Not even a 45 minute long power outage could stop Fresno State from lighting up Hawaii in every phase of the game, as the Dogs move to 7-1 with a 50-20 win over the Warriors in the trophy-less rivalry game.
Hawaii actually struck first in this game, heading down the field on their first drive, only to stall out in Bulldog territory and kicking a 43yd field goal to start the game with a 3-0 lead. That’s when things got really weird. After trading punts, Fresno State was on offense when the south-east light tower went out. All of a sudden, a quarter of the field was dark, and the refs had to call a delay to the game. Both teams went back to the locker rooms, and they had to wait about 40 minutes for the lights to get cycled back on so we could return. At least they put the World Series on the video board for the fans in the stadium to watch, but I’m sure all the concessions were worried about the delay.
The game restarted at 8:30, and Fresno State would waste no time scoring. Their first play after the delay was a strike to Jared Rice for 19yds to get the Bulldogs on the board, 7-3. Of course the one game where we’re on big TV, the stadium decides to turn off the lights. Also the one time we actually have the stands full. It may have been because it was Homecoming, or because Jeff Allison pleaded with the fans to come out, but this was the most full Bulldog Stadium had been since last year’s Boise game. Hopefully the fans will keep this up next time the team returns home in 3 weeks.
On the ensuing drive, Hawaii would actually try going for it on 4th down, but a false start penalty pushed them back to 4th and 6, and they’d be forced to punt it away to Ronnie Rivers. Having him back has been a huge shot in the arm for the Special Teams, as he gives the option of returning punts. He did only return two tonight, but it’s better than we were doing without him. Ronnie started this drive off with 4 straight plays, including an incredibly acrobatic throw and catch from Marcus as he was being spun down that kept the drive alive. After that, Jamire Jordan managed to sneak behind the defense, and Marcus caught him in stride for a 49yd touchdown to put Fresno up even more, 14-3.
We all knew eventually Hawaii would hit on a big play, their offense has been too good to be silent for long. And on the next drive, they’d respond with their own big pass. McDonald moved them 75 yards down the field in 4 plays, aided by a Fresno State penalty, and hit Jojo Ward for a 50yd touchdown strike to get the Warriors back within 4, 14-10. This would be the closest they got for the rest of the night, as the Dogs woke up and put their foot down on the pedal.
It would take the Bulldogs all of one play to respond and extend their lead. Dejonte O’Neal would get things started with his kick return of 21yds to start the Dogs off at the 24yd line. Then it was Ronnie Rivers bursting through the left side of the line, and sprinting past the Hawaii defense for a 76yd touchdown run. For the last few weeks, the Fresno State running game has really been shuffling along, barely hitting 3yds/carry in conference games. This was the game they needed though, as they jumped up to 214 yards rushing, and 6.5yds/carry. Definitely a great improvement for a team that tries to keep itself balanced on offense, and for a running back group looking for more burst. The Dogs would now be up 21-10, and we’re starting to pull away.
Both teams would trade field goals on their next positions, so not a whole lot of change, but things were now to 24-13. And this is when things started to get zany. Fresno State used a mix of the run and the pass, including a pass to Keesean Johnson to get him ever closer to Davante Adams’ record, and extend his consecutive game streak to 46, and move the Dogs into Hawaii territory. This time, it would be Jordan Mims to take the pass out of the backfield, and dove for the pylon for a brilliant touchdown. Asa Fuller would doink the PAT off the upright, but Fresno was still up 30-13.
Now we get to the fun part. Hawaii tried to drive down the field right before the half to salvage a bit of momentum, but ended up getting an absolute gut-punch courtesy of Jamire Jordan. With 3 seconds left, Ryan Meskell set up for a 53yd field goal try for Hawaii, but his kick was short. Jordan had positioned himself under the goalposts, and caught the ball. At that point, I’m just going to let the video do the rest-
After the half, Fresno State would start with the ball, and just came out to chew the clock. Their first drive took 6 minutes off the clock, and still ended with points for the Dogs. Asa Fuller would get his kick through the uprights this time, and the lead was now 40-13.
Just when it seemed like things couldn’t get worse for Hawaii, the Fresno State secondary came calling. Cole McDonald tried to get a pass to the outside on Juju Hughes, who just got the receiver out of the way and plucked the ball away, returning it 31 yards to the Hawaii 16 to start Fresno State in the red zone already. That was their 14th interception on the year, and their 19th overall. Marcus would find Keesean to get the Dogs down to the 6yd line, and put him only 3 passes from Davante’s record, then Derrion Grim would score on a 6yd pass against single coverage. All he had to do was stay in front of the corner, and scoot to the front of the endzone where Marcus found him perfectly. Taking the ball away, and turning it into points is definitely the mark of a top team, and the Dogs definitely didn’t miss their chance to stretch their lead. It was now Dogs 47-13 over Hawaii.
The team that wins the turnover margin wins almost every game, and Fresno State got their second turnover of the day on Hawaii’s next drive. A bad exchange from McDonald and Elijiah Dale gave the Bulldogs the ball again, stopping any Warrior momentum from building. The end of the 3rd quarter meant the end of the day for the Bulldog starters, but Keesean Johnson would stay out to get the last two receptions from Jorge Reyna to break the record. He ended the day with 8 receptions, which moves him to No.1 all time in Bulldog history, and 102yds. It’s his 2nd straight 100yd game, and 4th for the season. He won’t be able to break the all-time yardage record for Fresno State, but he has definitely cemented himself as one of the best Fresno State wide receivers of all time, and that’s pretty elite company amongst Henry Ellard, Davante Adams, Bernard Berrian, Stephone Paige, Josh Harper, and Rodney Wright.
Fresno State would add one more field goal from Asa Fuller to put things to 50-13, and pretty much ended the game. Hawaii would get one more touchdown as the clock wound down, putting the final score to 50-20. Tonight was more points than Fresno State had surrendered in the rest of their conference play combined, and did move them from 1st to 3rd in scoring defense nationwide. But it does move Fresno State into 1st place in the division with SDSU’s loss to Nevada.
What Happens Next:
Fresno State (7-1, 4-0 MWC) will travel to Las Vegas to take on a dreadful UNLV (2-6, 0-4 MWC). The weird thing is that UNLV has been a consistent thorn in the side of Fresno State since they joined the Mountain West, but this Rebels squad just gave SJSU their 1st win, so not sure if they’ll pose much of a challenge to a ranked Fresno team.
Hawaii (6-4, 3-2 MWC) will return home to the islands to face an incredibly dangerous and ranked Utah State (7-1, 4-0 MWC). Now things get really tense for Hawaii, as they still need two wins to get to bowl eligibility, as Duquense doesn’t count for eligibility, and they play a 13 game schedule. They’re going to have to win 2 of their last 3 against Utah State, UNLV, and San Diego State. A very tall task for a team that started out with so much promise. Would be a huge shame to see them start 6-1, only to miss a bowl game by such a small margin.