FRESNO - Behind 504 yards of total offense and three first half touchdowns from junior wide receiver KeeSean Johnson, the Fresno State Bulldogs won its Mountain West opener over Nevada 41-21 on Saturday evening at Bulldog Stadium.
Junior quarterback Marcus McMaryion, making his first start as a Bulldog, had a standout game behind center, passing for 296 yards on 24-of-32 passing and tossed two touchdowns. The Oregon State transfer went 20-of-23 in the first half for 260 yards. Johnson, a Biletnikoff award watch list candidate, made a team-high seven receptions for 104 yards and matched his career-high with three touchdowns.
On the ground, freshman running back Ronnie Rivers rushed for a season-best 82 yards on a season-high 12 carries and scored the 'Dogs lone touchdown on the ground.
Defensively, the secondary provided three turnovers as sophomore Jaron Bryant notched his first two career interceptions, one returned 18 yards for a touchdown, and senior Johnny Johnson, Jr. added another.
Junior linebacker George Helmuth had a career-high 10 tackles and added a sack and tackle for a loss. Linebackers James Bailey and Jeffrey Allison each had eight tackles apiece while sophomore defensive back Mike Bell added seven tackles, including three solo stops.
How It Happened
The first quarter saw the 'Dogs build an early 10-0 lead behind 120 yards of offense with 107 yards coming through the air. With Nevada winning the coin toss and deferring to the second half, James Jordan received the opening kickoff and returned it 71 yards down to the Wolf Pack 29-yard line. Three plays later, McMaryion found Johnson for a 10-yard touchdown to give the Bulldogs an early 7-0 lead.
The Wolf Pack threatened to score on its second possession of the game driving down to the Bulldog 35-yard line before being forced to attempt a 45-yard field goal. Nevada's Spencer Pettit's kick was blocked by the Fresno State's James Bailey and recovered by DenShawn Potts. Taking over at their 25-yard line, the 'Dogs went on a 12-play, 63-yard drive down to the Nevada 12 setting up a Jimmy Camacho 29-yard field goal to put the 'Dogs up 10-0 at the end of the first quarter.
The Bulldogs continued to build their lead in the second quarter using a quick 63-yard strike from McMaryion to sophomore wide receiver Derrion Grim to get down to the Nevada 25. After a nine-yard rush by freshman running back Jordan Mims, a 16-yard pass from running back Josh Hokit to Johnson put the 'Dogs in front 17-0 - the running back's second TD toss this season.
Bryant's interception return, the first interception returned for a touchdown by a Bulldog since 2015, and a 40-yard strike from McMaryion to Johnson extended the Bulldogs lead to 31-0 with 2:08 left in the first half.
Nevada would not end the half quietly, answering back with back-to-back touchdowns within 19 seconds of one another under one minute remaining in the half. Gangii connected with Wyatt Demps for a 17-yard score and then after a fumble by Fresno State's Da'Mari Scott on the ensuing kickoff, Gangi wasted no time finding Trevion Armstrong in the corner of the endzone to cut the 'Dogs lead to 31-14.
The Bulldogs extended their lead to 38-14 in the third quarter as Rivers punched in a five-yard score on the ground to finish off a six-play, 56-yard drive and Camacho's second field goal of the night from 27 yards out ended the Bulldogs' scoring for the contest. A late touchdown by the Wolf Pack made the final score 41-21, earning the Bulldogs their largest margin of victory in a conference opener since 2011.
- The Bulldogs improved to 28-20-1 all-time against Nevada. It was the first time the 'Dogs defeated the Wolf Pack at home since 2013.
- Fresno State won its Mountain West opener for the first time since 2014 when they defeated New Mexico in Albuquerque.
- Head coach Jeff Tedford improved to 7-5 in conference openers as a head coach and defeated Nevada for the first time in his career.
- Freshman running back Jordan Mims had a season-high nine carries for a season-best 47 yards.
- KeeSean Johnson extended his consecutive games with a reception to 26 games.
- Johnson now has 11 touchdown receptions in his career.
- Hokit tossed his second career touchdown pass. He is now 2-of-2 for 81 yards and two touchdowns on the season.
- The 20 point-win was the largest for Fresno State in a conference opener since Sept. 24, 2011 at Idaho (48-24).
The 'Dogs return to action next Saturday traveling to San Jose State for a matchup with the Spartans at 4:30 p.m. PT at CEFCU Stadium.
"Just the Ticket to Build Our Community" – The Bulldog Scholarship Fund gives Bulldog alumni, fans and friends the opportunity to support Fresno State Athletics and the student-athletes who inspire them. For information about how you can support the Bulldog Scholarship Fund, please visit www.bulldogscholarshipfund.com or call 559-278-7160
All Photos by Jack W Porter, Jr.