Senior linebacker Levelle Bailey was doing what he’s done all season long — tackling ball carriers and harassing quarterbacks.
Add it all up and the result was Fresno State’s fifth-straight bowl victory and a 37-10 domination of New Mexico State in the Isleta New Mexico Bowl on Saturday in Albuquerque.
“Our guys did a phenomenal job executing and making some plays,” said Keene, who was named the game’s outstanding offensive player. “The offensive line kept me upright. It kept me clean. It’s easy to do your job when that happens. So they played their butts off and I appreciate them.”
The Bulldogs turned in perhaps their best performance of the season without coach Jeff Tedford, who has been sidelined with health problems.
“This game ball right here is for coach Tedford,” said interim head coach Tim Skipper, holding up a football. “We talked about that in the first meeting. This is the actual ball from the last snap. This thing is going to Fresno and going to coach Tedford, we’re going to bring it home to him.”
Bailey, who was named the game’s outstanding defensive player, had eight tackles and a sack.
The 27-point win was the Bulldogs’ third-largest margin of victory in a bowl game and the largest since 1985.
With Fresno State ahead, 20-10, entering the fourth quarter, Keene ran for a 4-yard score that virtually sealed the game. His final TD pass was a 9-yarder to Jalen Moss.
Bulldogs Hold Aggies to 200 Yards Offense
Fresno State finished with 491 yards of offense and held New Mexico State to 200. Diego Pavia threw for just 58 yards while rushing for 72 yards and a touchdown for the Aggies (10-5), who reached double digits in wins for the first time since 1960 but lost to unbeaten Liberty in the Conference USA championship game.
Some analysts favored New Mexico State in the game because of its nonconference win over Auburn and the Bulldogs’ late-season tailspin.
The Bulldogs sacked Pavia four times and intercepted him once. New Mexico State didn’t have a first down in the first quarter and didn’t top 100 yards of offense until midway through the third.
“We didn’t execute. We didn’t play as well,” New Mexico State coach Jerry Kill said. “But that goes to Fresno State. They played an outstanding game.”
(Associated Press contributed to this article.)