HONOLULU – Hawaii is finally playing the type of football that coach Greg McMackin knew it could.
"I'm really proud of our players. They're starting to understand and for the first time in three years, they're starting to play our style again," the third-year coach said Monday.
The Warriors (4-2, 2-0 Western Athletic Conference) are riding high after winning their third straight by at least 21 points, including victories against conference foes Louisiana Tech and Fresno State.
The last time Hawaii started the season 2-0 in conference play was 2007 when it went 12-0 before losing to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.
"We're making a lot of plays. I really think that we're starting to believe now. We're starting to believe in one another. We're starting to believe we can play with anybody in the country," McMackin said.
It couldn't come at a more critical time with No. 19 Nevada (6-0, 1-0) visiting Saturday night in a key WAC matchup.
The winner could go on to face conference powerhouse Boise State for the WAC title.
McMackin said his team's victory Saturday over Fresno State was a big confidence builder and shows the leadership on the team, especially in quarterback Bryant Moniz who threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns in the 49-27 victory. The junior leads the nation in total offense (388 yards) and passing (372.2).
"He's just doing unbelievable things," McMackin said.
Moniz has passed for 1,303 yards and 13 touchdowns with three interceptions in Hawaii's winning streak.
Quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich and assistant coach Mouse Davis, a pioneer in the run-and-shoot offense, told McMackin recently that if Moniz continues to improve, he could be the "best guy" running this offense.
That's quite a compliment considering the line of record-breaking quarterbacks at Hawaii, including Rolovich, Colt Brennan and Timmy Chang.
Not only was the passing game working against the Bulldogs, the ground game also got going with Alex Green running for 96 yards and three scores.
McMackin said the team made it a point to get the speedy Green more involved in the game. He carried the ball a season-high 13 times.
While Hawaii's offense keeps the scoreboard active, the defense also stepped up with three sacks and three interceptions. Mana Silva had an interception in the fourth quarter and Jeremy Bryant had a 48-yard interception return late in the game to seal the win.
With Fresno State leaving for the Mountain West Conference next year, Saturday's game ended a spirited WAC rivalry between the schools. After the game, Bulldogs coach Pat Hill visited the Warriors' locker room.
"(Hill) said, 'Make sure you play like that against everybody else because you really played a great ball game,'" McMackin said.
McMackin said the Warriors are believing a lot more than they did earlier in the season when they lost to Southern California in the season opener and fell to Colorado on the road two weeks later.
"Not everybody believed at that point that we could beat them," McMackin said. A lot of players did, he said, but not every one.
"I think we believe now," he said. "I think we can compete, but you've got to make the plays."