POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 23, 2012
Robbie Rouse called it his "coming out party."
As a freshman backup to Ryan Mathews — now a San Diego Chargers running back — Rouse rushed for two touchdowns in Fresno State's 42-17 win over Hawaii at Aloha Stadium in 2009.
Unable to contain his excitement, Rouse celebrated one of his scores by jumping into the stands.
Nearly 40 touchdowns later, he's learned to handle his success a tad bit better.
"I'd never done anything like that, you know, but it's definitely something I'll never forget," Rouse said Thursday. "I was excited."
SHERATON HAWAII BOWL» Who: Southern Methodist (6-6) vs. Fresno State (9-3)
» Where: Aloha Stadium
» When: 3 p.m. Monday
» TV: ESPN
The latest in a long line of talented Bulldogs running backs, the 5-foot-7, 190-pound senior will end his record-breaking career on Christmas Eve when Fresno State plays SMU in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
Rouse, Fresno State's all-time leading rusher with 4,625 yards, has scored 39 times since that two-touchdown performance against the Warriors in '09.
But even today, Rouse remembers his breakout game at the collegiate level as if it was yesterday.
"That game stands out because it really was the beginning," said Rouse, who needs 32 more rushing yards to be the ninth running back in FBS history to have consecutive 1,500-yard seasons. "My career started here and now it's ending here. It's a great place to start and end."
Rouse recorded one of his 19 100-yard rushing games in a win here last season when he carried the ball 37 times.
He thrived under the run-first mentality of former coach Pat Hill, who was known for his physical, smash-mouth approach to the game.
After Hill was fired following last season's 4-9 record, the Bulldogs hired Texas A&M defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter, who brought in offensive coordinator Dave Schramm to run a spread offense.
The plan was to spread teams out and throw the ball at will, but DeRuyter knew he had a playmaker at running back who needed to be a focal point of the offense.
"Coming in from spring ball we knew Robbie was special," DeRuyter said. "When you've got a back like Robbie who has set the all-time Fresno State rushing record this year, for us to go strictly passing wouldn't have been very smart.
"You can run the ball by spreading people out just as effectively as packing it in trying to knock people out, (and) I think Robbie has flourished in this system."
Rouse owns or shares 10 school records and needs two scores to share the record for career touchdowns with 44.
His production hasn't slowed down in FSU's new-look offense. Rouse is 81 yards from matching last year's rushing total of 1,549 yards, and he's done it on 60 fewer carriers, averaging nearly a yard better a carry.
"(This offense) allows me to show I can do multiple things," Rouse said. "I've had to do more blocking and catch more balls out of the backfield, and I've been able to show the versatility in my game."
Rouse helped Fresno State become just the 11th team in the history of the Mountain West Conference to have a 3,000-yard passer and both a 1,000-yard rusher and receiver in the same season.
That balance has helped Fresno State average 40.2 points per game, ranking 12th in the country.
The Bulldogs have won five in a row and scored at least 42 points in each game. A win against the Mustangs would give Fresno State its first 10-win season since 2001.
"That's how I want to my end my career," Rouse said. "Like I said, it started in Hawaii and to have it finish in Hawaii with a 10th win would be a great way to leave my stamp on Fresno State."