Fresno State (3-7) at Hawaii (5-5)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 19th, 11:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Aloha Stadium (50,000) -- Honolulu, Hawaii. Television: WAC Sports Network. Home Record: FSU 2-3, Hawaii 3-1. Away Record: FSU 1-3, Hawaii 2-4. Neutral Record: FSU 0-1, Hawaii 0-0. Conference Record: FSU 2-3, Hawaii 3-3. Series Record: Series is tied, 21-21-1.
GAME NOTES: Even though the Hawaii Warriors continue to fight for a spot in the postseason, that endeavor just became much more difficult as the team begins life without quarterback Bryant Moniz on Saturday night versus Fresno State in Western Athletic Conference action at Aloha Stadium.
Moniz, who led the nation in total offense last season and was considered a front-runner to be named the WAC Offensive Player of the Year this season, had his campaign cut short last week when he suffered a broken right leg in a 42-28 road loss to Nevada in Reno. The setback was the second in a row for Hawaii and dropped the team to an even 5-5 overall and 3-3 in conference play with this weekend's battle being the final league bout of 2011.
As for the Bulldogs, they've been riding a slippery slope all year long and have just three total wins to show for their efforts, only two against other members of the Football Bowl Subdivision. Last Saturday, the team was defeated by New Mexico State on the road, 48-45, the first-ever loss for Fresno State in the all-time series between the two teams after entering the contest a perfect 17-0 over the years versus the Aggies.
Last season, FSU bowed to the Warriors on the mainland, 49-27, in the conference opener, which means the teams are knotted at 21-21-1 in the all- time series.
Against the Aggies, quarterback Derek Carr continued to show growth as he completed 22-of-34 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns, but more importantly, no interceptions. Jalen Saunders stepped up with seven catches for 174 yards and two touchdowns through the air, adding a 15-yard TD run in the third quarter as well for the visitors. Robbie Rouse hit the end zone twice as he gained 86 yards on 23 carries. Carr, who has been thrown into the fire this season, has now connected on 62.7 percent of his pass attempts for 266.1 ypg and a total of 21 touchdowns, against just seven interceptions, and yet this team continues to struggle with trying to earn victories. Ranked first in the conference and 11th in the nation in rushing with 116.6 ypg, Rouse gives the Bulldogs balance on offense, yet that still is not enough.
While the offense was finally hitting all the right notes for the Bulldogs, the fact was the defense was just as quick to give back points to New Mexico State in the loss last weekend. Even though the FSU defense was on the field for less than half the meeting, the group had to endure 82 snaps while permitting 500 yards which is tough for any group these days. Trying to give the Bulldogs a fighting chance each time they take the field are guys like Logan Harrell and Tristan Okpalaugo who have been putting together very solid individual efforts during a season in which the Bulldogs have been exposed a few too many times. Harrell leads the team with 14.0 tackles for loss and five sacks, not to mention three forced fumbles, while Okpalaugo is good for another 8.5 TFLs and four sacks, not to mention one of the team's blocked kicks as well.
First things first with the Warriors; not having Moniz available for this weekend and the rest of the season will be a huge blow. The signal-caller was averaging 302.6 ypg passing, first in the conference and 14th in the nation, but now the team has to figure out how they'll get by with someone like Shane Austin who, despite being a senior in his own right, is not the same sort of player. Austin managed to finish the meeting with Nevada with 246 yards and a touchdown in Moniz's absence, but the end result was still a loss. Austin was also picked off three times which had to be a blow to his confidence. Unfortunately for the Warriors, leaning more heavily on the rushing attack while Austin settles in is not an option because this is a group that finished with just 38 net rushing yards against Nevada and is ranked last in the league and 110th in the country with just 103.7 ypg on the ground over the course of 10 games and Moniz was a major player in that aspect of the offense believe it or not.
Like a number of teams this season, the Hawaii defense found it tough to slow down the revamped and revitalized Nevada offense as the Wolf Pack accounted for 290 yards and three touchdowns through the air and another 223 yards and two scores on the ground in order to keep the Warriors guessing as much as possible. Corey Paredes tried to keep the visitors close with his team-best 13 tackles, while Aaron Brown and John Hardy-Tuliau finished with 12 and 10 tackles, respectively, and also had one sack each in the disappointing setback on the mainland. In terms of sacks this season, Hawaii has come alive with heavy presence at the line of scrimmage and now ranks first in the WAC and 10th in the country with 3.1 sacks per outing. However, getting after ball carriers in the backfield tends to be much more of a challenge with the group averaging just 5.8 TFLs per game which is 58th in the nation entering play this week.
The Bulldogs are in dire need of a win these days and with the Hawaii offense having to reconfigure they might be getting the right team at the right time, although making the long trip to Honolulu is never easy.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Fresno State 31, Hawaii 20
11/16 10:38:49 ET