Fresno State freshman outside linebacker James Bailey (24) takes down Nevada running back Don Jackson (6) during the Nov. 5 conference matchup at Bulldog Stadium. (Darlene Wendels/The Collegian)
Two football teams in need of a rare win will meet Saturday when the Fresno State Bulldogs travel to Hawaii.
The Bulldogs (2-7, 1-5) go into Saturday’s game having lost seven of their last eight games.
After last week’s 30-16 loss against Nevada, the ‘Dogs are eliminated from bowl contention. Now, the ‘Dogs hope to find improvements in the final three games.
“We’re playing to finish the season the right way,” Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter said. “Nobody anticipated being at this place this far in the season, but what happened to us doesn’t matter as much as what happens to us going forward.”
Hawaii (2-8, 0-6) enters its second game this season under interim head coach Chris Naeole.
After rushing for 32 total yards in its two previous games combined, Hawaii ran for 191 yards in a loss last week against UNLV.
The Rainbow Warriors are also averaging 290.4 yards per game while giving up 449.8.
“Especially up front they’re very, very physical,” DeRuyter said. “We’re gonna have to make plays on the ground and in the air to spread them out.”
Fresno State quarterback Kilton Anderson struggled in last week’s loss, completing 12 passes for 88 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
Sophomore quarterback Zack Greenlee replaced Anderson in the second half and threw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. This week, it’s not clear who will start for the ‘Dogs.
“We’re gonna let them compete,” DeRuyter said. “[Anderson] struggled the last couple of weeks. He has an internal drive that’s impressive, but he’s got to be more efficient. Just like any position – you put guys out there and if it doesn’t get done, you have to look for other answers.”
DeRuyter plans to distribute the quarterback reps equally during practice this week, but he doesn’t expect to announce a starting quarterback before Saturday.
“I thought [Greenlee] did some decent things the other days when we got down a couple of scores,” DeRuyter said. “He throws the ball better typically, so we made a decision to go to him. As we look at Hawaii’s defense and how they’re defending people, we’ll make a decision as to which skill set fits better to attack, and they may both play.”
The ‘Dogs are also counting on more productivity from wide receiver Josiah Blandin.
Last week, the junior caught his fourth touchdown pass of the season to tie with Jamire Jordan for the team lead in touchdown receptions.
“[Blandin] is a guy that can really help us, especially against teams that play him man,” DeRuyter said. “He can use his body and his length against the defender. He’s getting better each week, reading coverage, understanding where he needs to go on his routes. Hopefully our quarterbacks can find him.”
Heading into the final three games of the season, a few Fresno State seniors have a chance to end their collegiate careers on a high note.
Senior running back Marteze Waller needs 78 rushing rushing to become the fifth Bulldog in program history to go over 3,000 yards rushing for a career.
Senior outside linebacker Ejiro Ederaine, who has 41.5 career tackles for a loss, needs 5.5 sacks to set a new Mountain West career record for most sacks.
Ederaine is also on pace to record the first 100-tackle season since Ben Jacobs posted 109 tackles in 2009.
Saturday’s game will be the 48th meeting between Fresno State and Hawaii, with the ‘Dogs leading the all-time series 25-21-1. The game will be televised at 8 p.m. on KSEE24.
“For a lot of us, this is the last three games we’ll ever play,” Ederaine said. “We just wanna have fun and win. And teach the young guys that whatever happens in the season, good or bad, it doesn’t matter. You just have to keep pushing through and play at your highest ability.”