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Mountain West championship game final score: Fresno State outlasts Utah State, 24-17

Fresno State holds off Utah State, 24-17, to win the 2013 Mountain West title.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

No. 23 Fresno State held off a charging Utah State 24-17 to win the 2013 Mountain West title game, and this is the Bulldogs first outright conference title since 1991. Offense is normally the key for Fresno State but in Saturday night's game it was the defense that made plays, plus there were plenty of mistakes in this game.

The game started off with some great defense which saw Fresno State score just three points and Derek Carr was harassed all quarter long with the downfield passing game non-existent due to the Utah State pressure. Fresno State's defense was not to be overlooked either as they held Darell Garretson in check by being sacked three times in the first quarter, and nine times overall.

After that slow start, the Fresno State offense rattled of 14 straight points in the second quarter as offensive coordinator David Schramm changed the play calling and started to stretch the field from sideline-to-sideline with quick wide receiver passes to Isaiah Burse. That worked as the offense started clicking with those two second quarter touchdowns. The first was a 2-yard pass to an extremely wide open tight end Marcel Jensen, and the second was a 9-yard quick pass to Burse who dove to cross the plane.

Fresno State looked to roll Utah State as they were marching toward a 24-0 lead at the half, but an option play was called and Utah State's Jake Doughty picked up a fumble to return it 87-yards to make it a 17-7 game.

The momentum was on Utah State's side and it continued in the second half as the Aggies defense revved up again as Brian Suite picked off Carr on their first two possessions in the second half. However, Utah State could not take advantage and score any points.

The third possession in the second half is where Fresno State drove down the field and Devante Adams capped off the drive with a 3-yard touchdown reception. That would give Fresno State a 24-7 lead and it looked like the Bulldogs were going to roll, but that score would be the last points that the Bulldogs would score.

Utah State started to drive down the field late in the third quarter but starting quarterback Garretson was hit hard when sacked by Dalen Jones. That hit gave Garretson a concussion and he did not return in that game. In came Craig Harrison and he just handed the ball off on his first play and Bruce Natson scored from 10 yards out to make it a 24-14 game.

The Aggies then elected to do a pooch onside kick that actually worked. On the very first play of scrimmage Harrison threw a deep ball but there was pass interference which immediately put the Aggies in field goal range, and they ended up kicking the ball to make it a 24-17 game with over 10 minutes left in the quarter to make this a game.

Fresno State went on a prolonged drive that seemed to end the game, but the Utah State defense forced the Bulldogs into a tough spot with a 4th-and-2 that would have been a 46-yard field goal attempt. Up seven points, instead of kicking the field goal, or even trying a pooch kick, Fresno State was in shotgun and handed the ball off to Josh Quezada who was stuffed. That was a very interesting play call for Fresno State, and that was nearly universal.

Utah State had a chance to tie the game but they went on a quick three-and-out, but Fresno State gave the ball back just as quickly to give the Aggies one last final chance. The Aggies ended up coming up short when Harrison threw his only interception of the game when Dalen Jones picked him off to seal the win for Fresno State.

While the defenses showed up for a big game in this low scoring affair, but Carr still complete 36 of 53 passes for 404 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions. Burse caught 17 receptions for 132 yards, and Adams caught another nine for 168 yards and a touchdown.