FRESNO, Calif. » To the victorious Hawaii football team belongs … silence?
"It’s like a library," defensive end Elliott Purcell said as the Warriors walked to their locker room following a stunning 49-27 victory over Fresno State last night in Bulldog Stadium. "I can’t hear anything. That was our goal: to leave the field in silence."
The Bulldogs fans are among the nation’s best taunters, speaking smack as a second language. They line the path leading to the field before games, yelling at visiting players. There is a mock cemetery — the Bone Yard — with bone-shaped tombstones of opponents.
"We knew we were going into the belly of the beast," UH middle linebacker George Daily-Lyles said. "But all of that is hype, window dressing. If you silence the team, you silence the fans."
And that is what the Warriors did on this night, cobbling together a gritty offense and persistent defense to hush the Bulldogs and their backers.
There were several chapters to this storybook game.
Bryant Moniz, who spent the week aggressively rehabilitating a painful turf-toe injury, stood up to the Western Athletic Conference’s best pass-rushing team, to complete 29 of 49 passes for 375 yards and three touchdowns.
Left slotback Greg Salas caught nine passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns, but his best play was pouncing on a fumble in the checkerboard-patterned end zone.
Running back Alex Green, who lost two fumbles last week, paid off the IOU — with interest — by rushing for touchdowns of 38, 14 and 2 yards, and setting up another score with a 46-yard dash off a shovel pass.
And the Warriors’ defense showed it had the stomach to hold the Bulldogs to 104 rushing yards, and limit Ryan Colburn, one of the NCAA’s most efficient passers, to so-so 51.4 percent passing. The Warriors also intercepted Colburn three times, with cornerback Jeramy Bryant providing the metaphorical dagger — a 48-yard return for a touchdown and a 49-20 lead with 2:42 to play.
"This is one of the craziest places," right wideout Royce Pollard said. "The crowd does its best to get in your head."
But for all of the yelling last night, the most significant came from UH assistant coach Tony Tuioti during the pregame meeting in the UH locker room.
"He comes off as a humble guy, but in the locker room, he’s electrifying," said safety Mana Silva, who made a momentum-turning interception in the fourth quarter. "He rallies us up. He told us it’s not about winning games, it’s about winning championships. We have to keep moving forward on the road to a championship."
The motivation was sparked during the summer, when the Warriors were picked near the bottom of the nine-team WAC. It was fueled earlier in the week when a Fresno newspaper columnist declared the Bulldogs were entering the "soft" part of their schedule, beginning with the last meeting in Fresno between the football rivals. The Bulldogs are seceding from the WAC in 2011 or 2012.
"It’s always great to come in here and get a win, especially because we’re not going to play them anymore here," Salas said.
As for entering as 11-point underdogs, Salas said, "somebody better start respecting us soon."
Early, the Warriors were uneven offensively, managing a 30-yard scoring pass from Moniz on their first drive, but struggling to find their rhythm. Part of it was the Bulldogs’ mix-and-match defense — nickel and dime packages featuring man-to-man concepts — and an aggressive pass rush that kept Moniz trapped in the pocket.
The Bulldogs went ahead 10-7 when Jalen Saunders caught a pass on a crossing pattern and out-sprinted the secondary for a 50-yard scoring play.
But on the Warriors’ final possession of the first half, they opted to activate the shovel pass. Once a powerful sucker punch to their four-wide offense, the play has had poor results in UH’s first five games. Eight shovel passes resulted in three drops and two receptions for negative yardage.
"It’s a good play, and it does work," Green insisted.
Indeed. Green faked a block, pirouetted, caught the shovel pass from Moniz and dashed 46 yards to the FS 8. Two plays later, Salas split two defenders on a cut route to make a leaping grab for the touchdown and a 14-10 lead the Warriors would not relinquish.
"It’s concentration," Salas said. "I saw the ball in the air, and I wanted it to be mine."
Green praised Moniz, who showed no ill effects of the toe injury that forced him to miss a practice this past week.
"Mo is a ballplayer," Green said. "For him to suck it up, on a turf toe, is something. It sounds petty, but it’s a tough injury. He sucked it up and did his part."
Defensive tackle Kaniela Tuipulotu said: "Mo is a tough guy. He could play D-line if he wanted."
Moniz dismissed such talk, saying, "It’s football. You’re going to get banged up. If you get injured, you get treatment, then you go out there and play again."
Moniz, in turn, praised Green, who rushed for 96 yards on 13 carries, and transformed three catches into 69 yards.
As for Salas, Moniz said, "He’s a playmaker."
That was apparent on the opening drive of the second half. Pollard, on a slant pattern, caught the pass from Moniz, and tried to stretch the football across the goal line. But the football was knocked free, and Salas pounced on it for the touchdown.
"I should have put two hands on it instead of trying to muscle it with one hand," Pollard said.
Salas said: "I saw (the football) poke out. I wasn’t sure if Royce got in the end zone or not. I just jumped on it. Instinct tells you to jump on the ball, and the big dog pile happened."
The cushion was enough for UH’s defense, which was able to derail the Bulldogs’ express play — a perimeter run in which two pulling players led the way.
"How do you stop the run," Daily-Lyles said. "Hit them before they get upfield."
