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Mathews to get first crack at UH


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POSTED: Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Ryan Mathews has yet to line up against a Hawaii defense in his career. But the Warriors are fully aware of what to expect from the Fresno State running back.

“;He's probably the best running back we're going to face this season,”; Hawaii linebacker Blaze Soares said. “;What stands out is he's a double threat. He either can run by you or run you over.”;

Fresno State's visit this weekend marks Mathews' second trip to Hawaii, but he's looking forward to playing against the Warriors (2-2, 0-1 Western Athletic Conference) for the first time with the Bulldogs (1-3, 0-1).

Mathews was injured for both the game at Aloha Stadium in 2007 and UH's win in Fresno last year. He enters this week's game as the nation's second-leading rusher and at full-strength physically.

“;I haven't played Hawaii since I've been here, so I'm pretty excited,”; Mathews said in a phone interview following the Bulldogs' practice yesterday. “;No dings, no bruises, I'm good to go.

“;The last couple years I've been injury-prone and some mishaps happened to me and it set me back, but I've been going through the offseason just working hard and training and playing ball now.”;

The injuries shortened promising seasons for Mathews as a freshman and sophomore. So far this season, he's averaging 148 yards per game with five touchdowns to lead the nation's third-ranked rushing attack.

He's broken the century mark in every game this season and covered a season-high 234 yards against Boise State, with three touchdown runs of 60 yards or longer.

But Mathews is more concerned with the single digit in the win column rather than the stats he's racked up so far.

“;I try not to worry about yards, I just want to focus on staying healthy and helping my team win,”; Mathews said. “;The numbers, being No. 2 in the country, that's just numbers people go by. I really don't follow that.”;

Although Mathews has carried the load so far, toting the ball 87 times, the Bulldogs also have proven backs in Lonyae Miller and Anthony Harding along with freshman Robbie Rouse to back him up. Miller ran for 161 yards against Hawaii last season while Harding had 157.

“;We feed off each other and there's always someone fresh in there,”; Mathews said.

Mathews also feeds off the efforts of a beefy offensive line clearing the way.

“;I love them to death, they're my boys,”; Mathews said. “;I just do the running, I do the easy stuff. They're in there in the trenches digging stuff out. I have to give all the credit to them.”;

Fresno State is coming off a bye week, giving the Bulldogs time to regroup after closing a challenging September on a three-game losing streak. After beating UC Davis, the Bulldogs lost at Wisconsin in double overtime, dropped a shootout with Boise State, and lost at No. 14 Cincinnati 28-20 on Sept. 27.

“;A couple games we weren't able to finish and it takes a toll on you,”; said Mathews, who carried the ball a career-high 38 times for 145 yards against Cincinnati. “;We know what we have to do to win and that's finish the game. Hawaii's not going to make it easy for us. They're a strong, fast team. Their defense flies to the ball.”;

Coming off a loss at Louisiana Tech in which they gave up 352 yards, slowing the running game will be a priority for the Warriors this week.

“;They're a very physical team, they're coached very well, they play with technique,”; UH defensive line coach Dave Aranda said. “;They've moved the ball on everyone they've played and they've played really good people. It's a challenge for us.”;

Hawaii's defensive tackle rotation was down to three by the end of the Louisiana Tech game. Sophomore Vaughn Meatoga is expected to be back in practice today after missing most of last week's game with a nagging ankle injury.

“;It's going to be real fun. Physical and fun,”; Meatoga said of the matchup with Fresno State. “;It's a test of your manhood, a test of what you're made of.”;

The reduced rotation added up to more snaps for seniors Tuika Tufaga and Rocky Savaiigaea. Tufaga responded with a career-high 10 tackles, including 2 1/2 for loss against Louisiana Tech.

“;Tuika graded higher than any D-lineman at any point last year and we had a good group last year,”; Aranda said. “;We've got guys that are doing the right thing. We need everybody to do the right thing.”;