FINAL: Bulldogs 41-38
Fresno State still is alive and in control of its fate in the West Division of the Mountain West Conference after escaping Hawaii with a 41-38 victory on Saturday at Aloha Stadium.
Kicker Cesar Silva hit a 37-yard field goal with no time remaining for the win.
Fresno State was up 38-24 late in the fourth quarter, but Hawaii closed within one score with 2:13 to go on a touchdown run by Miles Reed. The Rainbow Warriors then recovered an onside kick and drove down to tie the score on a 10-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Chevan Cordeiro with 1:08 to go.
The Bulldogs went 55 yards in nine plays to set up the field goal attempt, the drive starting with a 17-yard run by quarterback Jorge Reyna.
Fresno State came back from a 10-point deficit at halftime.
The Bulldogs in the first half had allowed 309 yards and 24 points while generating 197 yards and 14 points, and it appeared trouble was ahead.
The Fresno State defense had been on the field for 19:55 of the first 30 minutes of football and defended 44 plays.
But the Bulldogs took over in the second half before escaping with the win.
The offense, playing with redshirt freshman Tyrone Sampson at center in place of an injured Matt Smith, churned out 317 yards and scored 27 points in the second half.
The defense scuttled a pass offense led by Cole McDonald, holding the Rainbow Warriors scoreless until the final 2:13 when Hawaii cut a two-touchdown deficit to one. The Hawaii quarterback hit just 21 of 42 passes for 275 yards with one touchdown and one interception, and was benched in the fourth quarter.
Fresno State (4-4, 2-2 in the MW) is one game behind West Division-leading San Diego State (7-1, 4-1) in the loss column. The Bulldogs play Utah State on Saturday, then play the Aztecs in San Diego on Friday, Nov. 15.
Hawaii ties it up
Fresno State had a chance to put the game away, but could not come up with an onsides kick and Hawaii took advantage. The Rainbow Warriors went 49 yards in five plays, tying the score at 38 on a 10-yard run by backup quarterback Chevan Cordeiro with 1:08 to go.
One score game
Hawaii has closed to 38-31 on a 3-yard run by Miles Reed with 2:13 to go.
No more McDonald
Hawaii has changed quarterbacks. Cole McDonald threw for 275 yards, but hit only 21 of 42 passes with one touchdown and one interception.
The 50% completion percentage is a season-low.
Fresno State has pushed its lead to 38-24 on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jorge Reyna to tight end Jared Rice with 10:06 to go.
Reyna has led the Bulldogs to 24 second-half points. while the defense is pitching a shutout.
Fresno State in the second half has 247 yards of offense, the Rainbow Warriors just 73.
Fresno State with a lead …
The Bulldogs will take a 31-24 lead into the fourth quarter. They are 23-3 under coach Jeff Tedford when leaading after three, 3-1 this season.
Rivers TD has ‘Dogs on top
Fresno State is back in the lead with Ronnie Rivers scoring his second rushing TD of the game, this one from four yards out with 1:07 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs drive was 62 yards in six plays, and they have been dominating the third quarter. Fresno State has 179 yards and 17 points in the quarter to 49 yards and no points for Hawaii.
Bulldogs get a stop, FG to tie
Fresno State, down by 10 points at halftime, has come back to tie the score at 24 on a 22-yard field goal by Cesar Silva with 4:19 to go in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs went 70 yards in 12 plays and got some help along the way. They were stopped twice on third downs, but were given first downs after an illegal block and a pass interference.
Hawaii has been penalized 11 times for 115 yards.
Rivers gets ‘Dogs back to within 24-21
Fresno State took the second half kickoff and scored quickly and efficiently, Ronnie Rivers scoring on a 44-yard touchdown run to get the Bulldogs within 24-21.
The drive was 67 yards in four plays and lasted just 1:44.
Rivers now has 66 yards and one touchdown on just 10 plays. The Bulldogs started the second half with redshirt freshman Tyrone Sampson at center in place of Matt Smith, who is out for the rest of the game.
Can Cropper hit trifecta?
Fresno State freshman Jalen Cropper has passed for a touchdown and rushed for a touchdown. With still two quarters of football to go, can he add a receiving touchdown?
The Bulldogs have not had a player hit all three in one game going back through the 2009 season, though they had have a few non-quarterbacks throw a touchdown pass, most recently running back Josh Hokit.
Hokit had touchdown passes against Incarnate Word and Nevada in 2017. He had two rushing touchdowns in that 66-0 victory over Incarnate Word, but did not have a receiving touchdown.
Running back Robbie Rouse had a touchdown pass in a victory over Air Force in 2012, but did not score a rushing or receiving touchdown.
Wideout Isaiah Burse had a touchdown pass in a victory at San Jose State in 2010, but did not have a rushing or receiving touchdown.
Wideout Chastin West had a touchdown pass in a bowl loss to Wyoming in 2009, but he didn’t have a rushing or receiving touchdown.
At halftime, the Fresno State defense has been on the field for 44 plays and 19:15 time of possession. The Bulldogs’ offense has run only 27 plays and held the ball for 10:05.
Rolling up the yards
Hawaii has 309 yards at halftime, the most Fresno State has allowed in a first half this season …
at USC – 308 yards
Minnesota – 174
Sacramento State – 165
at New Mexico State – 153
at Air Force – 223
UNLV – 230
Colorado State – 287
Hawaii has quick answer
The Rainbow Warriors struck quickly after the Fresno State score, McDonald hitting JoJo Ward with a 48-yard touchdown pass with 23 seconds remaining in the first half.
The drive – 69 yards in four plays and just 37 seconds.
