Las Vegas, NV – Fresno State running back Ronnie Rivers carries home the winning trophy. He racked up the MVP honor after scoring 2 touchdowns and rushing for 214 yards in the Fresno State 31-20 victory of Arizona State.
The Fresno State Bulldogs (11-2) faced off against the Arizona State Sun Devils (7-5) in the Mitsubishi Las Vegas Bowl on the opening Saturday to kickoff the 2018 Bowl season.
Fresno State opened the game with its Run pass option (RPO) offense. The quarterback has the option to run or pass depending on the defensive scheme. Fresno State Marcus McMaryion mixed the run and pass, eventually connecting on a 26 yard play to wide receiver KeeSean Johnson. That set up the their first points with a 39 yard field goal.
Arizona State star receiver N’Keal Harry elected to forego the game to focus on the NFL Draft. Running back Eno Benjamin came to play an entered the contest with 1,524 rushing yards, only needing 42 more yards to set the school single-season record.
This Bulldogs top 15 defensive unit only allowed 3.6 yards per carry and seven rushing touchdowns, tied for the fewest in the FBS.
Benjamin rushed for 118 yards in the game and completed a drive with an elusive 17 yard run for a touchdown in first half.
Fresno State defensive back Tank Kelly intercepted a pass and returned it 70 yards for a touchdown, the 3rd longest in Las Vegas Bowl history. This slowed to Arizona State offense with another turnover.
Fresno State running back Rivers sparked his team with two consecutive rushes totaling 34 yards. That ignited a 9 play 75 yard scoring drive, capped off McMaryion scramble for 9 yards as he vaulted into the endzone and 17-14 lead.
The postgame celebration was filled with the fanfare and speeches that you would expect from a victor. Fresno’s Head Coach Tedford praised his team for overcoming their 3 turnovers. He stated, “I’m most proud of the team that was able to produce two consecutive double digit winning seasons after being 1-11.” The Mountain West needs to prepare for the Bulldogs because they have yet to hit their full stride.
This standoff was led by two legendary coaches, both of whom had tenure with the NFL.
Two years ago, Fresno State Head Coach Jeff Tedford took over a 1-11 program. Tedford quickly turned around the program, producing two consecutive double digit winning seasons and being crowned the 2018 Mountain West Champion.
Arizona State first year Head Coach Herm Edwards, formerly with the New York Jet’s, led the Sun Devils to second in the Pac 12, with three upset wins against Michigan State, USC and Utah.
Fresno State offense was too potent to be denied the trophy. The Bulldogs had 436 total yards offense, compared to the Sun Devils 293 yards.