A win was what the doctor ordered for Fresno State as the ‘Dogs ended their current three-game losing streak.
Fresno State picked up a much-needed victory against Western Athletic Conference rival Hawaii, who will be making the jump with the ‘Dogs to the Mountain West Conference next season.
The last couple weeks have been tough sledding for Fresno State as head coach Pat Hill suspended three players for undisclosed reasons and then defensive coordinator Randy Stewart resigned, leaving the ‘Dogs to prepare for Hawaii with an interim defensive coordinator and looming questions about the future.
Linebackers coach Tim Skipper stepped into Stewart’s vacated position on Saturday to try and slow down the top passing team in the WAC.
In the game, the Fresno State offense would be the one to strike first with sophomore quarterback Derek Carr leading the ‘Dogs down the field with a three-play, 69-yard scoring drive. Carr ended the drive with a 44-yard scoring strike to his top target sophomore wide receiver Jalen Saunders. Saunders finished with three catches for 67 yards and one touchdown.
The Fresno State defense has struggled to stop opposing offenses all season long, but it was able to slow down the Hawaii attack that was without one of the nation’s leading passers in Bryant Moniz. The former Fresno City College quarterback injured his leg in the previous-week loss to Nevada and didn’t line up against Fresno State on Saturday.
With Moniz injured, senior Shane Austin and sophomore Danny Graves had to step in behind center and lead the Hawaii offense. Austin had the first chance to make an impact.
While the Hawaii offense started off slow, the Fresno State offense was able to put some points on the board before the end of the first quarter with Carr leading Fresno State on a 12-play, 82-yard drive that ended with a senior Kevin Goessling 32-yard field goal to give the ‘Dogs a 10-0 lead.
The second quarter started out the same way the first quarter did with Carr and company using up the clock to keep the ball away from the Hawaii offense. Carr led the ‘Dogs on another 12-play drive, but this time it was of 69 yards. Fresno State ended the drive with junior running back Robbie Rouse plowing it in from one yard out to give the ‘Dogs the 17-0 lead. Rouse finished the game with 37 carries for 177 yards and one touchdown.
Before the half, Hawaii finally got on the board as the Warriors made a switch at quarterback to Graves and proved to be a necessary spark. Graves drove the Warriors down the field the way Austin wasn’t able to. Graves called his own number to end the drive as he ran it in from six yards out to cut the Fresno State lead to 17-7.
The third quarter was won by the Warriors with Graves leading the way during the first couple minutes of the period. Graves lead the Warriors on a nine-play, 78-yard drive, ending with Graves finding senior wide receiver Royce Pollard for a 24-yard touchdown to cut into the Fresno State, 17-14. Graves finished the game completing 13-of-27 passes for 199 yards and two touchdowns.
Fresno State’s offense couldn’t get into the end zone in the third quarter when Hawaii had the momentum and were mounting a comeback. Graves brought the quick-strike ability to the Warrior offense as he hit sophomore wide receiver Billy Ray Stutzmann with a 69-yard touchdown to take its first lead of the game, 21-17.
The fourth quarter was when Fresno State’s offense finally put it all together. Carr led the ‘Dogs on a four-play, 85-yard drive that ended with Carr finding freshman wide receiver Josh Harper for a 43-yard touchdown to give Fresno State the 24-21 lead. Carr finished the game going 19 of 29 for 271 yards and two touchdowns.
The Skipper-led defense held the Hawaii offense off the scoreboard for the rest of the quarter as it allowed 306 yards of total offense. The ‘Dogs held on to win 24-21 helping Fresno State improve to 4-7 on the season.
Now the ‘Dogs will return home for their final home game of the season against WAC rival San Jose State to try continue to build momentum as the season nears an end.