Fresno State senior Wendell Mathis has carried the ball 95 times for 477 yards and eight touchdowns.
UH needs to keep up
On paper, Fresno State against Hawaii is a potential blowout in favor of the visiting Bulldogs, especially since the Warriors' defense doesn't look like it can stop a strong running game.
But it might not have to, if UH's continually improving passing attack can keep pace and avoid turnovers. And if the Warriors trade touchdowns and keep it close going into the fourth quarter.
"You'd like to shut everybody out, but you're not going to shut everybody out," Hawaii coach June Jones said. "We're doing what we can do."
Fresno State's No. 22 ranking is based on wins over some of the worst teams in college football. The three WAC victories are against Utah State (2-4), New Mexico State (0-7) and Idaho (1-6). Then again, Hawaii's three WAC wins are courtesy of NMSU, Idaho and San Jose State -- a combined 2-19.
Here's what to watch for other than screwdrivers flying from the stands. (Yes, we know Fresno is where that "allegedly" happened, but couldn't resist the line since this game is sponsored by Home Depot).
When Hawaii has the ball: Repetition can be boring, but not when it leads to a 70 percent completion ratio and lots of touchdown passes. Jones said the run-and-shoot is becoming committed to the muscle memory of sophomore quarterback Colt Brennan.
"That's why he's getting better. He just keeps doing the same things over and over and he sees it one more time," Jones said.
Brennan and his receivers aren't satisfied to just pile up yardage (they lead the WAC and are second nationally with 382.3 yards per game). After consecutive 100-yard receiving games, freshman slot Davone Bess said he can still improve.
"We watch film after the game, and we're still making a lot of mental mistakes as far as making the right reads and the right cuts," he said. "There was a time when I missed a read and went post instead of hook."
Precision will be necessary against Fresno State, Jones said.
"They're the best defense we've played, to me, and that's including USC. And they can all run," he said.
The Bulldogs have made an incredible 46 tackles for loss in six games -- by 23 different players.
When Fresno State has the ball: It's no secret what the Bulldogs will do. They will run until the Warriors prove they can stop them.
Wendell Mathis (477 yards, eight touchdowns) and Bryson Sumlin (379, three) produced almost that much in last year's 70-14 rout of the Warriors.
When they do throw, quarterback Paul Pinegar is more than capable. The fourth-year starter completes 66 percent of his passes and 12 have gone for TDs compared to just two picks.
"Fresno State wants to just pound you, and I'm sure they're going to come in here and do that," Jones said. "So we've got to pretty much stop the run. If they beat us passing, they beat us passing."
Special teams: This is a danger area for UH, which lost to Boise State because of multiple kicking game breakdowns.
FSU's Adam Jennings and Richard Marshall average 34.9 and 39.5 yards per kickoff return, and Joe Fernandez has a punt return for a TD.
The Bulldogs have blocked four punts this year.
Fresno State blockers vs. UH strong safety Lono Manners
Job One for Hawaii against Fresno State is to stop the Bulldogs running game. The best way to do that is to clog the area of the line of scrimmage with an eighth player -- strong safety Lono Manners.
The idea is simple: have one more defender than the offense can block at the point of attack.
Manners is a hard-hitting tackler who leads the Western Athletic Conference in opposing player helmets removed.
In the Bulldogs offense, the tight end and fullback are almost always used as blockers. Tight end Bear Pascoe is a 6-foot-5, 260-pound former quarterback who likes to rope calves in the offseason. Since UH is usually in a 3-4 alignment, Pascoe may also have to deal with an outside linebacker on occasion.
But he and fullback Roshon Vercher (lead blocker for tailbacks Wendell Mathis and Bryson Sumlin) will often find themselves trying to occupy Manners, who can bench 500 pounds at 5-10 and 199 pounds.
Sometimes, Manners may be left unblocked, giving UH an advantage. But committing the strong safety to run-defense also forces the cornerbacks and free safety to play man-to-man and leaves UH vulnerable to passes.