Fresno, CA (SportsNetwork.com) - Although it saw its BCS hopes shattered on Black Friday, Fresno State still had plenty to play for Saturday.
A resounding turnaround from their defense has the Bulldogs holding their first outright conference trophy in more than two decades.
Derek Carr threw three touchdown passes and the Bulldogs tallied nine sacks as No. 24 Fresno State defeated Utah State 24-17 in the inaugural Mountain West Championship game on Saturday night.
After surrendering 736 yards of total offense to San Jose State in their 62-52 loss, the Bulldogs (11-1) allowed just 304 total yards in this one.
Trailing 24-17 with less than two minutes remaining, the Aggies (8-5) stuffed Josh Quezada on a 4th-and-4 to get the ball back, but Dalen Jones intercepted Craig Harrison five plays later to seal Fresno State's first outright conference title since 1989.
Carr broke older brother David's single-season school mark for touchdown passes (46) and passing yards (4,839).
Carr also extended his streak of tossing at least one TD pass to 32 games -- the longest active stretch in the country -- and was 36-of-53 for 404 yards with two interceptions for Fresno State, which shared the Mountain West title with Boise State and San Diego State last year.
As the MWC champs, the Bulldogs will play in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Isaiah Burse had 17 receptions for 132 yards and a touchdown, while Davante Adams hauled in nine passes for 168 yards and a score in the triumph.
Ronald Butler caught five balls for 145 yards for Utah State and Darell Garretson completed 12-of-26 passes for 198 yards with an interception before exiting early in the fourth quarter with an apparent left shoulder injury.
The Aggies were unable to take advantage of a pair of Brian Suite interceptions in the third quarter and were down 24-7 after Carr capped a 13-play, 59-yard drive with a 3-yard TD pass to Adams.
Garretson hit Travis Van Leeuwen for a 7-yard completion on a 4th-and-4 on Utah State's ensuing sequence, but exited later on in the march. Garretson, who took over for Chuckie Keeton after he suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 5, exited after taking a big hit on his left shoulder on a sack by Jones.
Harrison came on to play quarterback and faced with a 2nd-and-16, Utah State got a fresh set of downs after Fresno State's Karl Mickelsen was whistled for a facemask penalty. Bruce Natson sprinted in for a 10-yard score a play later.
The Aggies recovered an onsides kick on the ensuing kickoff, which led to a 20-yard Nick Diaz field goal to whittle the deficit to 24-17 with 9:00 to go.
Earlier, Colin McGuire booted through a 30-yard field goal for the lone points in the opening frame.
Carr found a wide-open Marcel Jensen for a 3-yard score early in the second and Carr flipped a 9-yard TD pass to Burse on a quick screen in the right flat to cap Fresno State's ensuing trek and make it 17-0.
Later, after Diaz missed a 42-yard field goal with less than a minute to go in the half, Carr completed a 13-yard pass to Aaron Peck, found Burse for an 18-yard completion and then hooked up with Peck again for 18 yards to take the Bulldogs down to the Utah State 11.
Marteze Waller, though, fumbled on the next snap and Jake Doughty went 86 yards the other way on the final play of the half.
Fresno State was 6-of-15 on third down, while Utah State finished 4-of-16 ... The Bulldogs had 460 total yards ... Quezada carried the ball 22 times for 51 yards.