McDonald is 15 for 25 for 189 yards with one touchdown. The Hawaii quarterback also has a rushing touchdown.
Cropper gets Bulldogs back in it
Fresno State is back to within 17-14, scoring on a 53-yard run by freshman Jalen Cropper on a 3rd-and-2 play.
Cropper at the moment is the Bulldogs’ leading passer and leading rusher.
He has 36 passing yards, and quarterback Jorge Reyna has 34.
He has 61 rushing yards, and Reyna is second with 27. Running back Ronnie Rivers has 21 yards on eight plays,
Hawaii turns TO into FG
Fresno State had the ball for one play, turning it over at its own 33 on a fumble by quarterback Jorge Reyna.
Hawaii, which has TD drives of 82 and 84 yards, settled for a 50-yard field goal to take a 17-7 lead with 2:35 to go in the half.
Rainbow Warriors take lead
Hawaii is up 14-7 with 3:35 to go in the first half, scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run by Fred Holly III. The Rainbow Warriors drive was 84 yards in 11 plays, the biggest a 32-yard run by Holly.
That run was the first explosive play of 20 or more yards for Hawaii, which came in fourth in the Mountain West with 42.
Smith out …
The Bulldogs have had some injury issues with its offensive line and it has another – center Matt Smith went down with an injury on the final play of their last series.
If Smith can’t continue, the Bulldogs likely go with redshirt freshman Tyrone Sampson.
Hawaii ties it up
The Rainbow Warriors put together a drive, scoring on a 6-yard run by quarterback Cole McDonald with 9:23 to go in the second quarter. Hawaii, which had just 78 yards in the first quarter, went 82 yards in nine plays.
Hawaii has run 26 plays to 17 for the Bulldogs and has a 13:54 to 6:43 edge in time of possession, which could become a problem for the Fresno State defense as this game goes along.
The Bulldogs’ defense last week in a loss to Colorado State was on the field for 81 plays, and gave up 17 fourth-quarter points. In a loss at Air Force the Falcons ran 72 plays to just 42 for the Bulldogs and scored 14 points in the fourth quarter.
A scoreless first quarter …
Hawaii had the football three times in the first quarter and generated only 78 yards and no points. It is the first time the Rainbow Warriors have failed to score in the first quarter since a 52-20 loss at Washington in the third game of the season.
Hawaii in a victory at New Mexico last week scored 21 points in the first quarter.
Fresno State in its loss to Colorado State last week allowed 227 yards and 14 points in the first quarter.
Hawaii gives it right back, ‘Dogs miss FG
The Rainbow Warriors had a 4th-and-1 at their own 30-yard line and quarterback Cole McDonald was stopped on a quarterback sneak by defensive tackle Ricky McCoy, giving the Bulldogs a short field.
They couldn’t capitalize. Two rushing plays got the Bulldogs a first down at the Hawaii 18, but then an incomplete pass on first down put them in a 2nd-and-10. A run went nowhere, quarterback Jorge Reyna missed on a 3rd-and-10 throw and kicker Cesar Silva missed a 35-yard field goal attempt.
Cropper can throw it, too
Fresno State has taken a 7-0 lead, scoring on a 36-yard pass from wideout Jalen Cropper to Zane Pope with 6:29 to go in the first quarter.
It is the first career passing attempt for Cropper, who spent some time at Sanger High as an option quarterback.
The Bulldogs’ drive was 90 yards in nine plays – they had a 93-yard TD drive against Sacramento State. They ran the ball seven times on the drive against a defense that is ranked last in the Mountain West in yards per rushing play, and threw it twice.
Bulldogs’ open with a stop
Hawaii got the ball first, taking the opening kickoff and … punting.
That snaps a streak of three games in which the Bulldogs have allowed their opponents to score on their first possession. Fresno State had allowed a touchdown in a loss at Air Force, a field goal to UNLV and a touchdown to Colorado State.
Some pre-game reading …
To run or not to run …
Fresno State matches up against one of the worst rushing defenses in the Mountain West on Saturday at Hawaii, the Rainbow Warriors allowing a conference-worst 5.7 yards per play in giving up 204.8 yards per game.
But the Bulldogs could also be rolling out yet another starting offensive line combination after left tackle Dontae Bull went down, back in and then down and out with an injury in a loss last week to Colorado State.
If without Bull, Fresno State is likely to start Alex Akingbulu at left tackle. It would be the first career start for the graduate transfer from UCLA. Akingbulu also would be the fifth Bulldogs’ offensive lineman to make a first career start this season, joining senior Nick Aibuedefe, who started at left tackle against Sacramento State and left guard at New Mexico State; freshman Bula Schmidt, who started at left guard at Air Force and against UNLV, redshirt freshman Jace Fuamatu, who started at left guard against Colorado State; and center Matt Smith, who has started all seven games to this point.
The question is, should that matter against a team that has had so much trouble against the run?
Fresno State obviously has had its difficulties rushing the football with running backs Ronnie Riivers and Josh Hokit – Rivers went over the 100-yard mark last week for the first time this season in the loss to Colorado State, churning out 146 yards and two touchdowns on just 14 plays, including plays of 37, 20 and 45 yards.
That may have impacted play-calling, with the Bulldogs throwing the ball more this season than rushing it.
That is an anomaly for a Jeff Tedford team.
Those offenses are well-balanced, but lean to the run. The Bulldogs last season had a 501 to 440 rush-pass ratio and in 2017 it was 515 to 437.
This season, they have rushed it 225 times while putting it in the air 234 times.
Only twice at Cal did the Golden Bears throw the ball more than run it under Tedford.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada