Kent Nishimura / Ka Leo O Hawai’i
Oahu may be one of the top destination spots in America, but for the Fresno State football team it had been nothing but a mysterious island.
Coming into Saturday night’s game against the Hawaii Warriors, Fresno State had only won two games in Honolulu since 1965 and coach Pat Hill’s career mark at Hawaii stood at 1-5.
Not to mention the Warriors were on a three-game winning streak against the Bulldogs, including two wins at Bulldog Stadium.
So after the Bulldogs defeated the Warriors 42-17 at Aloha Stadium on Saturday night it was understandable that Hill felt like he just got a monkey off his back.
“I don’t know if it was monkey,” Hill said. “It might’ve been a gorilla.”
Fresno State improved to 1-1 (2-3 overall) in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC), earning its first win against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.
The Bulldogs excelled in all three aspects of the game on Saturday, forcing turnovers on defense, running an efficient offense and making huge plays on special teams.
Hill has been pleased with his team’s resilience despite a 1-3 start and said being able to win at Aloha Stadium by that big of a margin was huge for the Bulldogs.
“We needed this win,” Hill said. “Anytime you can come [to Hawaii] and win on this island, it’s tough. But now we have to go home and get ready for San Jose State.”
Hawaii looked as if they were going to strike first on its opening drive, but Ben Jacobs provided a huge momentum swing right out of the gate.
Jacobs blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt by Scott Enos and then returned the ball back all the way to Hawaii’s 8-yard line.
Two plays later, Lonyae Miller plunged in for the score to give Fresno State the 7-0 lead and the Bulldogs never looked back.
Ryan Mathews was his same old self and continues to lead the nation in rushing after a 149-yard performance.
Mathews also scored on a direct-snap from 19 yards out to extend the Bulldogs’ lead to 14-0.
That first-quarter touchdown run tied Mathews with Ron Rivers for fifth all-time in career rushing touchdowns at Fresno State with 28.
“My line did a wonderful job for me opening up holes,” Mathews said. “It’s wonderful gift when you have guys like that who are willing to do anything for you so you can pick up the yardage.”
And it wasn’t just Mathews that the offensive line was providing running lanes for.
True freshman Robbie Rouse established himself as the No. 2 option behind Mathews with a breakout game.
Although he stands at only 5-foot-7, the “Mighty Mouse,” as his teammates call him, carved up Hawaii’s defense for 73 yards and two scores.
Fresno State’s only penalty Saturday came after Rouse leaped into the stands to celebrate with Bulldog fans.
What also gave the Red Wave a reason to cheer was quarterback Ryan Colburn’s night.
After throwing an interception in each of his first four games, the junior completed 12 out of his 14 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns.
One of those scores came right before halftime on a 17-yard pass to senior Chastin West.
“It was a very efficient game offensively,” Hill said in a news release. “It was a total team effort. Not many teams have been able to win like that over here.”
Defensively, Fresno State’s three turnovers were the most the Bulldogs have forced in a single game in three seasons.
Moses Harris and Jacobs both had interceptions, while the Bulldogs were also able to force a fumble.
In his first start for the Warriors, quarterback Bryant Moniz (Fresno City College) struggled mightily thanks in large part to pressure put on by defensive end Chris Carter, who tallied two sacks and now leads the WAC with six.
“Our defense and our entire team has been practicing extremely hard, especially with the bye week,” Carter said. “All the hard work finally paid off.”