Mathews carrying a grudge

By Tim Korte
Associated Press / December 19, 2009

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ALBUQUERQUE - Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews led the nation in rushing yards per game but wasn’t invited to the Heisman Trophy award ceremony in New York City.

He’ll have to settle for the New Mexico Bowl instead.

Mathews and the Bulldogs (8-4) are going first on the bowl lineup, playing against Wyoming (6-6) this afternoon.

“He’s a very good football player and I think a lot of people will be watching this game just to watch him,’’ said Fresno State coach Pat Hill, whose team started 1-3 but won seven of its last eight to reach a bowl game for the 10th time in 11 seasons.

Mathews averaged 151.3 yards per game - almost 7 yards better than Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart of Stanford. Mathews runs over defenders as easily as he zips around them. Hill said Mathews typically gets the ball on 40 percent of Fresno State’s snaps.

“He’s the horse we ride,’’ Hill said yesterday.

Mathews had a season-high 235 yards rushing against Boise State and logged at least 150 yards in games against Illinois, Wisconsin, and Cincinnati. He’s always a big-play threat, leading the nation with seven runs of at least 50 yards.

He had touchdown runs of 69, 68, and 60 yards in a loss to Boise State.

For a time this fall, there was even talk of Mathews making a Heisman Trophy run. But Mathews, a junior, said he never expected to be invited to the Big Apple for the award show, sharing the stage with Gerhart and eventual winner Mark Ingram of Alabama.

“All that stuff is politics, what school you go to, things like that,’’ Mathews said. “Those guys who went are wonderful running backs, but I think I deserved to be up there with the best of them. It’s fine. It gives me more to prove, more to work for.’’

Wyoming is back in the postseason for the first time since 2004 under first-year coach Dave Christensen. The Cowboys are led by quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels, the Mountain West’s freshman of the year. He started the last nine games, winning his first three to ignite Wyoming’s bowl run, and threw for 1,752 yards while completing 59 percent of his attempts.