Honolulu, HI – The two teams at opposite ends of the West Division standings of the Mountain West Conference get together in Honolulu this weekend, as the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors welcome the 25th-ranked Fresno State Bulldogs to Aloha Stadium.
For the first time since 2004, the Bulldogs find themselves off to a perfect 3-0 start after breaking a seven-game slide against Boise State last Friday night, 41-40, in the Mountain West Conference opener for Fresno State. The last time the Bulldogs began a campaign 4-0 was back in 2001 when the squad ran out to a 6-0 start. The monumental win was not lost on FSU head coach Tim DeRuyter.
"You go through the grind of a season, and the season isn't just from August when the guys report, the season is from January and ever since I have been you hear about Boise and 'you gotta beat Boise and Boise, Boise, Boise'. To see our guys work so hard and finally get to the top of that hill and knocking that down is just huge. So yeah, I guess I was emotional about it."
While the Bulldogs are perfect after three games, the Rainbow Warriors are at the other end of the spectrum with three defeats in as many outings. Following a bye week after setbacks against USC and Oregon State, Hawaii kicked off the MWC slate last Saturday and was handed a 31-9 loss at Nevada.
The Rainbow Warriors, who won a total of just three games all of last season, have now fallen in nine straight road bouts.
Last season, Fresno State crushed the Rainbow Warriors at home in a 45-10 decision, giving the Bulldogs a little more cushion in the all-time series, which now stands at 23-21-1. FSU has won two straight and three of the last four encounters with Hawaii.
Against Boise State, the Bulldogs were again led by Heisman candidate Derek Carr who put together a 13-play, 87-yard drive in the fourth quarter in order to bring the team back from a 40-34 deficit as Josh Quezada scored the game- winning TD on a one-yard run.
One of the most accomplished passers in the nation, Carr finished the meeting with 460 passing yards and four touchdowns, without an interception. Not only was it the fifth career 400-yard passing game for Carr, the signal caller also extended his streak of consecutive games with at least one passing touchdown to 23 in a row, the longest active run in the FBS.
"What a beautiful game of football," Carr said. "That was awesome. The offensive line did phenomenal. I don't remember if there were any sacks or not, but mind you, what a great line."
Carr has now thrown for 1,121 yards, placing him second among signal callers who have appeared in three games and ninth in the country overall. Making Carr look like a world beater are receivers Davante Adams, Isaiah Burse and Josh Harper who have accounted for nine receiving scores.
Adams leads the way with 31 catches for 289 yards and four TDs, while Burse not only has 27 receptions for a team-best 309 yards, he also has two punt returns for touchdowns, which means he is a danger whenever he is on the field.
Fresno State is generating 44.7 ppg, but at the same time the team is cutting it a bit close by giving up 38.7 ppg.
The Rainbow Warriors lost five starters during their outing against Nevada on Saturday, more than enough experienced players to send Hawaii to defeat in Reno. Now winless in three outings this season, the Rainbow Warriors lost quarterback Taylor Graham to a shoulder injury that now has him listed as questionable moving forward.
Fellow signal callers Sean Schroeder, Jeremy Higgins and Ikaika Woolsey also saw game action for the squad, with Schroeder throwing a touchdown pass to Chris Gant in the second quarter. Schroeder completed 8-of-14 passes for just 74 yards, while being picked off twice and suffering two sacks. Hawaii quarterbacks combined to hit 24-of-45 passes for 243 yards, were taken down behind the line of scrimmage four times and picked off as often. The Rainbow Warriors ended up with six turnovers, all in the second half.
Because of all those miscues last week, Hawaii is now 121st in the country in turnover margin with minus-2.3 per game. Combining all of those miscues with a lackluster offense, one that is scoring just 12.0 ppg (119th in the nation), means the Rainbow Warriors are going to have a tough time breaking into the win column.
Having a rotating door at the quarterback position is bad enough, but add to that a run game that generates a mere 75.0 ypg (114th nationally) and Hawaii is lucky not to be buried by four touchdowns every time out.
Defensively, the Hawaii secondary has been beaten up pretty badly already with 275.0 ypg allowed. With opponents attacking through the air, it is easy to see how the Rainbow Warriors are giving up 31.3 ppg already and there doesn't appear to be an end in sight.