Rivers, Bulldogs Receive Mountain West End-of-Year Honors

Ronnie Rivers rumbled for 133 yards rushing and 99 yards through the air in Fresno State’s 40-27 win over UNLV on November 7. Rivers also tied a career-high by scoring four touchdowns total. (Fresno State Athletics)

Ronnie Rivers, the star Fresno State running back who finished the 2020 campaign tied atop the school’s all-time career touchdowns list, was honored as a first team All-Mountain West selection, the conference announced Tuesday.

Offensive tackle Syrus Tuitele and defensive end David Perales were named second team All-Mountain West, with seven more Bulldogs named All-Mountain West honorable mentions: quarterback Jake Haener, wide receivers Jalen Cropper and Keric Wheatfall, defensive tackle Kevin Atkins, defensive end Kwami Jones, linebacker/husky Levelle Bailey, and safety Evan Williams.

The seven honorable mentions for Fresno State tied Boise State and Colorado State for the second-most by any school in the conference.

The teams were voted on by the 12 head coaches in the conference, as well as select media members from each school’s area.

Rivers, entering the regular season finale, led the Mountain West with 163.8 all-purpose yards per game, a figure that also put him at ninth in the country. In Rivers’ pursuit of the program’s touchdown record, the senior back found the end zone nine times in 2020, which also paced the Mountain West prior to the regular season finale.

Rivers suffered an injury on a touchdown-called-back against Nevada on Dec. 5, knocking him out for the rest of that game and limiting him to a single carry in the season’s final game against New Mexico, which put a dent in his final regular season totals.

Overall, in six games this season, Rivers rushed for 507 yards and seven rushing touchdowns, along with 265 receiving yards and two more scores receiving.

It added up to Rivers securing first-team honors in the conference for the first time in his career, after he was named second team All-Mountain West last year.

Named to the second team this year for the Bulldogs was a pair of linemen on both sides of the ball: senior Syrus Tuitele and junior David Perales.

Tuitele started all six games for Fresno State at right tackle in 2020, and he continued his consistent pass and run protection that Bulldogs fans saw in 2018 and 2019. A stalwart on the right side of the O-Line, Tuitele blocked for the most productive offense in the Mountain West, as Fresno State paced the conference in total yards per game (479,3/game).

Perales, a transfer from Sacramento State, represented the Valley well in his first year with the Bulldogs – both with his “V” tattoo on his right elbow and his disruptive defensive play. Perales led the Bulldogs with nine tackles for loss, tying for third in the conference in that category. He also led the conference in forced fumbles (4), which he racked up in four consecutive games.

In addition, Perales showed a penchant for getting to the passer, tallying four sacks, one behind team leaders (and conference honorable mentions) Kevin Atkins and Kwami Jones.

Haener was one of only two quarterbacks named as All-Mountain West honorable mentions. Haener could not surpass Nevada’s Carson Strong – the MW offensive player of the year – or San Jose State’s Nick Starkel for a first or second team spot, but the junior passer turned in a solid 2020 campaign. He threw for 2,021 passing yards and 14 touchdowns, both second-best in the conference, and boasted a conference-best 336.8 passing yards per game.

Helping Haener achieve those numbers and also named honorable mention, Jalen Cropper finished Top 5 in the Mountain West in receiving yards (550) and touchdown catches (5). Wheatfall was another honorable mention at wide receiver, finishing second on the team in receiving yards (363) behind Cropper, and third in receptions (23) behind Cropper and Rivers.

In the conference overall, Boise State and Nevada tied for the most first and second team selections with ten. Fresno State’s three All-Mountain West selections tied with Hawaii for seventh best in the conference.

Gabriel Camarillo
Gabriel Camarillo is in his second year writing for the Clovis Roundup, covering Fresno State football and high school sports. In addition, Gabriel works as a sports broadcaster for Fresno State Athletics on the Mountain West Network. Gabe is currently pursuing a major in broadcast and print journalism at Fresno State.