The Fresno State football team has won its first outright conference title since 1999 and will face USC in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl Dec. 21.
The Bulldogs beat Utah State 24-17 on Saturday to earn the Mountain West Conference title but it was no simple feat.
At the end of the second quarter, Bulldogs running back Marteze Waller fumbled a quick pitch which Utah State returned for an 86 yard touchdown, cutting the Bulldogs' lead to 17-7.
Just minutes into the fourth quarter, Fresno State was ahead 24-14 then, for the second straight game, the Bulldogs gave up an onside kick resulting in a 20-yard field goal to bring the Aggies within a touchdown with 9 minutes remaining.
With just under two minutes remaining in the game, the Aggies took over on downs from their own 29 after the Bulldogs failed to convert on fourth-and-3.
A 31-yard pass by junior quarterback Craig Harrison put Utah State at the Fresno State 39 and in a last ditch effort, Harrison attempted the long pass again, which glided into the hands of Bulldog sophomore safety Dalen Jones.
"It was a big reason why I came back — I wanted to win an outright championship," quarterback Derek Carr said. "Sharing a title was great; that was cool, sharing it with Boise State and San Diego State.
“As a competitor, that wasn't enough. We wanted to come back and finish things right.”
This was the fifth game this season which was decided by a touchdown or less in the final minutes of the game – the two most notable being the 52-51 overtime win over Rutgers and 41-40 win over Boise State.
The Bulldogs are now 13-0 at home under head coach Tim DeRuyter.
And although Carr is not a Heisman trophy finalist (see story here), in his senor season, Carr will lead the Bulldogs against USC in this year’s Las Vegas Bowl.
The Trojans went 9-4 this season and finished third in the Pac-12 South.
"Everything happens for a reason," wide receiver Isaiah Burse said. "We wanted to go undefeated, obviously, but we got our goal. Our goal was to win the Mountain West championship and not share it, and that's what we did."
Las Vegas Bowl 2013
12:30 p.m. Dec. 21 at Sam Boyd Stadium
No. 21 FRESNO STATE VS. USC
Records: Bulldogs 11-1; Trojans 9-4
Series tied 1-1
TV: KFSN (Channel 30.1)
Radio: KFIG (AM 940); KGST (AM 1600)