In practices leading to the game, the Warriors’ defensive line emphasized pass-rushing techniques. The theory is that an effective pass rush — collapsing the line of scrimmage — is useful in stopping the rush. The Warriors even added a twist, with defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga playing sometimes playing across the Fresno tight end. With the defensive line providing pressure, the linebackers were free to blitz or drop back into pass coverage.
"It was a coming-out party for the defensive line," UH defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. "I’m glad we were able to get the pressure with our four guys."
The defensive secondary also contributed. Silva made a key interception when the Bulldogs, down 35-20, were driving into UH territory.
"They were teasing me because I got no return yards," Silva said, laughing. "But I do what I can do to help."
And Bryant’s second interception sealed the Warriors’ third consecutive victory.
UP NEXT: NEVADA
Saturday 5:30 p.m. Aloha Stadium
Series tied 7-7
Greg Salas 30 pass from Bryant Moniz (Scott Enos kick), 9:57
» Drive: 6 plays, 73 yards, 3:16 elapsed time.
» Score: UH 7, Fresno State 0
Kevin Goessling 39-yard field goal, 11:48
» Drive: 10 plays, 30 yards, 6:09 elapsed time.
» Score: UH 7, Fresno State 3
Jalen Saunders 50 pass from Ryan Colburn (Goessling kick), 1:26
» Drive: 4 plays 65 yards, 0:49 elapsed time.
» Score: Fresno State 10, UH 7
Salas 8 pass from Moniz (Enos kick), 0:20
» Drive: 5 plays, 71 yards, 0:59 elapsed time.
» Score: UH 14, Fresno State 10
Salas 0 fumble recovery (Enos kick), 11:46
» Drive: 8 plays, 73 yards, 3:07 elapsed time.
» Score: UH 21, Fresno State 10
Green 38 run (Enos kick), 8:35
» Drive: 4 plays, 62 yards, 1:12 elapsed time.
» Score: UH 28, Fresno State 10
Goessling 31-yard field goal, 5:28
» Drive: 10 plays, 43 yards, 3:00 elapsed time.
» Score: UH 28, Fresno State 13
Green 14 run (Enos kick), 2:38
» Drive: 7 plays, 90 yards, 2:47 elapsed time.
» Score: UH 35, Fresno State 13
Colburn 9 run (Goessling kick), 1:34
» Drive: 4 plays, 66 yards, 0:58 elapsed time.
» Score: UH 35, Fresno State 20
Green 2 run (Enos kick), 3:57
» Drive: 11 plays, 74 yards, 5:42 elapsed time.
» Score: UH 42, Fresno State 20
Jeramy Bryant 48 interception return (Enos kick), 2:42
» Drive: 1 play, 48 yards, 0:00 elapsed time.
» Score: UH 49, Fresno State 20
Harris 2 run (Goessling kick), 1:13
» Drive: 6 plays, 52 yards, 1:23 elapsed time.
» Score: UH 49, Fresno State 27
|NET YARDS RUSHING||96||104|
|Average per rush||5.3||3.2|
|Yards gained rushing||114||144|
|Yards lost rushing||18||40|
|NET YARDS PASSING||376||258|
|Average per attempt||7.7||7.0|
|Average per completion||13.0||13.6|
|TOTAL OFFENSIVE YARDS||472||362|
|Total offensive plays||67||69|
|Average gain per play||7.0||5.2|
|Average yards per punt||50.8||40.2|
|Net yards per punt||39.4||40.5|
|Average yards per kickff||57.4||45.5|
|Net yards per kickoff||38.8||22.7|
|Punt returns: Number-Yards-TD||1-2-0||3-57-0|
|Average per return||-2.0||19|
|Kickoff returns: Number-Yards-TD||5-137-0||8-149-0|
|Average per return||27.4||18.6|
|Fumbles returns: Number-Yards-TD||0-0-0||0-0-0|
|Third-down conversions||4 of 11||6 of 15|
|Fourth-down conversions||1 of 1||0 of 1|
|Sacks by: Number-Yards||3-23||2-5|
TACKLES FOR LOSS-YARDS – Hawaii, Cravens 2-9, Daily-Lyles 1.5-13, Hanohano 1-9, Purcell 1-6, Brown 1-1, Umu 0.5-1, Paredes 0.5-0. Fresno St., Harrell 2-5, Banks 2-4, McEntee 1.5-6, Carter 1-5, Motta 0.5-1.
SACKS-YARDS – Hawaii, Hanohano 1-9, Cravens 1-8, Purcell 1-6. Fresno St., Harrel 2-5.
INTERCEPTIONS – Hawaii, Bryant 2-58, Silva 1-0. Fresno St., Dunn 1-0.
KICKS BLOCKED – Hawaii, none. Fresno St., none.
QUARTERBACK HURRIES – Hawaii, none. Fresno St., none.
INDIVIDUAL OFFENSIVE STATISTICS
WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
|New Mexico State||0||1||0||59||1||4||63||192|
|San Jose State||0||1||13||35||1||5||62||191|
Hawaii 49, Fresno State 27
Boise St. 57, Toledo 14
Louisiana Tech 24, Utah St. 6
New Mexico St. 16, New Mexico 14
Nevada 35, San Jose St. 13