LARAMIE, Wyo. – Earmarked as a game that would be a defensive battle, it lived up to the hype as Fresno State outlasted Wyoming 13-7 on a sub-freezing day at War Memorial Stadium on Saturday. With the win, Fresno State (8-3, 6-1 MW) captured its third West Division title in the last five seasons. The win also guaranteed the Bulldogs a date with Boise State in the Mountain West championship game on Dec. 2. The host site is still to be determined.
"I can't be prouder of this team," said head coach Jeff Tedford. "And I can't be happier for them. The turnaround that they've made, the belief and confidence, the hard work they've put in, the coaching staff has done a phenomenal job. It's a great feeling when all the hard work pays off."
Fresno State's defense held Wyoming to 175 yards through the first 55 minutes of the game, and won the turnover battle for the seventh time this season. Linebackers Jeffrey Allison and George Helmuth each led the defense with 11 tackles and a fumble recovery apiece.
Junior quarterback Marcus McMaryion passed for 186 yards and a touchdown on 14-of-23 attempts, while the running back trio of Josh Hokit (69), Jordan Mims (40) and Ronnie Rivers (33) helped sustain drives and bleed the clock throughout the afternoon on 41 carries.
How It Happened
After going three-and-out on their opening drive, the Bulldogs put together a 10-play, 58-yard drive, highlighted by a 32-yard catch by Jared Rice. The tight end's reception set up a 27-yard field goal by Jimmy Camacho to give the 'Dogs an early 3-0 lead.
Fresno State held the lead 3-0 after the opening quarter, limiting Wyoming to 36 yards offense – a single-game low for a Bulldogs' opponent this season.
Early in the second quarter, Wyoming opted to go for a fourth-and-1 from the Fresno State 37-yard line, but George Helmuth slipped through and met Nick Smith at the line of scrimmage before Jeffrey Allison helped clean the play up to force the turnover on downs. On the ensuing play, Ronnie Rivers caught a short pass on the outside was stripped by Andrew Wingard. Wyoming initially recovered the ball, but it was ruled that Cowboys player's foot was out of bounds giving the ball back to the 'Dogs.
The 'Dogs were forced to punt three plays later, but Austin Conway muffed the punt for the Cowboys with 11:19 in left in the half. Racing down the field in coverage, Helmuth pounced on the ball at the 21-yard line. On the ensuing play, Marcus McMaryion threw an over-the-shoulder pass to the front left pylon to Ronnie Rivers to give the 'Dogs a 10-0 lead and maintained the lead going into the break thanks to Jaron Bryant forcing a fumble in the redzone (recovered by Allison) with less than a minute remaining in the half.
The Bulldogs' scored first in the second half, increasing the lead to 13-0, following a 13-play, 83-yard drive on their second possession of the half. The drive which ate up 6:29 off of the clock ended with a 29-yard field goal from Camacho.
Smith, replacing an injured Josh Allen, attempted a late rally for Wyoming, connecting on six-of-seven passes, including a six-yard touchdown pass to Nico Evans to pull the Cowboys within six, 13-7 with 1:52 left in the game. The 'Dogs were held to a three-and-out, putting the game on their defense. Wyoming moved the ball down to the Fresno State 27-yard line, but the Cowboys could get no further as the 'Dogs forced three incompletions and Robert Stanley ended the game by tackling a scrambling Smith at the line of scrimmage.
• Fresno State has tied the program record for win improvement. The 2017 Bulldogs and 1929 Bulldogs both set win improvements of seven games.
• Fresno State clinched its third West Division title and berth to the Mountain West Championship game. It is the third in the five years since the inception of the divisional format was installed in 2013.
• George "The Hammer" Helmuth a career-high in tackles (11).
• Fresno State won the turnover battle, 2-1. Fresno State improves to 6-1 in games win leading the turnover battle.
• Jeffrey Allison recorded double-digit tackles for the fourth time this season.
• Jaron Bryant registered his first career forced fumble.
• Marcus McMaryion has not thrown an interception in now five of seven starts.
• Josh Hokit carried the ball a career-high 21 times (for 69 yards).
• Fresno State held Wyoming to 77 yards rushing. Wyoming entered the game averaging 102.9 per game.
• Fresno State held Wyoming to 308 yards total offense. A Mountain West opponent has not exceeded 330 yards or 26 points against the Bulldogs this season.
• Fresno State dominated the time of possession 35:32 to 24:28.
Fresno State will host Boise State next Saturday at Bulldog Stadium on Senior Day at 12:30 p.m. PT.