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Fresno fails to convert on big plays

By Damin Esper / Special to the Star-Advertiser


FRESNO, Calif. » As Hawaii's Jeramy Bryant celebrated in the end zone, Fresno State's Ryan Colburn turned and began the long, lonely walk to the sideline. Bryant had just intercepted a Colburn pass in the fourth quarter last night at Bulldog Stadium and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown, the exclamation point on a 49-27 Hawaii victory.

As the Warriors lined up for the extra point, Colburn stood alone on the sideline with his hands on his hips, watching.

It was that kind of a night for the Bulldogs. A team that was entertaining thoughts of challenging Boise State for the Western Athletic Conference championship was pummeled.

The point total looked bad. So did the 472 yards of total offense generated by UH, including 376 yards passing and two touchdowns from Bryant Moniz. But Fresno State coach Pat Hill wasn't upset with his team's effort or its play.

"We got outplayed tonight," Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. "I thought defensively, we played hard, we contested every play. But there was some pinpoint passes made. We kept pressure on, but I tell you what, (Moniz) did a heck of a job for them tonight."

Said Bulldogs center Joe Bernardi, "Our defense played their butts off tonight, and we didn't give them any help. They gave us plenty of opportunities to catch up or even go ahead. We didn't make enough plays tonight on offense. Against that offense, you're never going to be able to stop them; you've got to be able to contain them."

It came down to key plays at key moments on both sides of the ball. Hawaii converted its big plays, and Fresno State didn't convert enough of its.

Case in point: Hawaii faced a second and 10 at its 46 late in the first half with the Bulldogs up 10-7. Moniz got a shovel pass off to running back Alex Green, who broke loose for a 46-yard gain. That set up Moniz's 8-yard touchdown pass to Greg Salas and the Warriors had the lead for good.

Conversely, Fresno State had a chance in the third quarter, driving to the Hawaii 2, trailing 28-10. A touchdown would have gotten the Bulldogs back in the game. Instead, on second and goal, Colburn lost control of the shotgun snap when the ball was knocked out of his hand by one of his pulling guards. He fell on the ball for a loss of 12 yards and Fresno State eventually had to settle for a field goal.

Colburn said the real missed opportunity came on the play before.

"I missed a touchdown," he said. "A guy was wide open in the flats and I just didn't see him."

Finally, down 35-20 in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs forced a punt. Rashad Evans returned it deep into Hawaii territory, but an illegal block late in the run pushed Fresno State back to the Warriors 43. On the next play, Colburn was picked off by Mana Silva. Hawaii then went 74 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown.

Colburn finished 19-for-37 for 258 yards and one touchdown against three interceptions. The Bulldogs finished with 104 yards rushing on 32 carries — three sacks of Colburn included. The numbers weren't pretty, especially with how Hawaii was playing on offense in the second half.

"I thought our defense in the first half really did a good job," Hill said. "In the second half, we kept coming after them. They just made some big third-down plays and second-down plays. They're really not a three-down team. They're an explosive team on any down."

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