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Utah State (8-4) at (24) Fresno State (10-1)



Saturday, December 7, 10 p.m. (ET)

From The Sports Network

By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: Former Western Athletic Conference foes are set to battle in the first-ever Mountain West Conference Championship game, as the 24th-ranked Fresno State Bulldogs welcome the Utah State Aggies to the Golden State on Saturday night.

Up until last week, the Bulldogs had their sights set on being the latest BCS buster from west of the Mississippi, but the team watched a 10-game win streak come crashing to a halt at San Jose State as the Spartans pulled off an exciting 62-52 win.

FSU, which had won 15 straight regular-season dates before confronting the Spartans, is still in the hunt for its first conference title in more than two decades, but clearly every one of the Bulldogs had bigger plans that were shattered during the record-setting contest last week.

"It hurts tremendously. Our guys each week I thought were prepared and I thought went into this one with a great game plan," head coach Tim DeRuyter said. "You got to hand it to San Jose State, we got some things to work on, but it hurts for the fact that it was in our grasp but we let it go."

The Bulldogs, winners of the West Division title in the MWC with a record of 7-1, are going up against a Utah State group that is a surprising representative from the Mountain Division where it produced seven wins in eight opportunities.

The reason for the stunning outcome is that the Aggies made it happen with a five-game win streak down the stretch and their starting quarterback for the season, Chuckie Keeton, watching from the sidelines with a knee injury that ended his campaign in early October. Boise State was expected to take the division title, but with a 35-7 win over Wyoming last Saturday the Aggies proved the skeptics wrong.

"It's one of the best feelings I've ever felt," said USU head coach Matt Wells. "It's what you get into this for, to play for championships. We said it in January, we said it in August ... Here we are on Nov. 30 with half a championship."

The all-time series favors the Bulldogs by a 16-10-1 count, although this is the first meeting between the programs with both being members of the MWC.

Taking over for Keeton in the huddle has been Darrell Garretson and he has more than met the challenge. Against Wyoming, the youngster converted 20-of-29 passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns, against just a single interception. Lending a hand on the ground was Joey DeMartino who, in addition to putting up 112 yards and a touchdown in the rout, also became the 17th player in program history to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark.

Defensively, the star of the game for USU was Nick Vigil who registered four tackles for loss, including 3.5 sacks, as the Aggies limited Wyoming to a feeble 190 yards of total offense.

For the season, the Utah State defense has stepped up to limit opponents to just 111.6 ypg on the ground and 321.4 ypg overall, both of which have the group ranked 11th in the country this week. Add in the pass defense which has an efficiency rating of 109.22 and it is easy to see how this team again ranks as one of the best overall defenses in the country with only 16.8 ppg allowed.

The biggest positive for Garretson is that he hasn't tried to do too much, too fast in the absence of Keeton, instead he has converted 63.0 percent of his passes for an average of 187.8 ypg. What has to be a comfort to the signal caller is having a total of 12 players who have scored on at least one reception, with half of them having at least three TDs to their credit, which means Garretson has plenty of options at his disposal.

However, when it comes to passing attacks, Garretson and the Aggies fall far short of what Derek Carr and Fresno State have been able to generate this season. Against San Jose State, Carr threw for 519 yards and six touchdowns, all of those scores coming in the first half, but still it wasn't nearly enough as the FSU offense stalled in the second half of the biggest game of the season.

"Guys are tore up, as well they should be," Carr said of the loss. "This will be easier to put [behind us] because we are playing for our No. 1 goal, and that's a conference championship. It's so hard to win every game, it really is."

Unfortunately, for as well as the FSU offense performed for 30 minutes, the Bulldogs defense simply could not keep it together as they allowed SJSU quarterback David Fales to throw for 547 yards and six touchdowns of his own, adding another TD and 33 yards on six rushing attempts. After 11 regular season games, the Bulldogs owned the 100th-ranked defense as it gave up 436.9 ypg.

Still, as faulty as the defense can be for the Bulldogs, the star of the show is still Carr and his talented receivers. The quarterback leads the nation in passing yard with 405.6 ypg, his closest challenger being Oregon State's Sean Mannion with 366.9 ypg. Carr is also the only player in the country with more than 380 ypg in total offense, producing 418.0 ypg while throwing at least one touchdown in 31 straight games.

Carr hasn't done it alone however, utilizing Davante Adams (113 catches, 1,477 yards, 22 TDs) and Josh Harper (79, 1,011, 13) and the rest of his receiving corps for a massive 45 TDs and just five interceptions on 552 attempts.

Playing at home will certainly give the Bulldogs a lift, but don't expect to see Carr hurling one TD pass after another against a stubborn USU defense that won't want to be run out of the first MWC Championship Game. However, the Aggies are in a tough position either way you look at it.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Fresno State 35, Utah State 23

12/04 10:43:04 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
PHI 91
CHA 109
Final
PHI 91
CHA 109
Final
ORL 94
UTA 101
Final
CLE 95
BRK 91
Final
BOS 114
MIN 98
Final
DET 100
TOR 110
Final
MIA 103
WAS 105
Final
MEM 97
CHI 103
Final
SAN 119
POR 129
 
4th
DEN 97
LAC 96
 
2nd
LAL 38
OKC 34
 
Final
YOUNG 92
WILB 71
 
Final
TULA 56
JST 49
 
Final
RAD 76
SIENA 66
 
Final
BUCK 88
CASEWEST 65
 
Final
LIB 94
CPNC 65
 
Final
SCAR 68
CLEM 45
Final
CMICH 97
CONC 60
 
Final
MIAMI 44
EKENT 72
Final
GWEBB 91
HIWASSEE 71
 
Final
ODU 60
MDES 43
 
Final
BUF 88
NIAG 62
 
Final
KSU 71
NCAT 57
 
Final
FAM 65
UNF 83
 
Final
NORST 81
NARZ 62
 
Final
DART 58
NILL 55
 
Final
MORE 60
NKENTUCKY 83
 
Final
UCSB 69
SDCHR 46
 
Final
STJ 53
GAELS 47
Final
ALA 69
STILL 49
 
Final
HAMP 66
TENST 54
 
Final
TENN 61
TENT 58
Final
WMARY 86
WSHMD 46
 
Final
MERC 67
COOK 46
 
Final
FLGC 83
FUR 78
 
Final
CALST 49
SDKST 53
 
Final
MTST 68
CHAT 58
Final
NDAK 78
DICKINSON 48
 
Final
LAMON 76
LSUALEX 71
 
Final
PRIN 77
LIP 55
 
Final
LAM 80
MLGN 53
 
Final
MINN 92
SEAT 57
 
Final
LOYC 73
SUTAH 57
 
Final
SELA 81
WINT 71
 
Final
SILL 52
NO 56
 
Final
MARQ 83
ALAAM 49
 
Final
TTU 72
ARKPB 51
 
Final
DEN 84
COLST 85
 
Final
CREI 75
TXPA 60
 
2nd
CAL 44
EWASH 40
 
2nd
UTST 42
IDST 36
 
1st
UTEP 2
ARZ 15
 
11:59pm Tonight
CHAM
HAW
 
Final
NJD 3
TAM 2
Final
OTT 6
ANA 2
Final
DET 1
NYI 2
Final
WIN 2
BOS 1
3rd
CAL 1
DAL 2