By Kyle Galdeira
Fresno State scored 31 unanswered points in a dominant stretch that covered the second and third quarters, and secured a 31-21 victory over the University of Hawai‘i football team amid persistent showers on Saturday night in a “Military Night” themed Mountain West contest on Hawaiian Tel FCU Field at Aloha Stadium.
Hawai‘i turned in a valiant comeback attempt, and pulled to within 10 points of the lead early in the fourth quarter following a touchdown reception by Dylan Collie and a pick-six interception return from linebacker Solomon Matautia 74 seconds later. However, the scoring run would prove futile as Hawai‘i lost for the seventh time in eight games; the squad can no longer qualify for a postseason bowl game.
“I have to say that the way our kids came out to play tonight, they played hard for each other and for the fans of this program, and I’m appreciative of that,” said Hawai‘i coach Nick Rolovich. “I told them I loved them I loved the way they fought. There are two games left for the seniors who have given a lot to this program.”
Hawai‘i running back Diocemy Saint Juste notched 22 carries for 104 yards on the evening, and surpassed Michael Carter’s single-season rushing attempts record of 221 set in 1991. Saint Juste is on pace to break the program’s single-season rushing yards record, which was set by Travis Sims (1,498 yards) in 1992.
Rainbow Warrior quarterback Dru Brown completed 18-of-31 passes for 154 yards and two scores. Collie led the Hawai‘i receiving corps with six receptions for 60 yards.
The Rainbow Warriors (3-7, 1-6 Mountain West) started on a positive note after forcing two Fresno State punts as Brown connected with Kamehameha Schools-Kapālama product Kumoku Noa on a seven-yard touchdown strike to put the home team ahead 7-0 with 2:52 to play in the opening frame. Thanks to the scoring play, the ‘Bows held a lead after the first quarter for just the second time in 10 games this season.
The Bulldogs (7-3, 5-1 Mountain West) answered nearly six minutes later as quarterback Marcus McMaryion found Keesea Johnson, who tapped his foot just inside the end line beneath the goal post, on a four-yard pass to tie the game.
The game was halted for 41 minutes early in the second quarter after lightning was reported (and observed) in the vicinity. After the teams returned to the field, Fresno State regained momentum as McMaryion connected with Jared Rice on a 25-yard touchdown strike down the middle of the field to put the visiting squad ahead 14-7 with less than two minutes to play in the half.
Then, with 19 seconds remaining in the first half, the Bulldogs extended their lead to 21-7 on a three-yard floating pass from McMaryion to David Tangipa, who took a massive hit but maintained the process of the catch.
After adding a field goal, McMaryion found Johnson on a well-timed screen pass, and the shifty receiver scampered 16 yards to put Fresno State ahead 31-7 with 1:38 to play in the third quarter.
“Coming out of the half, nobody wanted to give up,” said Matautia. “We wanted to come back. After the pick-six it gave everyone hope and motivated us to win. We had a chance, but couldn’t get it done.”
McMaryion finished with four touchdown passes and 226 yards through the air as the Bulldogs did all their scoring in the second and third quarters.
Saturday’s meeting marked the 50th matchup between Fresno State and Hawai‘i; the teams have met every season since 1992 when the squads were part of the Western Athletic Conference.
UH will prepare to hit the road for the sixth time this season as the ‘Bows face league foe Utah State in Logan, Utah, on Nov. 18.
(Photos By: Andrew Lee / Hawaii Media Source)