Hawaii needs to match Fresno's physical play


POSTED: Saturday, October 04, 2008

Ask Hawaii coaches about their impressions of Fresno State and one word tends to pop up over and over.

Hawaii at Fresno State
Kickoff: 4 p.m. HST
PPV, Dig. 255
Radio: 1420-AM The line: Fresno State by 21

“;They're a physical ballclub,”; was head coach Greg McMackin's assessment. “;They throw a lot of (offensive) formations at you, but every one of them, they play physical.”;

“;They're very physical defensively, they've always given us problems,”; offensive coordinator Ron Lee concurred. Holding their ground against a Bulldog team that takes after coach Pat Hill's gruff game-day demeanor will be among the challenges facing the Warriors today at 4 p.m. Hawaii time.

Hawaii arrived in Fresno late Thursday night and had a light walk-through at Bulldog Stadium yesterday afternoon.

The last time Hawaii visited, the home team suffered through a 68-37 thrashing by the Warriors, which sent much of the crowd to the exits by halftime.

That memory adds to the atmosphere, as the home crowd - expected to be close to a sellout - welcomes the 22nd-ranked Bulldogs back after a win at UCLA last week.

“;I think we match up with them but it's going to be a real challenge,”; McMackin said. “;They've got great crowd support and it's going to be fun college football.”;

The following is a look at the matchup as Hawaii seeks its first road win over a ranked team in its 11th attempt:

When Hawaii has the ball: Inoke Funaki takes his third shot at running a Warrior offense that has suffered through growing pains early in the season, including two six-turnover outings in losses to Florida and last week against San Jose State.

“;Colt (Brennan) went through it, Davone (Bess), all of those guys,”; offensive coordinator Ron Lee said. “;I think that's what we're experiencing now.”;


A Hawaii starting quarterback has yet to finish a game and Greg Alexander appears to be next in line if Funaki falters with Tyler Graunke still coming back from a hand injury.


Running back Kealoha Pilares has been UH's most productive weapon of late, scoring the Warriors' last three touchdowns. Backs Leon Wright-Jackson and Daniel Libre had breakout games against the Bulldogs last season and the running game could play a larger role in the offense with Funaki at quarterback. Fresno State funnels most of its tackles to sophomore linebackers Chris Carter and Ben Jacobs in its 4-3 alignment. Carter, a converted defensive end, leads the way with 33 total stops.

When Fresno State has the ball: The balanced Bulldogs iced last week's 36-31 win over UCLA with a clock-killing drive that ate up the game's final 8:55. Fresno State's offense is nearly split down the middle with Ryan Mathews powering the ground game and Tom Brandstater operating the passing attack.

Mathews, a sophomore who missed the Hawaii game last year due to injury, ranks 10th nationally with 117.5 yards per game.

Brandstater, who was pulled in the 2006 loss to UH, has taken a place among the line of Fresno State quarterbacks, completing 63 percent of his throws with eight touchdowns against two interceptions. Wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu is a big-play threat, and 6-foot-5 tight end Bear Pascoe is simply a big threat.

The Warrior defense turned in its strongest performance of the season in last week's loss, holding San Jose State to 237 total yards with 11 tackles for losses. But with just two takeaways this season, they emphasized creating turnovers in practice this week.

“;Nine seniors and they're tough and they've got a lot pride,”; Hill said. “;It's the best defense I think Hawaii's had since I've been here.”;

Special teams: Under special teams coach John Baxter, Fresno State prides itself on game-turning plays in the kicking games. The Bulldogs have blocked 41 kicks since 2001, including three this season.

The Warriors improved their kickoff coverage last week but will be tested by A.J. Jefferson, who ranks 13th in the country averaging 29.8 yards per return. He took one 98 yards for a score against UH last year.

Hill pointed to kick coverage as a concern after giving up an average of 34.3 yards last week against UCLA. Hawaii worked on solidifying its wedge to give returners Ryan Mouton and Malcolm Lane more room to roam this week.



Hawaii DTs vs. Fresno State interior linemen

Hawaii's ability to hold its ground in the middle of the line of scrimmage will be a key to slowing the Bulldog ground game.


That task will fall primarily on tackles Josh Leonard and Keala Watson with the goal to stand firm and occupy the blockers, allowing the Warrior linebackers to flow to the ball. Leonard and Watson will get relief from Fale Laeli, Vaughn Meatoga and Tuika Tufaga.

The Bulldogs are expected to start three sophomores in the middle of the line - guards Devan Cunningham (6-6, 350) and Andrew Jackson (6-5, 295) and center Joe Bernardi (6-2, 290). They've helped clear the way for a Bulldogs rushing attack (180 yards per game) that can seize control of a game.

