HAWAII @ FRESNO ST.
Location: Fresno, California (Valley Children’s Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 5th at 4:30 p.m. (Hawaii Time)
Television: Fox Sports Networks
Streaming: Here is the link to FS1, and here is the link to FS2. You’ll need a cable login to view these. Things are fluid this week because of the World Series. If the Astros and Phillies go 7-games, that might change which channel the game is on. Or not. The @HawaiiFootball Twitter account will have accurate information as we near game day.
Radio: ESPN Honolulu
Head-to-Head: Fresno State leads this series 29-24-1. Hawaii owned this series in the prime June Jones years but lost 9 of 11 meetings from 2009-2019. Losing to Fresno State had become an annoying tradition. Lately, however, Hawaii has won the two most recent contests (2020, 2021). The Warriors bested Jake Haener and company in 2020 in Fresno (COVID essentially kept the Bulldogs from practicing in the preseason), and Hawaii shocked the ranked Bulldogs last season 27-24. That result kept the Bulldogs out of the conference championship game. Needless to say, they Bulldogs will have revenge on the mind.
Three things to look for:
1. Oh no, Jake Haener is back
Timing is everything, and Hawaii football has bad timing. Fresno State came into 2022 the clear frontrunner in the Mountain West. To date, they still very much have a chance to qualify and win the Mountain West championship game, but there’s no erasing that 4-game losing streak that started with Oregon State and ended with Boise State. USC was excusable. The UConn loss was absolutely shocking.
Star quarterback Jake Haener suffered a serious high ankle sprain against USC. It was a shock the ankle wasn’t broken, but the injury nonetheless kept him out for four games. Star safety Evan Williams was also missed in that timeframe with injury. Backup quarterback Logan Fife performed admirably, but obviously he’s not Haener.
Haener returned against San Diego State and threw for 394 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. No warmup required. The Bulldogs defeated the Aztecs in one of the most baffling late game comebacks you’ll ever see, scoring 14 points in the final minute of the game to win 32-28.
The vaunted Bulldogs offense is back (uh, minus offensive tackle Dontae Bull though. He’s done for the season), and that’s bad news for Hawaii’s defense.
2. Is there any hope for this Hawaii offense?
As we continue through November, hat tip to the hardcore fans sticking this season out and not quitting on the Warriors. Losing + not scoring is a bad combination if you want to keep fans engaged. The 4th quarter is becoming the boogeyman for Hawaii football. San Diego State, Colorado State, and Wyoming were all winnable football games that Hawaii fumbled away in the 4th quarter. Seriously, there is some alternate dimension where Hawaii is 5-4 right now. Anyone can coulda, shoulda, woulda the win-loss column though, that’s the game. You have to finish.
Part of the reason Hawaii cannot finish? The offense. The Warriors currently rank 115th in total offense, 109th in passing offense, and 92nd in rushing offense. Running backs Dedrick Parson and Tylan Hines have been bright spots for this Rainbow Warrior team, and quarterback Brayden Schager has shined at times, but the entire unit has struggled to put it all together. There’s no defending 18.3 points per game. That’s far below what fans have become accustomed to.
Fresno State’s defense ranks 53rd nationally and is starting to get healthy, so do not expect any respite this weekend. Hawaii’s sluggish offense appears here to stay for 2022, as the eyes of fans (and hopefully coaches) start to veer towards signing day and the transfer portal to fix this unit.
3. This rivalry is historically unpredictable
The spread for this weekend’s game started around +25 for Hawaii. Ouch. SP+ projects a 41-16 Fresno State victory. Geez.
Why watch? Well, Hawaii-Fresno State, the inexplicably trophy-less rivalry (c’mon, how on earth does Hawaii have trophy games with Air Force and Wyoming but not Fresno State?), has featured several unexpected results over the years. Heck, you only need to go as far as last year for maybe the most inexplicable result.
Fresno State came to Manoa last fall. Chevan Cordeiro was out with an injury, meaning true freshman Brayden Schager was forced into action. The Bulldogs were ranked, had upset UCLA and nearly stunned Oregon prior to that. On paper, Jake Haener and co. should have feasted. Instead, they turned the ball over six times and only scored in 1 out of 4 redzone trips. Hawaii shocked the Bulldogs 27-24.
Hawaii’s lone West Division winning team in 2019? Defeated two Power 5 teams in Arizona and Oregon State, San Diego State, the Zach Wilson-led BYU Cougars on the way to finishing with 10 wins. The program’s only ever Mountain West championship game appearance. A season so good, it got Nick Rolovich hired at Washington State.
...and they lost at home to a Fresno State team that ultimately finished 4-8.
This rivalry (and in my mind, this is Hawaii’s primary rival) is notorious for the unexpected. Hawaii will need some of that magic Saturday evening.
It’s not often I’m close to being right about a score prediction, but I almost nailed last week’s Wyoming score. No lies told here; the numbers are grizzly this week. Any hope for a positive result rest on variables not on the stat sheet. Past ridiculousness in the rivalry. Fresno State coming off of an emotionally packed victory over San Diego State, possibly lending the chance of a letdown start this week. On paper, Jake Haener and the Bulldogs should cruise.
I’ll call for Fresno State to start off slow, but ultimately win comfortably. Give me Warriors 13, Bulldogs 35.