Hawaii vs. Fresno State: Three Keys to a Bulldogs Win
The Bulldogs will kick off their 2020 football season against the defending West division champions. Here’s our preview of how Fresno State can defeat Hawaii.
Can the Bulldogs get off to a fast start?
WEEK 8: Hawaii Warriors vs. Fresno State Bulldogs
WHEN: Saturday, October 24 — 4:30 PM PT/1:30 PM HT
WHERE: Bulldog Stadium; Fresno, California
TV: Fans in the Central Valley will be able to catch the game on the local NBC affiliate, KSEE 24. On the Hawaiian islands, the game will be available via Spectrum Pay-Per-View.
STREAMING: For fans on the mainland, the game can be streamed using the Team1Sports application, which is available for download on Android and Apple devices and over-the-top platforms like Roku and Amazon Fire. Please note that the game will not be available on desktops or laptops.
You can also find the audio broadcast on TuneIn.
RADIO: The Fresno State broadcast can be found on 940 AM, while the Hawaii broadcast can be found on the ESPN Radio affiliate in Honolulu, on 1420 AM and 92.7 FM.
SERIES RECORD: Fresno State leads the series 29-22-1. In the last meeting on November 2, 2019, the Bulldogs defeated the Warriors, 41-38, in Honolulu.
ODDS (as of 10/22, via Vegas Insider): Fresno State -4
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State by 1.3 (53% win probability)
FEI PROJECTION: Fresno State by 4.8
It’s been a weird off-season for everyone, including the Fresno State Bulldogs, but the Mountain West football season is finally set to get underway this weekend when the ‘Dogs host the Hawaii Warriors.
The Red Wave won’t be out in force this fall (they’ll have to settle for cut-outs instead) and the team has had to ramp up to game speed fairly quickly after being one of the last programs in the country to come together, so they’ll have their work cut out for them right off the bat against a Warriors team that has spent its summer refining one of the country’s most potent offenses.
Here’s how the Bulldogs can start the Kalen DeBoer era with a victory against Hawaii.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Be prepared for anything with Hawaii’s run-and-gun.
One thing that propelled the Warriors to new heights in 2019 was a very effective running game, spearheaded by running back Miles Reed, that improved its per-carry production by over a yard from 2018. Nick Rolovich’s offenses were still very pass-heavy, though, throwing 61.5% of the time last fall, and that might not be the case this time around.
For starters, Hawaii might choose to play faster and use tempo to put the Fresno State defense on its heels. It may utilize elements of the “GoGo” offense that wide receivers coach Brennan Marion brings to the islands. The Warriors look like they’ll have mobility and speed at their disposal, so sound tackling to prevent big plays will be vital.
2. Control the game on offense by winning between the tackles.
2019 had its fair share of letdowns, but the ground game had far and away its best performance of the season against these same Warriors, averaging 7.25 yards per carry and scoring three times in the upset victory. Hawaii has a lot of experience up front, most notably in sophomore Jonah Laulu (six tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks) and seniors Derek Thomas and Mason Vega, but their defensive line has a lot to prove after ranking in the bottom five nationally by just about every advanced metric when it comes to defending the run.
With new quarterback Jake Haener under center, don’t be shocked if DeBoer and offensive coordinator Ryan Grubb get Ronnie Rivers involved early and often, as well as other familiar names like Jordan Mims, who returns after missing 2019 with injury, and Jevon Bigelow, the former Wyoming Cowboy who redshirted after returning to the Central Valley last year. As long as the offensive line is healthy, it’s a reasonable plan of attack.
3. Attack wherever Cortez Davis isn’t.
Hawaii’s senior cornerback was quietly productive in 2019 and is back to patrol one side of the field again, but there may be an opportunity to take advantage of newcomers elsewhere in the secondary. The right receiver, like Jalen Cropper or Keric Wheatfall, could turn into a YAC machine with well-timed crossing routes and slants against young defenders like Michael Washington and Akil Francisco, and Haener should have time to make some easy throws and get in a rhythm. After all, Hawaii ranked 127th nationally with a 3.1% sack rate last year, too.
A lot is going to hinge on how many stops the new-look Bulldogs defense can make because, for all of the pieces that Hawaii is replacing on offense for 2020, they should still be able to move the ball against just about anyone. I expect this to be the first of many shootouts throughout the fall, but it may ultimately be one of the more frustrating ones.
Hawaii 38, Fresno State 34