bulldogs' 436 yards of offense on the ground, senior quarterback Marcus McMaryion passed for 176 yards on 15-of-29 attempts while rushing for 41 yards.

 

 Having surrendered 230 yards and 17 points to Arizona State in the first half, the Bulldog defense shut down the explosive backfield duo of running back Eno Benjamin and quarterback Manny Wilkins in the second half as the Sun Devils gained only 63 yards and registered one field goal during the final 30 minutes.

 

 The Bulldogs forced two turnovers while giving away three. Juju Hughes and Anthoula Kelly each recorded their fourth interceptions of the season for the Bulldogs' two turnovers gained. Kelly's INT was returned 70 yards for a touchdown that put the 'Dogs on top 10-0 midway through the first quarter.

 

Jeff Allison and George Helmuth each had a game-high 11 tackles.

 

How It Happened

 Fresno State struck first, moving the ball 45 yards on their second possession of the game to the ASU 21-yard line. Asa Fuller lined up a 39-yard field goal and split the uprights to give the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead with 7:02 on the clock.

 

 On the ensuing Sun Devil possession, Wilkins looked to throw left but he found the awaiting hands of Kelly as he broke on the release of ball. The senior sprinted down the sideline, stopped, and cut back across the field with 30 yards to go before being caught, and cut back again toward the right side before trotting into the end zone for a 70-yard pick-six to give Fresno State a 10-0 advantage seven minutes into the game.

 

 Arizona State answered with a nine-play drive. After three rushes for 16 yards by Benjamin, Wilkins rushed once for 11 yards and went 3-of-4 on the drive as he connected with Kyle Williams for a three-yard touchdown to bring the Sun Devils within three with 1:25 to go in the first.

 

 ASU grabbed the lead early in the second quarter, 14-10, as Benjamin had three rushes on an eight-play, 58-yard drive, capping it off with a 17-yard run.

 

 Fresno State had an answer though. The 'Dogs opened up with Ronnie Rivers breaking loose for runs of 15 and 19 yards. The Bulldogs then worked the ball down to the ASU 10-yard line where McMaryion found a hole up the middle to get into the end zone and retake the lead for Fresno State, 17-14, with 8:03 remaining in the half.

 

 The Sun Devils worked nearly the remainder of the time left on the clock in the first half on its next drive, moving the ball down to the Fresno State two-yard line. The Bulldogs held ASU to a 20-yard field goal from Brandon Ruiz after the Sun Devils had a first-and-goal from the eight-yard line. ASU knotted the game, 17-17, heading into the half.

 

 After holding Arizona State to a three-and-out to open the third quarter, the Bulldogs looked to take the lead on a 29-yard scamper by Dejonte O'Neal, but he lost control of the ball diving toward the end zone where Shannon Forman recovered the fumble for ASU. That started a string of three-straight turnovers for the Bulldogs as McMaryion tossed back-to-back interceptions. The defense stood tall though in the quarter, allowing just 31 yards and a 44-yard Ruiz field goal as the Sun Devils held a slim 20-17 lead late in period.

 

 With a minute left in the third, on second-and-10 from the Bulldogs' own 32-yard line, Rivers burst through a hole in the middle of the line and broke free for a 68-yard touchdown run. The sophomore's run gave Fresno State a 24-20 lead heading into the final quarter.

 

 Fresno State scored once more with 5:19 left in the game to gain a two possession lead, 31-20. A drive that started on their own 45-yard line. The 'Dogs drove seven plays for 55 yards. A key play on the scoring drive was on a third-and-3, McMaryion slipped through the line and scrambled for 23 yards to put the 'Dogs at the ASU 25-yard line. Four plays later, Rivers put the game out of reach with a five-yard touchdown run up the middle.

 

Notables

  • The 2018 Fresno State football team is the first team in the 97-year history of the program to win 12 games in a season.

• The Bulldogs defeated two Pac-12 teams in one season for the first time since 2003 (Oregon State/UCLA).

• In his second career Las Vegas Bowl, Jeff Tedford improved to 2-0 having previously led Cal to a 35-28 win over BYU in 2005; Tedford is the first coach to own two Las Vegas Bowl wins as the head coach of two different teams.

• Fresno State has won 21 of its last 25 games overall.

• Fresno State extended its nation-leading streak of limiting opponents under 30 points to 25 games.

• The win over Arizona State was the first in program history. Fresno State last played Arizona State in 1941. They entered the game 0-3 all-time in games against the Sun Devils.

• Fresno State improved to 1-2 in Las Vegas Bowl games, having previously fallen in games in 1999 and 2013.

• Fresno State snapped its six-game losing skid in bowl games in 2017, with a 33-27 win over Houston at the Hawai'i Bowl, the 'Dogs have now won back-to-back bowl games for the first time since winning three-straight from 2002-04.

• Fresno State lost the turnover battle, 3-2, but still came out victorious. Fresno State closed the season falling short on the turnover battle, but won all three times.

• By outscoring Arizona State 7-3 in third quarter, Fresno State finished the season outscoring opponents 157-24 in the third quarter this season.

• The Bulldogs' defense allowed just 63 yards offense in the second half. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs' offense registered 281 yards in the second half.

• Fresno State's Ronnie Rivers was named the MVP of the game; Rivers posted the fourth-most all-purpose yards in school history with 286 (212 rush/41 punt return/33 receiving).

• Rivers' 212 rushing yards marked the 21st 200-yard rushing game in program history and tied for 14th-most rushing yards in a single game.

• KeeSean Johnson extended his nation-leading streak of consecutive games with at least one catch to 50. He added to his existing program record and now owns the all-time record for a Mountain West player, surpassing Dominic Rufran (Wyoming, 2011-14) who had 49.

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