“;You're talking about 300 or 600 pounds depending on if it's a single block or a double team,”; defensive line coach Ikaika Malloe said. “;They're a power team so you're going to see a lot of double teams on our tackles and them trying to drive them into the 'backers.”;













































































Hawaii Category Fresno State
5.0 Rushing first downs/game 8.5
9.8 Passing first downs/game 10.8
2.5 First downs by penalty/game 1.0
2-11 Interceptions-return yards 2-2
41.5 Punting avg. 43.4
35-326 Penalties-yards 22-171
8-6 Fumbles-lost 6-2
21% Third-down conversion rate 37%
40% Fourth-down conversion rate 100%
34.5 Pts. allowed/game 26.2
134.2 Rush. yds. allowed/game 197.8
201.0 Pass. yds. allowed/game 216.0
335.2 Total yards allowed/game












Ryan Mathews, FSU824705.74
Lonyae Miller, FSU271385.10
Kealoha Pilares, UH211095.24
Daniel Libre, UH211014.80








Tom Brandstater, FSU1096929088
Inoke Funaki, UH603554061
Tyler Graunke, UH563033883








Bear Pascoe, FSU161207.52
Seyi Ajirotutu, FSU1529419.60
Mike Washington, UH2121710.30
Aaron Bain, UH1415511.12








Chris Carter, FSU1023331/0
Ben Jacobs, FSU1318313/0
Moses Harris, FSU1214262/1
A.J. Jefferson, FSU149230/0
Solomon Elimimian, UH1015252.5/0
David Veikune, UH1410242/0
Jameel Dowling, UH149231/1
Adam Leonard, UH1110213/1




1-3 (0-1 WAC)





Z89Malcolm Lane6-1180Jr.
H5Mike Washington5-9170Sr.
LT77Aaron Kia6-5290Jr.
LG63Brysen Ginlack6-2310So.
C55John Estes6-2295Jr.
RG51Lafu Tuioti-Mariner6-0300Sr.
RT78Keoni Steinhoff6-3295Sr.
Y85Aaron Bain5-8190Sr.
X1Greg Salas6-2200So.
QB11Inoke Funaki5-11190Jr.
RB21Kealoha Pilares5-11190So.
DE94David Veikune6-3265Sr.
DT93Keala Watson6-3320Sr.
DT99Josh Leonard6-3305Sr.
DE58John Fonoti6-2255Jr.
STUB44Adam Leonard6-0235Sr.
MLB13Brashton Satele6-1255Jr.
BUCK17Solomon Elimimian6-0225Sr.
CB2Ryan Mouton5-10175Sr.
FS35Keao Monteilh5-11200Sr.
SS7Erik Robinson5-10200Sr.
CB23Calvin Roberts5-11175Sr.
K86Dan Kelly6-3225Sr.
P49Tim Grasso5-11210Sr.
KR2Ryan Mouton5-10175Sr.

89Malcolm Lane6-1180Jr.
PR5Mike Washington5-9170Sr.
LS57Jake Ingram6-4235Sr.
H49Tim Grasso5-11210Sr.







Aug. 30at FloridaL, 56-10
Sept. 6Weber StateW, 36-17
Sept. 13at Oregon StateL, 45-7
Sept. 27San Jose StateL, 20-17
Todayat Fresno State
Oct. 11Louisiana Tech
Oct. 17at Boise State
Oct. 25Nevada
Nov. 1at Utah State
Nov. 8at New Mexico State
Nov. 22Idaho
Nov. 29Washington State
Dec. 6Cincinnati




3-1 (0-0 WAC)





WR6Chastin West6-1215Jr.
LT72Bobby Lepori6-5290Sr.
LG79Devan Cunningham6-6350So.
C74Joe Bernardi6-2290So.
RG69Andrew Jackson6-5295So.
RT73Kenny Avon6-3286Sr.
TE85Bear Pascoe6-5260Sr.
QB7Tom Brandstater6-5225Sr.
FB48Reynard Camp5-11270So.
TB21Ryan Mathews5-11215So.
WR2Seyi Ajirotutu6-3210Jr.
DE27Michael Sutart6-2250Sr.
DT99Mark Roberts6-4300So.
DT96Wilson Ramos6-4270Jr.
DE41Ikenna Ike6-2255Sr.
OLB43Chris Carter6-2220So.
MLB54Ben Jacobs6-3240So.
OLB55Nico Herron6-3240So.
CB28A.J. Jefferson6-0190Jr.
SS3Moses Harris5-11205Jr.
FS23Jake Jorde6-1205Sr.
CB8Sharrod Davis5-11190Sr.
K35Kevin Goessling6-0190Fr.
P42Robert Malone6-2215So.
KR28A.J. Jefferson6-0190Jr.
PR5Marlon Moore6-0190Jr.
H42Robert Malone6-2215So.
LS58Bobby Shepard6-2235Fr.



Sept. 1at RutgersW, 24-7
Sept. 13WisconsinL, 13-10
Sept. 20at ToledoW, 55-54, 2OT
Sept. 27at UCLAW, 36-31
Oct. 11Idaho
Oct. 25at Utah State
Nov. 1at Louisiana Tech
Nov. 7Nevada
Nov. 15New Mexico State
Nov. 21at San Jose State
Nov. 28at Boise State