Fresno State made another change at quarterback Saturday night at Hawaii, and after a slow start it helped deliver the Bulldogs’ most impressive win of the season.
Redshirt sophomore Zack Greenlee got the call again, his fourth start overall but first since Oct. 3, and he threw for six touchdowns – four in the first half – to account for the Bulldogs’ scoring.
“I think we just executed,” Greenlee was quoted in a Fresno State news release. “That was the main thing. We went out there and (the wide receivers) made some great plays. For me to just sit in the pocket and get it to them and watch them go to work is awesome. It’s a great game and when it goes like this it’s just beautiful.”
Greenlee finished 20 of 35 for 285 yards without an interception. The Bulldogs (3-7, 2-5) led 28-7 at halftime, with Da’Mari Scott catching two of Greenlee’s TDs.
Ejiro Ederaine’s interception of Hawaii’s Max Wittek, on in relief for an ineffective Ikaika Woolsey to start the second half, set up a short field and led to the fifth TD of the night.
Ederaine returned it to the 14 and five plays later, Greenlee bought time while moving to his left before finding running back Marteze Waller for a 6-yard score.
Hawaii (2-9, 0-7), after surrendering a run of 28 straight points, pulled back within 21 on Melvin Davis’ 1-yard run with 1:39 to play in the third but never found the end zone again.
Greenlee briefly left the game after a hit but returned to throw his final touchdown when he connected with Jamire Jordan, who ran down the sideline for 64 yards in the opening minute of the fourth quarter.
Fresno State outgained Hawaii just 455 to 437 in total yards but those numbers were misleading. A final 80-yard drive that ended on downs with 11 seconds to play boosted the Rainbow Warriors’ totals, as the Bulldogs harassed Hawaii’s quarterbacks into 20-of-49 passing with three interceptions.
“Our kids have grit,” Bulldogs coach Tim DeRuyter said. “We challenged them to practice hard. They did that. We took care of the ball on offense and we got four takeaways on defense. We played with grit and that’s what we have to do.”
Two for Da’Mari – Greenlee’s best throw was the third of the Bulldogs’ scoring plays, as he threaded one to Da’Mari Scott for 28 yards and with Kody Kroening’s extra point the Bulldogs had a 21-7 lead with 5:44 to go until halftime.
Scott had only one other touchdown catch this season (in Week 3 against Utah), but the same combination clicked again with 58 seconds left in the second quarter, this time for 25 yards to make it 28-7.
Greenlee was 14 of 21 for a career-high 182 yards in the first half. His passing efficiency rating, stuck in the low 100’s for much of the year, was 202.3.
Fresno State needed the production from the passing game with Waller and the running game mostly bottled up.
Waller, needing 78 yards to become the fifth Bulldog in program history to go over 3,000 yards rushing for a career, was held to 23 yards on 10 first-half carries by a Hawaii defense that was ranked 123rd nationally (261.5 yards per game) against the run.
Woolsey, who reclaimed the starting job this week, gave way to Wittek after completing 8 of 20 passes for 92 yards in the first half.
Fourth time’s the charm – After three ineffective possessions, including one that died in the red zone following an early turnover, Greenlee put the Bulldogs on top 7-0 via a 2-yard pass to Josiah Blandin with 25 seconds to play in the first quarter.
Three personal fouls on Hawaii for roughing the passer – one that led to the ejection of defensive back Nick Nelson – keyed the eight-play, 91-yard drive.
Hawaii answered on its next drive, turning to junior running back Paul Harris to do much of the work.
Harris, a 5-11, 190-pounder who was a JC All-American at Ventura College, carried the ball four times, the last of those runs going for 11 yards to the Fresno State 14. From there, Woolsey connected with junior receiver Makoa Camanse-Stevens for the tying score just 57 seconds into the second quarter.
Fresno State regained the lead when Greenlee threw 22 yards to tight end Chad Olsen with 11:35 to go in the half.
Next to nothing at the start – Both offenses sputtered for much of the opening quarter, even after the Bulldogs’ defense set up an early chance.
