With a lift from Boise State and a victory-sealing interception by senior linebacker Levelle Bailey, Fresno State again controls its destiny in the Mountain West football race.
Resurgent perennial power Boise State (4-4, 3-1) put together one of its best defensive performances ever to throttle visiting Wyoming, 32-7, on Saturday.
Until that loss, Wyoming (5-3, 2-2) held the tie-breaker over Fresno State by virtue of a 24-19 win that knocked the Bulldogs out of the Top 25.
Meanwhile, playing before a sellout crowd at Valley Children’s Stadium, Fresno State (7-1, 3-1) held off UNLV (6-2, 3-1) by a score of 31-24.
The Bulldogs host the Broncos this coming Saturday night in a rivalry game that has defined the Mountain West for more than a decade and the Western Athletic Conference a decade before that.
“The Battle for the Milk Can” is set for 7 p.m. and will be televised on CBS Sports Network.
Keene, Clark, Bailey Key Bulldogs’ Comeback
There were heroes aplenty for the Bulldogs, who trailed 17-7 at the half against the Runnin’ Rebels.
Watching this on repeat 🔁
— Fresno State Football 🏆 (@FresnoStateFB) October 29, 2023
Quarterback Mikey Keene returned to the lineup after missing a game because of an ankle injury and threw four touchdown passes, including three in the pivotal third quarter.
Senior safety Sean Clark, a transfer from Kent State, had eight tackles, an interception, and a fumble recovery. On Monday, he was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week.
Bailey intercepted UNLV QB Jayden Maiava with the Rebels threatening at the Bulldogs’ 8-yard line in the game’s final moments.
In all, Bailey has been in the right place at the right time to help the Bulldogs in three of their victories this season:
— He picked off a pass in the second overtime of Fresno State’s 34-31 win over Eastern Washington.
— His pass breakup forced a turnover on downs with 30 seconds left in a 39-35 win at Purdue. He also made a fourth-and-goal stop in the fourth quarter against the Boilermakers.
— Fresno State Football 🏆 (@FresnoStateFB) October 30, 2023
Fresno State-UNLV Recap
The Bulldogs went three-and-out on the first drive of the second half but scored on their four other third-quarter possessions. Keene hit Mac Dalena for a 2-yard touchdown and then Eric Brooks for a TD from 10 yards out to give Fresno State a four-point lead. Dylan Lynch added a 36-yard field goal before Keene threw a 3-yard touchdown pass to Malik Sherod that made it 31-17 with 3 seconds left until the fourth quarter.
Maiava completed 21 of 35 passes for 268 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. White finished with seven receptions for 152 yards and two TDs.
Maiava threw a 15-yard TD pass to White with 12:22 remaining to make it 31-24 and then drove UNLV to the 8, where the Rebels had first-and-goal. After back-to-back incomplete passes by Maiava — the second of which was dropped in the end zone by a wide-open Senika McKie — Bailey picked off the third-down pass.
A Look at the Rest of the Schedule
Fresno State plays its final four games in California. After the Bulldogs host Boise State, they play at San Jose State on Nov. 11, followed by a visit from New Mexico, and the regular-season finale at San Diego State.
Air Force Leads Mountain West, Rises in Top 25
Air Force remained undefeated through eight games by dispatching Colorado State, 30-13, on Saturday. The Falcons, 5-0 in MW play, advanced to No. 17 in the AP Top 25 poll released on Sunday.
After hosting Army on Saturday, the Falcons close the regular season with visits to Hawaii and Boise State sandwiched around a home date against UNLV.
(Associated Press contributed to this article.)