FRESNO, Calif. - Tim DeRuyter vowed to make winning conference championships Fresno State's No. 1 goal. Well after a 48-15 victory over Air Force on Saturday in Bulldog Stadium, the 'Dogs captured the Mountain West title in their first year under DeRuyter and it is the school's first conference championship since 1999.
DeRuyter and his Bulldogs closed out the regular season with five-straight wins and stand at 9-3 overall while going 7-1 in their first season of Mountain West play. Fresno State now awaits its fate on where it will be heading for the bowl game and it has the opportunity to capture programs first 10-win season since 2001.
"I'm very, very proud of 22 exceptional seniors and the staff that came together a year ago to work as one unit and a team," DeRuyter said. "I'm very proud of what we were able to accomplish this season and especially today against a good Air Force team. We just tried to win a Mountain West championship, especially for these seniors."
Junior quarterback Derek Carr set a school record for highest completion percentage in a game, as he was 28-of-32 passing (.875) for 452 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions. After the game, Carr announced he would be back for his senior season in 2013.
"I am coming back next year," Carr said in the post-game press conference. "I'm so blessed. Hard work pays off and I'm a firm believer in that. You know personally how hard you worked, when it comes to fruition like this and you get to hold the [championship] trophy, you know you've done something right."
Carr and the Bulldog offense set the tone right from the very beginning. He had nine-straight completions to open the game for 215 yards and two touchdowns - all in the first 21 minutes.
Bulldog Stadium, behind a season-high attendance of 36,240, was rocking. Fresno State energized its home crowd with a combination of trickery and big plays.
The 'Dogs opened the game with a double-pass to Isaiah Burse that went for 28 yards. Then on the 'Dogs' second play of the game, Carr hit Davante Adams on a 64-yard touchdown pass.
Fresno State's all-time leading rusher, Robbie Rouse, even was able to throw a TD in the win. On a fourth-and-goal at the one, Rouse's jump-pass touchdown to Marcel Jensen gave Fresno State a 21-0 lead. It was one of two touchdown catches for Jensen on the day.
"This is the best season since I've been here, and the best season in at least over a decade and to go undefeated at home is real big," said Rouse, who finished with 106 yards rushing for his 21st career 100-yard rushing game. "With all the adversity that was thrown at us with new coaches, getting a new scheme and us coming off of last season and how we all pulled together as a team. As captains we got everyone together and were able to pull off this season and it feels great."
Burse and Adams' both had over 100 yards receiving in the game. Adams hauled in nine passes for 141 yards and two scores, his second TD showcasing his speed on a 24-yard catch and spring into the end zone.
Following the first touchdown of the game, Phillip Thomas' sack of Falcon quarterback Connor Dietz forced fumble a fumble and gave Fresno State the ball in Falcon territory. Two plays later, Burse out-jumped the defender in the end zone for a 36-yard touchdown pass and the route was on. Burse caught seven balls in the game for a career-high 158 yards.
Fresno State led 21-0 after the first quarter and 31-7 at the half. The Bulldogs, who finished the year undefeated at home for the first time since the 2000, end the regular season averaging 48.8 points in Bulldog Stadium. Fresno State's average margin of victory at home was 31.7 points.
Defensively, with the three turnovers gained, Fresno State now stands with 33 take-aways. The Bulldogs become the first team this century to have under 10 take-aways one season, but over 30 the next.
Seniors Travis Brown and Thomas led the defensive charge that held Air Force to 317 yards - 130 under its season average. Brown had nine tackles and even got one rush for one yard on offense.
"It's huge - the fan support I've had by staying in town and being a local guy," Brown said when asked if the championship meant more to him since he grew up in Fresno. "The community that surrounds Fresno has always held a place that has been close to my heart."
Thomas, Fresno State's Thorpe Award finalist, had 12 tackles for the second-straight game, the sack that forced a fumble and 1.5 tackles for a loss.
"It's been a long journey and it feels great to train and get my way back into the game and into full speed," Thomas said. "To be out here with my teammates is a great feeling. To do this on senior night, in my last game in Bulldog Stadium, for the championship, and to play in this scenery with the Bulldog fans feels great and I am going to miss it dearly."
Courtesy: FS Athletics