A look at Fresno State’s matchup against Hawaii on Saturday at Bulldog Stadium, including keys to victory for the Bulldogs and pregame notes.
Fresno State vs. Hawaii
Saturday: 4 p.m. at Bulldog Stadium (41,031)
Records: Bulldogs 1-9, 0-6 Mountain West; Rainbow Warriors 4-7, 3-4
Radio: KFIG (AM 940), KGST (AM 1600)
Forecast: Partly cloudy, 68 degrees
Keys to victory
1 Be brutish – Fresno State has not stood up well at the line of scrimmage, but is coming off a bye after working through fall camp and more physical practices the first 10 weeks of the season. The Bulldogs should be refreshed, and this might be the week they hold an advantage up front. Hawaii has been beaten up the past two weeks in blowouts at San Diego State and versus Boise State, the most physical teams in the conference.
2 Turn them over – This just might be too far out of character for the Bulldogs, who are last in the nation in turnovers gained with six – three fumbles and three interceptions. But Hawaii has struggled to take care of the football, last in the Mountain West and tied for 120th of 128 in the nation in turnovers lost with 23. A few extra possessions for the Fresno State offense might be painful to watch, but the Bulldogs might end up in the end zone.
3 Hit the gas – The Bulldogs have started games painfully slowly. They had 68 yards at halftime in their most recent game, a 37-0 loss at Colorado State, the third time they have had fewer than 100 yards in the first two quarters. Hawaii, coming off those past two losses, might take a while to get started, and the first quarter has been telling. In their seven losses, the Rainbow Warriors have been outscored in the first quarter 100-28, getting shut out four times.
As a group, Fresno State’s running backs are not a picture of good health, ending the season for the most part the way they started it.
The Bulldogs were hit by injuries first in spring, then lost more depth in fall camp and even more during the season. Who will line up Saturday against Hawaii is a question.
Dontel James, who has started nine of 10 games, will be a gametime decision, as will Treyvon Green. James and Green are the top two backs by carries and rushing yards. The third, Dejonte O’Neal, is out for the year with a knee injury.
Freshman Justin Rice will get some reps. Redshirt freshman Bryson Oglesby, coming back from a knee injury suffered in the spring, also will be in the mix. And freshman Josh Hokit, who has spent most of the year at outside linebacker and playing on special teams, also practiced this week at running back.
“We’re going to try to get them all going, see who can pop a few runs,” said Eric Kiesau, two games into his four-game run as interim coach after taking over for the fired Tim DeRuyter. “We’re really banged up at that position.”
Oglesby, who made his debut in the Bulldogs’ loss at Colorado State, would like to score a touchdown and would love to win the game. But there is more at stake.
Just seven months removed from surgery, he is looking for a good barometer where he is with his knee going forward.
“I want to do the best I can, get me somewhere to gauge myself so I can get back, look at the film and come back next season and be better than that guy,” he said.
“That’s the most important thing for me, just from a speed standpoint. I’m just trying to take what I can now and build on it, come back as good as I can.”
The 5-foot-11, 190-pound back from Sugarland, Texas, is at a good starting point, albeit in the 12th week of the season.
“Strength-wise, I feel great,” he said. “The knee feels great. My body feels great. The time off did help and now, like I said, it’s the speed, getting a little faster, a little quicker. I’m seeing it, but sometimes I feel like I can get there a little quicker, and that comes with time.
“I would say the only thing I’m lacking at this point is the offseason. I just need a full offseason, just to get ready. I like where I’m at now, but I know where I can be and I know I can be a lot better than I am right now.”
Kicked off – Fresno State’s Kody Kroening had made 13 consecutive field goals, including a career-best 49-yarder at Utah State, when he was selected Nov. 3 as one of 20 semifinalists for the Lou Groza Award.
He hasn’t attempted a kick since.
If Greenlee can … – Fresno State has won two of its past 14 conference games, the most recent victory last season against the Rainbow Warriors when Zack Greenlee threw for 285 yards and six touchdowns without an interception in a 42-14 win.
To that point, Bulldogs quarterbacks had completed only 50.5 percent of their passes for 1,483 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions for an efficiency rating of 100.94.
This season, they have hit 51.2 percent for 2,300 yards with 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions for a rating of 109.12.
The Rainbow Warriors were sixth in the Mountain West in passing defense last year and are no better this season.
Hawaii is seventh in the conference, allowing opponents to hit 63.7 percent of their passes at an efficiency of 151.92, both marks the worst in the league.
It has allowed 8.2 yards per pass (tied for eighth) and 22 TD passes (tied for 11th and last).
Honorable – The Bulldogs have struggled the past two seasons, and there is no better illustration than the record – 3-9 last season, 1-9 with two games to go this season.
They also have not had a Player of the Week in the Mountain West since linebacker Kyrie Wilson on Nov. 10, 2014, and in the 27 weeks of football since then, every team in the conference has had at least two players honored.
Boise State and San Diego State lead the league with 13.
Et cetera – Fresno State has won two games against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent over the past season plus 10 games, one of them against the Rainbow Warriors, which has to sting them just a little.
In the victory at Hawaii last season, the Bulldogs recorded season highs in points (42), first downs (27), total offense (445 yards) and turnovers gained (four), and they have not hit any of those numbers this season.
Fresno State has a high of 41 points in a double-overtime loss to Tulsa, 25 first downs in a loss at Nevada and 453 yards and two turnovers gained against the Golden Hurricane.
▪ In the wake of Rice (at running back) and cornerback Anthoula “Tank” Kelly making their first career starts at Colorado State, the Bulldogs have now had 12 players achieve that feat and 30 players overall get into a game for the first time.
▪ Hawaii has won three of its past 31 road games, but two victories have come this season. The Rainbow Warriors won 34-17 at San Jose State and 34-27 at Air Force.
▪ The Bulldogs have lost eight in a row, the second-longest streak in the nation. Fresno State is a 3- to 3 1/2-point underdog at home to Hawaii. Kansas, with has lost nine in a row, is a 20-point underdog at home to Texas.
▪ Hawaii averaged 457.5 yards and 36 points in its first four Mountain West games this season (Nevada, San Jose State, UNLV and Air Force). In its past three conference games, it has generated 290.7 yards and 12.3 points facing New Mexico, San Diego State and Boise State.
▪ The Rainbow Warriors have given up touchdowns on the opening drive in their past four games. The Bulldogs have gone three-and-out on the opening drive in their past four, gaining a grand total of 20 yards. They gained 3 yards against San Diego State, 2 at Utah State, 7 against Air Force and 8 at Colorado State.
Robert Kuwada: @rkuwada