Matt Weir / The Collegian
Two of the WAC’s best quarterbacks will go head-to-head at Bulldog Stadium
When Bryant Moniz made his first career start against Fresno State last season, he threw two interceptions and completed only 46 percent of his passes for 283 yards in a losing effort to the Bulldogs.
That was then, this is now.
Fast forward a year later and Moniz enters Saturday’s game at Bulldog Stadium as the nation’s leading passer, throwing for 1,819 yards and 15 touchdowns.
What a difference a year makes.
“Last year we were very fortunate when we played him [because] it was his first start,” Bulldogs coach Pat Hill said. “He’s got a strong arm and a quick release. Moniz is a very good football player.”
Saturday’s game will feature a head-to-head matchup with two of the top passers in the Western Athletic Conference statistically.
Fresno State quarterback Ryan Colburn leads the WAC in passing efficiency and is currently fifth in the country in that category after posting an impressive 179.8 quarterback rating. Colburn has thrown for 992 yards and 11 touchdowns while completing nearly 73 percent of his passes.
Colburn has delivered his big numbers despite Fresno State’s injury woes at the wide receiver position.
“He’s played with a whole different group of receivers from week to week and it really hasn’t changed the game for him,” Hill said of Colburn.
“Thirteen different guys have scored touchdowns for us and ten different receivers have scored. That’s spreading the ball around well and really using your reads and going. I’ll tell you what, Hawaii spreads the ball out well themselves.”
With both teams boasting smart and experience quarterbacks as well as middle-of-the-pack defenses, a shootout between Moniz and Colburn is likely. But an aerial attack is something that Hill hopes to avoid against Hawaii.
“I don’t think it’s in our best interest to get in a passing contest with them,” Hill said. “That’s not a good idea against Hawaii. They’re a team that lives by the pass.”
Hawaii is coming off back-to-back wins which includes a dominating performance against Louisiana Tech at home. Moniz threw for a career-high 532 yards and four touchdowns in a 41-21 rout of the Bayou Bulldogs.
With Hawaii averaging more than 430 yards through the air, Hill said that the defensive line will be critical to stopping Hawaii’s Run n’ Shoot offense.
“The pass rush is going to be important, it always is against Hawaii,” he said. “They get rid of the ball quickly, but we need to be able to pressure and make sure if we are doing a good job on the back end we can control Moniz on the scrambles.”
The Hawaii offensive line has given up 11 sacks while the Fresno State defense has collected 14 sacks. Defensive tackle Logan Harrell is tied for third in the nation with five sacks while defensive end Chris Carter is third in the WAC with four.
If Fresno State fails to generate a pass rush, Hill said that eliminating the amount of big plays will be crucial if the team is going to find success defending Hawaii’s offense.
“It’s eliminating the big plays, and against Hawaii the big play is something they are very capable of getting,” he said. “So we have to do a great job of eliminating the big play.”
The Associated Press File
“You’re not going to shut down this offense,” Hill added. “What you’ve got to do is shut down the big plays and shut down the scoring opportunities.”
Although the passing game for Hawaii is the most explosive offense in college football, Hill insists that fans shouldn’t overlook Colburn and the Fresno State offense.
Through four games, the ‘Dogs have averaged over 36 points and 388 yards per contest, giving the Bulldog faithful plenty to cheer for.
“I think our fans are going to have a chance to watch a highly-contested football game against two teams that are in a must-win situation,” Hill said. “Fresno State every week is a must win, and Hawaii’s in a must win too for staying undefeated in the WAC.”