Jeff Camilli picked off Woolsey on the third play from scrimmage, returning the ball 7 yards to the Hawaii 20. But the offense managed 5 yards on 4 plays, the last of them a 3-yard loss for Waller on fourth-and-2 run from the 12.
Two subsequent drives were short-circuited as well. Those totaled a combined 25 yards across eight plays, as the Rainbow Warriors threw the Bulldogs for losses four times, including a sack of Greenlee on fourth-and-5 from the Hawaii 35.
Hawaii wasn’t going anywhere either. The Rainbow Warriors, after Woolsey’s interception, responded to the stop by their defense by driving to the Fresno State 34. But a couple of dropped passes along the way led to Rigoberto Sanchez attempting, and missing, a 52-yard field goal.
It figured to be a struggle for two of the more woeful teams in the Mountain West.
Fresno State entered 2-7 overall, including 0-4 on the road, and 1-5 in the conference. Hawaii was 2-8 and 0-6.
Temperature at kickoff was about 80 degrees, but light rain showers were falling in Honolulu.
Pregame – Fresno State went with Greenlee in what marked the fifth change at the position this season, though Greenlee had started three games earlier in the year.
DeRuyter made good on his weeklong promise to delay the announcement until just before kickoff, scheduled for 8:07 p.m. PST.
Greenlee entered 40-for-80 passing for 456 yards, with seven touchdowns and three interceptions and an efficiency rating of 119.26. His season high in yardage had been 156 in the opener against FCS school Abilene Christian.
Here’s a look at the game-by-game starters at quarterback this season:
- Sept. 3 vs. Abilene Christian: Greenlee
- Sept. 12 at Ole Miss: Greenlee
- Sept. 19 vs. Utah: Chason Virgil
- Sept. 26 at San Jose State: Ford Childress
- Oct. 3 at San Diego State: Greenlee
- Oct. 10 vs. Utah State: Anderson
- Oct. 16 vs. UNLV: Anderson
- Oct. 24 at Air Force: Anderson
- Nov. 5 vs. Nevada: Anderson
- Nov. 14 at Hawaii: Greenlee
The series – Fresno State leads 25-21-1, including four straight wins, though three of the past four games have been decided by one score. After losing 11 of 12 at Hawaii from 1967-2003, the Bulldogs have won three straight and 4 of 5 against the Rainbow Warriors on the island. The last time the Bulldogs won four consecutive games at Hawaii was 1955-65.
FRESNO STATE 42, HAWAII 14
Fre — Blandin 2 pass from Greenlee (Kroening kick), :25.
Haw — Camanse-Stevens 14 pass from Woolsey (Sanchez kick), 14:03.
Fre — Olsen 22 pass from Greenlee (Kroening kick), 11:35.
Fre — Scott 28 pass from Greenlee (Kroening kick), 5:44.
Fre — Scott 25 pass from Greenlee (Kroening kick), :58.
Fre — Waller 6 pass from Greenlee (Kroening kick), 11:11.
Haw — Davis 1 run (Sanchez kick), :51.
Fre — Jordan 64 pass from Greenlee (Kroening kick), 14:49.
A — 21,485.
Time of Possession
RUSHING—Fresno State, Garrison 12-66, O’Neal 9-27, Waller 13-27, Anderson 3-25, Greenlee 10-20, Jordan 3-10, Team 1-(minus 5). Hawaii, Harris 26-126, Davis 6-45, Tuiasoa 1-20, Woolsey 4-8, Wittek 2-(minus 7).
PASSING—Fresno State, Greenlee 20-35-0-285. Hawaii, Wittek 12-29-2-153, Woolsey 8-20-1-92.
RECEIVING—Fresno State, Jordan 4-79, Olsen 4-76, Waller 3-37, K.Johnson 3-10, Scott 2-53, Blandin 2-7, Hardaway 1-20, Riddering 1-3. Hawaii, Camanse-Stevens 6-63, Kemp 5-105, Torres 3-28, Harris 2-4, Stubblefield 2-2, Davis 1-33, Tuiasoa 1-10.