Honolulu, HI – Ranked for the first time in five years, No. 25 Fresno State built a 39-point third quarter lead before having to hold off a furious Hawaii comeback and settling for a 42-37 victory at Aloha Stadium.
Derek Carr threw for 324 yards and hooked up with Josh Harper twice for touchdowns, with the receiver totaling 123 yards on nine-receptions. Marteze Waller had 95 yards rushing and his second score of the evening preceded a 56- yard interception return by L.J. Jones that opened a monumental advantage.
However, the Rainbow Warriors didn't quit despite only scoring three points through the first 39 minutes of play. Replacing an ineffective Ikaika Woolsey, Sean Schroeder took over behind center and fired three touchdowns on 17-of-26 passing for 321 yards.
Jones would help Fresno State (4-0, 2-0 MWC) seal the deal down the stretch, however, picking off Schroeder on the final play of the game to record his second interception and vaulting the Bulldogs to their best start to a season since the 2001 campaign.
Down 42-3, Hawaii was able to score 34 points unanswered -- with the team responding to four straight Fresno State turnovers with touchdowns off three of the giveaways -- and pulled within 42-37 when Steven Lakalaka bookended the run with his second touchdown that left 7:51 showing on the game clock.
The Rainbow Warriors (0-4, 0-2) would have two chances in the final four minutes to win the game, but the Bulldogs defense buckled down and forced a three-and-out before picking off Schroeder to end the contest.
During the sequence of turnovers, Carr was picked off twice, while Greg Watson and Josh Quezada each lost a fumble over the stretch that nearly costed the Bulldogs the game.
Schroeder entered after Woolsey was intercepted by Jones and immediately jump started the offense, which had punted its first six possessions of the game and only netted 115 yards in the first half.
The backup signal caller heaved a 60-yard pass to Chris Gant upon his entrance, and Lakalaka punched in a 3-yard rush to make it 42-10. Then, while Fresno was in a turnover prone state, fired a 23-yard TD to Keith Kirkwood, a 16-yard score to Vasquez Haynes and a 35-yard strike to Billy Ray Stutzman to make it 42-30.
The Bulldogs raced out to a 21-0 lead, scoring on each of their first two possessions. Harper hauled in a 30-yard TD pass from Carr, who then completed 7-of-8 throws on the next series before Waller reached the pylon on a 1-yard rush. Early in the second quarter, Carr scored on a 1-yard rush on 4th-and- goal for a three-touchdown spread.
Tyler Hadden's 48-yard kick with 3:16 left in the half got Hawaii on the board, but soon found itself in a deeper hole.
Carr and Aaron Peck hooked up for a 35-yard completion on Fresno's opening drive of the third quarter, and Harper capped the 9-play march with a 9-yard touchdown reception to give the Bulldogs a 25-point lead.
The Rainbow Warriors soon found themselves down by a 42-3 count. They went three-and-out on their first touch of the third, and Fresno came back to score a touchdown on a 1-yard plunge from Waller. On the ensuing Hawaii possession, Woolsey was picked off by Jones, who took it 56 yards to the house.
Fresno began the 2001 season 6-0 ... Davante Adams had five catches for 22 yards for Fresno and did not score a touchdown, ending an 11-game streak that was the best in school and Mountain West history ... Carr was 33-for-47 ... Gant had four catches for 133 yards.