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Opponent Preview: Fresno State

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

As conference opponents go, Fresno State remains at the top of the “Most Hated” list among many University of Hawaii football fans. The rivalry goes back to the early 2000s, when June Jones and Pat Hill led their schools to a number of hard-hitting battles on the gridiron. It’s a rivalry forged upon similar goals and mutual respect – and maybe a thrown screwdriver or two. Let’s take a look at the 2021 Fresno State Bulldogs.

Game Date: Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021 @ Hawaii (5:00 p.m. HST)

2020 Record: 3-3

Head Coach: Kalen DeBoer (3-3 overall)

♦ Fresno State is Hawaii’s most frequently played opponent, as the two schools have squared off 53 times. Thee Bulldogs lead the overall series with Hawaii, 29-23-1. It was UH that won the most recent meeting however, vanquishing FSU, 34-19, in the 2020 season opener. Hawaii’s Chevan Cordeiro passed for 229 yards and ran for another 116 to lead the Rainbow Warriors.

♦ This is head coach Kalen DeBoer’s second stint with Fresno State. In 2017 and 2018, he served as the program’s offensive coordinator, associate head coach and QBs coach. From 2005 through 2009, DeBoer was the head coach at Sioux Falls, leading USF to a 67-3 record and three NAIA national championships. He is a 3x NAIA National Coach of the Year.

♦ The UH defense will try to contain senior running back Ronnie Rivers, who was a First-Team All-Mountain West selection last season. The 5’9, 195-lb. NFL prospect rushed for 507 yards on 100 carries in 2020, adding 265 yards in receptions. He is an explosive north-south runner who is dangerous on screen plays and has played Wildcat QB. His father, Ron, played at Fresno State from 1991 to ’93 and is second on the school’s career rushing list (3,473 yards). Ronnie needs 845 yards this season to surpass his father’s mark.

♦ QB Jake Haener returns to lead the Bulldog offense after averaging 336.8 passing yards per game last season (fourth in the nation). The 6’1, 195-lb. senior, who sat out the 2019 campaign after transferring from Washington, was an All-Mountain West honorable mention selection.

♦ Defense might be a concern for the Bulldogs. Last season, Fresno State surrendered 30 points per game, placing them at No. 8 in the 12-team MW Conference. Most alarmingly, the Bulldogs gave up 212.3 rushing yards per game (5.2 yards per carry), ranking them 10th in the conference.

♦ The Bulldogs have been picked to finish fourth in the MW West Division, one spot above the Rainbow Warriors. Fresno State did receive one vote to finish No. 1 in the division.

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