LAS VEGAS — Running back Ronnie Rivers might be the embodiment of Fresno State’s turnaround.
It was not guaranteed Rivers would be able to play this season after sustaining a foot injury in spring practice, and he was limited by a shoulder injury late in the year. Rivers was there, leading the way as the Bulldogs completed their journey after going 1-11 two seasons ago.
Rivers rushed for 212 yards and two touchdowns to help No. 21 Fresno State beat Arizona State 31-20 in the Las Vegas Bowl on Saturday.
Anthoula Kelly had a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown, and Marcus McMaryion rushed for a touchdown and was 15-of-29 passing for 176 yards to help Fresno State (12-2) set a school record for wins in a season.
“It’s a group that persevered,” Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford said. “This group can be remembered as the only team in NCAA history that went from a double-digit losing season to back-to-back double-digit winning seasons.”
Rivers put Fresno State back in front 24-20 with a 68-yard touchdown run up the middle in the third quarter and had a 5-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter to seal it.
The Bulldogs were 2-0 against Pac-12 opponents this season, also beating UCLA 38-14 in September.
“We’ve been emphasizing on the word ‘finish’ this past week and just going out there and finishing the job, getting this 12th win,” said Rivers, who gained 156 yards on 15 carries in the second half and was honored as the game’s most valuable player.
Utah St. 52, North Texas 13: ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Jordan Love threw for 359 yards and four touchdowns and Jalen Greene had six catches for 151 yards and a score to help Utah State rout North Texas in the New Mexico Bowl. Love completed 21 of 43 passes with one interception. D.J. Williams had two interceptions, helping Utah State ground high-flying North Texas (9-4).
Tulane 41, Louisiana-Lafayette 24: ORLANDO, Fla. — Darius Bradwell rushed for a career-best 150 yards and two touchdowns to lead Tulane to its first postseason victory in 16 years, a 41-24 win over intrastate rival Louisiana-Lafayette in the Cure Bowl. Justin McMillan improved to 5-1 as the Green Wave’s starting quarterback, tossing a first-quarter TD pass to Terren Encalade and running for a late score while accounting for 217 yards total offense.
Georgia Southern 23, Eastern Michigan 21: MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Tyler Bass kicked a 40-yard field goal as time expired to lift Georgia Southern past Eastern Michigan in the Camellia Bowl. Shai Werts kept the winning drive alive with a 29-yard scramble on fourth-and-10.
North Carolina A&T 24, Alcorn State 22: ATLANTA — Lamar Raynard passed for 292 yards and two touchdowns and Malik Wilson returned a kickoff for the game-sealing touchdown for North Carolina A&T in the Celebration Bowl. The Mid-Eastern Athletic conference champion Aggies (10-2) won their second straight HBCU national championship and third in four years.
Appalachian St. 45, Middle Tennessee 13: NEW ORLEANS — Appalachian State receiver Malik Williams passed for two touchdowns on trick plays, quarterback Zac Thomas caught a scoring pass and threw for three more, and the Mountaineers routed Middle Tennessee in the New Orleans Bowl. Camerun Peoples had a 63-yard touchdown run for the Mountaineers (11-2), which gave Appalachian State alum and former player Mark Ivey a victory in what might have been his only chance to coach his alma mater.