5 Thoughts On The Hawaii Bowl

Recap, 5 Thoughts and what's next for each team in the Hawaii Bowl.

Dec. 24 Hawaii Bowl
Rice 30, Fresno State 6

And You Care Because … Rice got out to a 16-3 first quarter lead helped by two Driphus Jackson touchdown passes with a 14-yarder to Jordan Taylor and a 69-yard big play to Mario Hull, and it was smooth sailing from there. Jackson found Dennis Parks for a 40-yard touchdown in the third, and Derik Dillard ran for a one-yard score in the fourth after a 58-yard dash on a short pass play, but the real story turned out to be the Owl defense that allowed just to Kody Kroening field goals with a 44-yarder in the first quarter and a 40-yarder in the second.
What Else? Rice QB Driphus Jackson completed 15-of-24 passes for 318 yards and three scores, and ran 13 times for 41 yards
- Fresno State QBs Brian Burrell and Zack Greenlee combined to complete 17-of-38 passes for 93 yards and two picks
- Penalties: Rice 12 for 100 yards – Fresno State 1 for 15 yards
- Yards per pass: Rice 12.5 – Fresno State 2.4
Game Rating: D

By Pete Fiutak
1. Is it possible for Fresno State to be any flakier this year? Just when you think it’s going to be miserable, it goes on a three-game winning streak, and just when you think it’s going to be good after getting to the Mountain West championship, it stinks it up in Hawaii. The defense was okay against Rice, but where was the offense? Where was the downfield passing game? It was easy for Rice – load up everyone to stop Marteze Waller, and nothing else was going to work for the Bulldogs. Waller was good, and the running game worked, but the team is going to have an interesting offseason trying to figure out if Brian Burrell really is the main man after a game like this. The offense was supposed to progress as the year went on, and it didn’t.

2. Remember, when we last saw Rice it was getting pasted by Louisiana Tech 76-31. The defense was a disaster against Marshall, and despite the nice winning streak in the middle of the season, there wasn’t anything of note. When your best win of the season is UTEP, there’s a problem. Despite 12 penalties, Rice came out any played one of its best overall games of the year, fully focused on defense – allowing a season-low six points – while Driphus Jackson showed that he’s ready to step up and become one of Conference USA’s top quarterbacks next year. Let this be the start of 2015 for the Owls. They proved this year that they really could play a little.

3. Uhhhh, Mountain West? Utah State stepped up against UTEP, and Air Force got by Western Michigan, but with Colorado State getting drilled by Utah, Nevada not showing up against ULL, and San Diego State losing a home bowl to Navy, Fresno State’s total clunker looks awful. This was it. This was the big chance to a bit of redemption before Boise State gets forced to do the heavy lifting against Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl. Of course, if the Broncos win, none of the other bad moments matter, but Fresno State needed to come up with something stronger after getting lit up by USC last bowl season.

4. What’s next for Fresno State
The turnover is nothing compared to what the team had to deal with last season, and now the Bulldogs should be front-and-center in the preseason MW title chase. QB Brian Burrell and RB Marteze Waller are back working behind a line that should be fine with three starters returning, but is Burrell going to be the main man? That’s going to be a big spring question mark. Leading receiver Josh Harper and No. 3 man Greg Watson are gone, but Aaron Peck and Delvon Hardaway are promising.

The defense was optional for long stretches this year, and now it loses star safety Derron Smith, top lineman Tyeler Davison, and five of the top seven tacklers. The secondary returns the most experience with three starters back – only losing Smith – and there’s just enough athleticism up front to be aggressive, especially with LB Ejiro Ederaine returning. PK Kody Kroening and P Garrett Swanson return.

5. What’s next for Rice
The veteran Owls lose three starters up front and have to replace the left side, but QB Driphus Jackson returns along with Zach Wright and Dennis Parks to throw to, but the top two targets – Jordan Taylor and Mario Hull – are gone. Counting Jackson, everyone who gained a rushing yards in 2014 is expected to be back led by Jowan Davis and Darik Dillard.

Defense is the bigger issue with three of the top four tacklers gone and only LB Alex Lyons returning. Four starters are gone in the 4-2-5 secondary, but there’s hope up front with Brian Nordstrom back after camping out in the backfield for most of the year. PK James Hairston is gone, but P James Farrimond is back.

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