Nov. 24, 2012
By Theresa Kurtz
By Theresa Kurtz
FRESNO, Calif. - Last January, the Fresno State football program met to discuss the 2012 season. At the conclusion of the meeting, the Bulldogs had one goal in mind as they entered their first season in the Mountain West... to win the conference crown.
"It's a dream. You always aim to be a champion, but to do it at this level after the things we have been through," senior running back Robbie Rouse said. "We didn't win this championship overnight. We started in January and it's just great for us now to be able to hold the trophy."
Almost a year later, the `Dogs have achieved that goal of a MW title under first-year head coach Tim DeRuyter. A year ago the Bulldogs were 4-9. Now with an overall mark of 9-3 and a home record of 6-0, Fresno State earned its crown.
"It's a dream come true," said senior Phillip Thomas. "The championship hasn't been here for a very long time. It was the goal that we set out for at the beginning of the season and for it to happen on senior night is an amazing feeling."
It is the first time since 1999 that the Bulldogs have won a conference title. The `Dogs won the crown on senior night in front of an announced crowd of 36,240, which is the largest in Bulldog Stadium this year.
"I am just really happy for our team, especially our 22 seniors and our coaching staff," said DeRuyter. "They worked so hard and to have something like this happen is special. We talked all season about making a special moment and these guys did that today."
In order to clinch a piece of the MW title, the Bulldogs had to win their final regular season game against Air Force. The `Dogs took care of business in the 2012 finale, defeating the Falcons 48-15.
It wasn't just today's game that gave Fresno State a chance to wear championship gear during post game festivities. It was a long season of grinding it out on the field, in the weight room and in the class room.
"We had to put in the work to get here after the season we had last year," said Thomas. "We had to work hard in the spring, during summer training and fall camp. We did all that. Nobody backed down, we all took on the challenge and now we get to celebrate the results."
As the final minutes of the game winded down, a pair of Fresno State Air Force ROTC cadets walked the MW trophy down the ramp and on to the field. The Red Wave ignited in applause as they saw the championship trophy make its way to the sideline.
For one Bulldog the moment doesn't seem real.
"It hasn't really sunk in what we have done," said quarterback Derek Carr. "We won a conference championship and that hasn't sunk in yet."
Carr's journey to winning a conference title began back in 2001, when his older brother David was the starting quarterback.
"When my brother lost to Boise State was when my goals started. I wanted to play football, I wanted to be a quarterback at Fresno State and I wanted to finish what he started," explained Carr. "I talked to him before the game and told him that I was going to go take this one for you."
Carr held on to the trophy and received applause from the Red Wave as he walked it up the ramp of Bulldog Stadium and into the locker room. He even conducted his postgame interview with the trophy on his lap.
Winning a conference title is also overwhelming for senior Travis Brown, who has been a Bulldog since he was a little boy.
"I can't really put the emotions into words," added Brown. "I am excited and fired up for the team. We did this as a team and that is the best part about it. It's huge for all of us because it's what we've been fighting for, for so long. It's big for the community and I am excited to be a part of it."
The team was presented with the trophy, championship hats and banners following the game. University President John Welty, coach DeRuyter and the senior all gave speeches for the fans still in Bulldog Stadium. A group of Bulldogs even drenched DeRuyter with a jug full of purple Gatorade.
"I'm on cloud nine and numb from the Gatorade, but really excited for our guys," said DeRuyter. "It's overwhelming thinking back to when we got this started to what they accomplished today."
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