INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Jordan Mims rushed for a career-high 209 yards and two touchdowns and Jake Haener threw two touchdown passes to lead Fresno State to a 29-6 victory over Washington State Saturday in the second annual Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl at SoFi Stadium.
Mims and Haener both produced more offense than the Cougars, who were held to 182 yards, including 59 in the first half.
Mims was chosen as the offensive MVP.
“We had the time to prepare for these guys,” said Mims, a sixth-season senior from East Palo Alto whose previous career high was 186 yards in a 30-20 victory over San Diego State on Oct. 30, 2021.
“We took advantage of every opportunity. Our line did a phenomenal job today blocking. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t have had what I had.”
This is the second consecutive season Mims was the offensive MVP of a bowl game. He also received the honor for the 2021 New Mexico Bowl when he rushed for 165 yards in a 31-24 victory over UTEP.
Fresno State defensive end Devo Bridges called receiving the belt symbolic of being the defensive MVP from Kimmel “the biggest moment of my life.”
Bridges made eight tackles, including two quarterback sacks, both career highs for the fourth-year junior, an alumnus of Carter High School in Rialto.
“I feel like I didn’t do it alone — everyone else playing around me and the coaches putting me in position to make plays — so it really is a team effort for sure,” Bridges said.
Haener completed 24 of 36 passes for 280 yards and was sacked four times.
The Bulldogs (10-4) led in total offense, 501 yards to 182, 28-13 in first downs and 32:27-27:23 in time of possession in front of a crowd announced at 32,405 for the 12:30 p.m. game. The announced attendance was 29,896 for Utah State’s 24-13 victory over Oregon State in the inaugural Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl which began at 4:30 p.m.
Fresno State’s ninth consecutive victory made it the first Football Bowl Subdivision team to have a 10-victory season after a 1-4 start, an accomplishment made possible by the expansion of the regular season to 12 games in 2006.
(Teams were also able to play 12 games in years when there were 14 Saturdays from the first permissible playing date through the last playing date in November, which occurred in 2002 and 2003.)
The winning streak is the Bulldogs’ longest since a 10-game winning streak in 2013.
Washington State (7-6) was forced to punt five times and turned the ball over on downs twice in 11 possessions. Quarterback Cameron Ward was sacked six times, including for a safety in the second quarter and threw an interception in the third quarter.
“I don’t think we ever got in a rhythm,” Cougars coach Jake Dickert said. “We never established running the football which is a key piece to what we always want to do.”
Washington State rushed for 45 yards on 28 carries, which included 33 yards in losses on the six quarterback sacks.
Fresno State opened the scoring on the game’s first possession, with Haener throwing a 22-yard touchdown pass to Zane Pope to complete a six-play, 75-yard drive.
Mims ran 3 yards for a touchdown on the Bulldogs’ fourth possession, four plays after Washington State turned the ball over on downs at its 23-yard line when Nakia Watson was stopped for no gain on a fourth-and-1 play.
Fresno State increased its lead to 16-0 three minutes, 46 seconds before halftime when Ward was tackled in the end zone for a safety by defensive tackle Leonard Payne Jr., an alumnus of St. Pius X-St. Matthias Academy in Downey and among 13 Bulldogs to have played high school football in Los Angeles County.
The Cougars scored their lone points on Watson’s 1-yard run with 3:40 left in the third quarter. Ward completed five of six passes for 37 yards on the nine-play, 60-yard drive and scrambled 11 yards for a first down. Ward threw an incomplete pass on the 2-point conversion attempt.
The Bulldogs responded with a six-play, 75-yard drive, culminating with Haener’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Nikko Remigio, a former Mater Dei High School standout. Andrew Meono’s extra point kick was wide right.
Mims ran 2 yards for the final touchdown with 8:29 remaining in the fourth quarter, eight plays after Washington State turned the ball over on downs on its 38-yard line when Ward’s pass on fourth-and-3 was incomplete.
Ward completed 22 of 32 passes for 137 yards with one interception and was sacked six times.
Cougars’ receiver Robert Ferrel made a game-high 10 catches, a season high. Ferrel slept in his Mustang in the parking lot of the Ralphs market in Gardena in the summer of 2019 when he was playing for El Camino College.
Washington State played without both its offensive and defensive coordinators. Offensive coordinator Eric Morris was hired as North Texas’ coach while defensive coordinator Brian Ward was hired as Arizona State’s defensive coordinator.
Dickert also served as defensive coordinator Saturday, a role he held with the Cougars in 2020 and 2021. Dickert was Washington State’s interim coach for the final five games of the 2021 season following Nick Rolovich’s firing for failing to comply with Gov. Jay Inslee’s proclamation to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Dickert was appointed to the job on a permanent basis one day after a 40-13 victory over rival Washington in the 2021 regular-season finale.
Offensive line coach Clay McGuire was the offensive coordinator Saturday.
After the College Football Playoff, Rose Bowl and other New Year’s Six bowls, the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl had the fifth choice among Pac-12 Conference teams, behind the Alamo Bowl, Holiday Bowl, Las Vegas Bowl and Sun Bowl. The Cougars, 7-5 at the time, were the only remaining bowl-eligible Pac- 12 team when it came time for executive director Jason Gannon to choose the game’s representative from the conference.
Fresno State earned a spot in the game with a 28-16 victory over Boise State in the Mountain West Football Championship Game Dec. 3, avenging a 40- 20 loss to the Broncos on Oct. 8, its last loss.
Washington State made its seventh bowl appearance in eight seasons, missing only in 2020 when it was 1-3 with three games canceled because of coronavirus issues. The Cougars have not won a bowl game since the 2018 Alamo Bowl when they defeated Iowa State, 28-26.
Fresno State made its second consecutive bowl appearance and third since 2018. The victory was its fourth straight in a bowl game.
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