JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Turmarian Moreland intercepted a pass intended for Fresno State's Adam Jennings.
Moreland picks up the pace
Earlier this season, Hawaii didn't count on much from senior cornerback Turmarian Moreland. He was buried on the depth chart, dogged by a nagging knee injury and a less than solid grasp of UH's defensive schemes.
"That kind of hurt, to sit out and watch," Moreland said. "But I knew my time would eventually come."
He's become a big part of the Warriors' defensive effort in recent weeks. Moreland earned a starting spot and intercepted four passes in the past three games. That included two picks of Paul Pinegar in UH's 27-13 loss to Fresno State yesterday at Aloha Stadium.
Moreland, who led UH with 11 tackles last week at San Jose State, was in on six stops yesterday.
He could not take much satisfaction in the two interceptions, since they led to only three points for UH.
"That's definitely the frustrating part about it," Moreland said. "Just that you fought that hard and things didn't go your way."
UH defensive end Melila Purcell recorded five tackles in his return to the Warriors' front seven. The senior missed the previous two games due to a knee injury, but said the knee didn't cause him problems yesterday.
"Not really, it's just that I'm not really used to having my knee wrapped. It was kind of awkward," he said.
Purcell was part of a defensive effort that contained the Fresno State offense for much of the game and pressured Pinegar.
"They did what we expected," he said. "It was just a couple of mistakes that we had, missed key reads. But we did a great job."
Junior cornerback Kenny Patton also missed significant practice time over the last two weeks with injuries. He didn't play on defense yesterday, but did contribute on special teams.
He made a tackle on the kickoff coverage unit and blocked an extra-point attempt in the third quarter that kept the Warriors within a touchdown heading into the final period.
Fresno State's backup kicker Kyle Zimmerman was forced into action after an injury sidelined starting place-kicker Clint Stitser.
The sophomore didn't attempt a field goal and went 3-for-4 on extra points, with his only miss coming on the block by Patton.
Rush hour: With Fresno State concentrating on defending the pass, UH running back Nate Ilaoa provided the Warriors some balance on offense by rushing for a career-high 95 yards. He also caught three passes for 18 yards.
Ilaoa averaged 9.5 yards per carry and helped set up UH's first two scores. A 25-yard run led to a Dan Kelly field goal in the second quarter. He later ripped off a 35-yarder on a drive that ended with UH's lone touchdown and cut Fresno State's lead to 14-10 at halftime.
Running free again: For the second consecutive year, Fresno State running back Wendell Mathis ran all over the Hawaii defense.
His career-high 229 yards and three touchdowns came on just 19 carries, including a 78-yard score with less than 2 minutes to go that iced the game.
"I was just trying to move the chains and get out of here with a win," Mathis said.
In two games against Hawaii, Mathis has totaled 405 rushing yards and six touchdowns. His performance yesterday was only 23 yards shy of the school record, set by Larry Willoughby in 1952.
"We knew that their run defense is not very well so we really wanted to focus on the run and try to hammer them," he said.
Mathis usually splits time with fellow senior running back Bryce Sumlin, who burned the Warriors for 220 yards and three touchdowns last year. Yesterday the Bulldogs stuck with Mathis for most of the game as Sumlin managed 12 yards on five carries.
"We went with the hot hand," Bulldogs coach Pat Hill said. "That's the way we usually do it."