Warriors Chasing that Magic Number 7 Wins
The Warriors are coming off a 34-23 win against Louisiana Tech and are looking for their first road win of the season. Hawai`i is 4-4 overall and 4-3 in WAC play. Fresno State is 5-3 overall and 2-3 in league action. The teams will meet for the 37th time as Fresno State holds a 18-17-1 lead in the all-time series and are 10-4-1 against the Warriors in games played in Fresno. But Hawai`i has won the last three meetings and six of the last nine. Fresno State started the season 3-0 with big wins at Washington (35-16) and No. 13 Kansas State (45-21), and Portland State (27-17), but fell off the wagon when WAC play began with three straight losses, at Louisiana Tech (21-28), vs. UTEP (21-24), and at No. 19 Boise State (16-33). Head coach Pat Hill and the Bulldogs took the frustration out on SMU (42-0) at Bulldogs Stadium and last week at Rice (52-21). Hill is in his seventh season at Fresno State and owns a 60-38 record. Quarterback Paul Pinegar is back and healthy in 2004. The 2002 freshman All-American has completed 57 percent of his passes (119-of-208) for 1,289 yards, 12 touchdowns, and as many interceptions. The loss of starting tailback Dwayne Wright in the second game of the season has allowed the tandem of Bryson Sumlin and Wendell Mathis to lead the Bulldogs rushing attack. Sumlin leads the Bulldogs with 509 yards and six touchdowns on 109 attempts, while Mathis has 455 yards and five TDs on 66 carries. Wright was averaging 91.5 yards per game before bowing out to a knee injury. Wide receiver Joe Fernandez seems to be Pinegar's prime target. The 5-foot-10, 175-pound sophomore, leads the team with 29 catches for 371 yards and four touchdowns. Fellow receiver Adam Jennings leads the Bulldogs averaging 101.8 all-purpose yards per game, doubling as a return specialist (124 on PR and 437 on KOR). He is third on the team 15 catches for 155 yards and two scores. On defense, Bulldog cornerback Richard Marshall is second on the team with 44 total tackles (35 solo) and has compiled three interceptions for 205 yards and two TDs, one of which he returned 100 yards at Rice last week. Defensive tackle Garrett McIntyre is the Bulldogs sack man with a team-high six for minus 44 yards. Safeties James Sanders and Tyrone Culver combined for 82 tackles and four interceptions this season. Hawai`i quarterback Timmy Chang will get a shot at redemption on national television after falling short of expectations Oct. 29 at Boise State. The senior got the NCAA career passing record out of the way in last week's game against Louisiana Tech, currently has 15,303 yards, and can now focus on winning games. Three of the next four to be exact. That is what it will take for the Warriors to quality for their third straight bowl game. Last year, against the Bulldogs, Chang passed for 353 yards and career-high five touchdowns. Chang earned WAC Offensive Player of the Week honors Nov. 8 for his performance against Louisiana Tech when he threw for 285 yards and four touchdowns (26-of-42). The four scores went to four different receivers in Chad Owens, Britton Komine, Jason Rivers, and Gerald Welch. Owens caught 10 passes for 75 yards and a score last week, but struggled on punt returns. The senior leads the team wit 63 catches for 645 yards and seven TDs, and needs three yards to become the school's career leader in all-purpose yards (Gary Allen - 4,558 yards). Komine is second with 35 catches for 556 yards and three TDs, while Rivers has 42 catches for 490 and one score. Welch has recently emerged as a reliable source, having caught 16 passes for 205 yards and three TDs in his last four games, opposed to seven grabs for 71 yards and no scores in his first three. Despite injuries to three starters, the Warrior defense stepped up to make key plays in last week's win. Safety Leonard Peters leads the WAC averaging 9.6 tackles per game. He has compiled 77 tackles (47 solo) on the season, 32 more than the closest Warrior, defensive end Melila Purcell who has 45. Purcell is coming off a monster performance against Louisiana Tech, compiled six tackles, including three for-a-loss (13) and a sack (-7). The native of American Samoa also broke up a pass and blocked a PAT attempt. He leads the WAC averaging 1.69 tackles-for-loss per game and ranks tied for fourth in sacks average 0.62 per game. The health of starting cornerback Abraham Elimimian is questionable this week after re-aggravating his hamstring during last week's game. Elimimian managed to pick up a fumble and return it 21 yards for a touchdown to give Hawai`i a 13-7 lead against Louisiana Tech.
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