Fresno State (2-7, 1-5 Mountain West) at Hawaii (2-8, 0-6)
▪ Saturday: 8 p.m. at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu
▪ TV: KSEE (Ch. 24.1)
▪ Radio: KFIG (AM 940); KGST (AM 1600)
▪ Kickoff forecast: 79 degrees, mostly clear; light rain
Fresno State’s three keys to victory
1Get off the field. The Bulldogs’ defense has been on the field a lot in the second half of the past two games, but that’s not just because the offense hasn’t been able to sustain drives. Third-down defense has been an issue, but they might actually hold an edge against Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors are one of the worst teams in the nation on third down, converting on 29.9 percent.
2 Complete a pass. No matter who starts at quarterback, Fresno State is not going to get much done if the passing game continues to struggle. Accuracy is only part of the issue – the Bulldogs have held onto the ball too long and missed open windows and thrown the ball too quickly before windows can open, and made poor decisions while trying to force the ball against coverage. A 50.5 completion percentage isn’t going to get it done.
3 Take it away. These are two struggling football teams, the Bulldogs 2-7 and the Rainbow Warriors 2-8. It stands to reason that mistakes will be made, and when it comes to turnovers, few teams in the nation have had as much trouble holding onto the ball as Hawaii. It has coughed it up 27 times and is a minus-17 in turnover margin. Fresno State needs to make that number bigger, and score when it does.
– Robert Kuwada, The Fresno Bee
Fresno State player spotlight: Wide receiver Jamire Jordan
Year: Redshirt freshman
Hometown/high school: Lancaster/Highland
Last week: Led the team in receiving with 50 yards on three receptions, but remained stuck on four touchdowns while being kept out of the end zone in the 30-16 loss to Nevada. Josiah Blandin caught his fourth TD pass to tie Jordan for the team lead.
Why this game is important for Jordan: He has been fairly consistent this season, despite the shuffle at quarterback. Jordan leads the Bulldogs in receptions (30) and receiving yards (355). His longest was 82 yards for a touchdown, on a pass from Zack Greenlee, against Utah. He also has seven runs for 45 yards and a TD.
He said it: “We plan to finish strong. We haven’t played the best ball all year and hopefully these next three games will go well for us. I feel like I’ve matured as a player, and I’ve grown up a lot in this offense, and I became one of the key guys in the offense, and I feel like I earned it. I just come out here and play for my team. Every year doesn’t go the way you want it to go, and we just have to take it as a learning experience and keep growing with it.”
– Anthony Galaviz, The Fresno Bee
Tailgating: Bulldogs pregame news and notes
Well, one of these teams has to win, but a matchup between Fresno State and Hawaii pits two of the worst offensive teams in the FBS against two of the worst defensive teams.
How that shakes out is to be determined, but going in, this is what the Bulldogs are looking at ...
Hawaii is ranked 124th out of 128 teams in the nation in scoring offense in games against FBS opponents (13.0 points per game) and 105th in scoring defense (36.2). It is ranked 124th in rushing offense (85.9 ypg) and 126th in rushing defense (271.8). It is ranked 123rd in passing efficiency rating (87.58) and 74th in passing efficiency rating defense (132.90). It is ranked 124th in total offense (271.0) and 99th in total defense (454.3 ypg). It is 128th in turnover margin (minus-17).
And, this is what the Rainbow Warriors are looking at ...
Fresno State is ranked 113th in scoring offense (18.8) and 122nd in scoring defense (43.0). It is 115th in rushing offense (118.3 ypg) and 125th in rushing defense (271.4). It is ranked 116th in passing efficiency rating (99.) and 123rd in passing efficiency rating defense (169.3). It is 123rd in total offense (276.5) and 110th in total defense (475.5 ypg). It is tied for 99th in turnover margin with seven other teams (minus-5).
Hawaii is a 4.5- to 5.5-point favorite.
Musical quarterbacks – Fresno State isn’t expected to announce its starting quarterback until game time, but if third-year sophomore Zack Greenlee takes over for Kilton Anderson, it will be the fifth change this season.
Greenlee started the first two games against Abilene Christian and at Ole Miss, freshman Chason Virgil started against Utah, junior Ford Childress started at San Jose State, Greenlee started at San Diego State and Anderson started against Utah State, UNLV, at Air Force and against Nevada.
There is a chance both will play Saturday night.
“We’ll have packages for both of our quarterbacks and we’ll have both of them at the ready,” coach Tim DeRuyter said.
Go figure – The Rainbow Warriors have averaged 33.2 pass attempts per game, second most in the Mountain West despite having the worst passing efficiency rating in the conference at 95.23.
Eye on ’Dro – Bulldogs outside linebacker Ejiro Ederaine is tied for fourth all-time in the Mountain West Conference with 41.5 tackles for a loss, just 2.5 out of third place and 5.5 from tying San Diego State linebacker Miles Burris at the top.
Hawaii, though, could limit his opportunities. The Rainbow Warriors have had trouble protecting their passer this season but have allowed only 4.9 tackles for loss per game, fourth in the conference.
Ederaine, who had 1.5 last week in the loss to Nevada, has two career TFLs against Hawaii, both on the road in a 42-37 victory in 2013.
Et cetera – Hawaii quarterback Ikaika Woolsey threw a career-high three touchdown passes in a 28-21 loss last season at Fresno State, which should give the Bulldogs reason for concern. There’s also this: in home games the past two seasons, the 6-foot-1 junior has been much better than in his road games, completing 54.5 percent of his passes (134 of 246) for 1,668 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions compared to 46.5 percent (120 of 258) for 1,368 yards with eight touchdowns and 12 interceptions. His passing efficiency rating at home is 115.41 and on the road it is 91.98.
▪ The Rainbow Warriors have allowed 78 rushing plays of 10 yards or more, which ranks last in the Mountain West by a large margin and 126th of 128 in the nation. The Bulldogs obviously have had their issues against the run this season and they are tied with Wyoming for 10th in the conference, allowing 60 rushing plays of 10 or more yards.
▪ Hawaii has, on average, faced the most rushing plays in the nation at 56.3 per game, but why would any team throw the ball? Curiously, a Mountain West team has defended the most rushing plays per game the past two seasons and four times since 2008.
▪ Fresno State has won four games in a row in the series, but the Bulldogs had won six in a row against Utah State and three in a row against San Diego State and Nevada before losing this season.
▪ Redshirt freshman Jamire Jordan and Josiah Blandin are tied for the team lead with four touchdown receptions. The last time a receiver led Fresno State with only four TD catches in a season was 2006, when Joe Fernandez caught 24 passes for 281 yards.
▪ Inside (Mike) linebacker Kyrie Wilson, who got banged up in the second half of the loss to Nevada, was able to practice all week and is expected to play.
– Robert Kuwada, The Fresno Bee