NICK Rolovich will likely be the man under center for the remainder of the season after he brought Hawaii back from the brink of extinction with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Ashley Lelie in the waning seconds of last night's Western Athletic Conference game with Fresno State.
Rolovich likely ends
With everyone at Aloha Stadium screaming their lungs out, Rolovich dropped back into the pocket and lofted a perfect pass to Lelie, who caught it over Fresno State cornerback Devon Banks to give Hawaii the 38-34 win.
It was the fourth victory in a row for Hawaii since Rolovich took over for the injured Tim Chang. Unless Rolovich suffers a serious injury -- he did have a subluxed left shoulder last night in the fourth quarter -- it's unlikely Chang will play again this season.
"If Chang doesn't because of the wrist injury, he can apply for a medical hardship," WAC commissioner Karl Benson said before the game. "It's pretty open-and-shut. But if he plays one more time this season, then he only has two years of eligibility remaining."
At this point, that's the farthest thing from anyone's mind, but if Chang can still have three years remaining in his career, it's likely Hawaii will choose that route.
As for Rolovich, he completed 30 of 52 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns. He had a pair of costly interceptions in the third quarter. But those were forgotten by game's end. The throw to Lelie is something he'll never forget.
"They double-teamed Ashley all day," Rolovich said. "But he hung in there. I had to go away from him for a while, but I never forgot about him. I just put the ball in there and he went up for it. You can't stop a guy like him the entire game."
Run defense was special: Early in the year, Nevada and Rice ran the ball up and down the field against a much-maligned UH defense. But that has changed.
You won't get an argument from Fresno State head coach Pat Hill. He was so impressed with UH's effort, he decided to pass the ball in a situation that called for the run. The result was a sack and forced fumble by Nate Jackson that was recovered by defensive lineman Laanui Correa at the Fresno State 34 to set up the winning pass from Rolovich to Lelie.
"We're a team and that's what counts the most in games like this," UH linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa said. "The line held off the blocks to allow the linebackers to make plays."
Tinoisamoa and middle linebacker Chris Brown led the Warriors in tackles with nine each. Fresno State finished with only 68 rushing yards.
Season goes south: Two weeks ago, Fresno State was ranked eighth in the nation and was the media darling of college football. But not anymore. Successive losses to WAC teams Boise State and Hawaii by a scant nine points leave the Bulldogs fighting for their league lives.
"I'm going to guarantee you something," Hill said. "We are going to win the next five games. That's all I'm going to say, so you write it any way you want to. Describe it any way you want to."
UH injuries: Hawaii lost UH corner Abraham Elimimian to an ankle sprain that may keep him out of next week's game with San Jose State. Robert Grant had a hamstring pull and fellow defensive back Gary Wright had a concussion. Both could play next Saturday.