Bulldogs ride a wave over Rainbow Warriors in dominating victory

Bulldog defense celebrates Carlton Johnson (40) sacking Hawaii quarterback, Brayden Schager. (Estela Anahi Jaramillo/ The Collegian)

Fresno State’s 55-14 win over the Rainbow Warriors last Saturday was the largest lead the team has had this season. The Bulldogs’ fourth Mountain West win sparked the excitement within the offensive team that seemed to have been absent this fall.

What ensued was the largest victory over the Rainbow Warriors since a 70-14 pounding at home in 2004.

All eyes looked to quarterback Jake Haener and his offense to be more competitive. The week before, Haener was sacked a record-setting seven times throughout a game against San Diego State. 

However, against Hawaii, the offensive line only allowed one sack, giving Haener the time needed to throw for a total of 327 yards and four touchdowns.

Haener was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against Hawaii. Saturday was the 16th career 300-yard passing game for Haener. 

In the win over Hawaii, Haener also threw a season-high four touchdown passes with no interceptions. His longest touchdown pass of the season was to his teammate Jalen Moreno- Cropper.

Haener’s first touchdown pass also snapped the Rainbow Warriors four-game streak of not allowing a passing touchdown since their matchup against San Diego on Oct. 8, 2022.

Jordan Mims (7) makes his way to a Bulldog touchdown against Hawaii on Nov. 5, 2022. (Estela Anahi Jaramillo/ The Collegian)

Fresno State Head Coach Jeff Tedford was pleased with his squad’s offensive performance, as in previous games the offense lacked red-zone production.

“[I] thought they played really well and the offense made a lot of big plays. I thought Jake played really great; all of the receivers and [Jordan] Mims ran the ball well; Malik [Sherrod] ran the ball well, so typically that says that the offensive line did well as well,” Tedford said.

Haener said he owed his offensive linemen much of the credit for the team’s win. 

“You know, it was nice to put together a complete team win tonight. I think I could have done a better job early on staying calm in the pocket. I was a little jumpy in the pocket, so I need to just settle in there for a second. [I’m] so glad the boys did a really good job and gave me an opportunity to throw the ball down the field,” he said. 

This win against Hawaii is important for the team. The Bulldogs hadn’t beaten the Rainbow Warriors since 2019, and for many this was their last chance at redemption after previous losses in the season against Boise State, University of Connecticut, University of Southern California  and Oregon State.

“My coach from high school actually called me and told me about a quote, saying ‘He who laughs last, laughs best.’ Or something like that. So it was fun to go and play out there and get a win over them for the last time,” Haener said. 

In addition to the Bulldog offense performing well with a total yardage earned of 572 yards, a strong performance by the defense set the standard for the rest of the game. 

The first touchdown was a defensive pick six by Hawaii transfer Cam Lockridge in the first quarter. 

Defensive captain Evan Williams understood the need to create defensive stands and turnovers in response.

“We understand that takeaways can change a game. I know Cam got one early in the game that felt great. Just settling the game down, getting that first score on defense is such a momentum shifter, and it’s huge for the momentum of the game,” Williams said.

On all sides of the ball the Bulldogs held strong, leading to an eventual 55-0 lead going into the fourth quarter before pulling many of their starters.

The Bulldogs now have a winning streak of four games, with three consecutive home wins for the season, putting the ‘Dogs’ at 4-1 in Mountain West Conference play. 

The ‘Dogs’ remain on top of the West Division standings. The San Jose Spartans are directly beneath them with a conference record of 4-1 ahead of their game against UNLV. 

“Right now we’re on a short week coming up, so it’s really important that we’re healthy and that we take a couple days to make sure we’re fresh and ready to go and get ready to play an excellent UNLV team,” Tedford said.

The Bulldogs will travel to Las Vegas for a Friday game against their 4-5 divisional rivals, the UNLV Rebels, at Allegiant Stadium.

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