Hawaii Warriors Upset Victory Over Fresno State Gives Throwback Feeling With a Modern Twist

Photo Credit: Hawaii Athletics

 It's almost been 20 years since I watched my first Hawaii football game. It was a good one too. Nick Rolovich leading a comeback against a David Carr led Fresno State Bulldogs team, erasing a 27-16 fourth quarter deficit.

The comeback capped by this amazing catch by Ashley Lelie.

It wasn't hard to get sucked into the excitement of the June Junes era of Hawaii football. The Run N' Shoot produced some of the most potent offenses in college football history. Timmy Chang broke records. Colt Brennan came in, broke Chang's records and put Hawaii in the national spotlight, even earning a trip to New York as a Heisman finalist.

All of that through the passing game that everyone knew what was coming, but couldn't stop it.

Hawaii's struggled to find that magic since Jones left for SMU, especially when trying to copy what he did. 

Now in year two of the Todd Graham era, Hawaii was looking to build off a two-game winning streak in 2020 that also saw them capture a New Mexico Bowl victory over Houston.

Off to a 2-3 start, Hawaii entered their homecoming game against a familiar opponent, Fresno State. The Bulldogs entered the game ranked 18th in the country behind quarterback Jake Haener, who was among the leaders in touchdowns.

Now there has been a lot of big wins in the 20 years I've watched Hawaii football. Big moments that will always stay with me. Brennan breaking the single-season touchdown mark against Arizona State. Most of that late season run the following year that landed Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl.

The Hawaii Bowl against UAB was another that stood out, namely the performance from Chad Owens.

Saturday night's (Sunday morning?) win over Fresno State may be the victory that stands out the most now, as Hawaii escaped with a 27-24 victory after a late interception sealed the deal for the Warriors.

It's maybe the most unique key victory for Hawaii, because of how different it was compared to victories of the past. 

Hawaii used a combination of a power running game and stout defense to clinch the victory over their old WAC rivals. 

Stout defense may not do them justice, as Hawaii pestered Haener all night, forcing the senior into committing five turnovers of his own (4 INT, 1 fumble) as a part of six overall on the night. David Perales also forced a strip sack that turned it over late in the game that led to the go-ahead score.

Just minutes before kickoff, word came out that starting quarterback Chevan Cordeiro was going to miss the game due to an undisclosed injury, meaning freshman Brayden Schager was going to get his first start.

The signal caller from Dallas, Texas showed his signature strong-arm but struggled with his accuracy and the passing game became very one-dimensional for the majority of the game, relying on throwing it deep and hope the receiver makes a play on the ball.

It worked early, with Schager and Nick Mardner connecting on a 26-yard catch that was originally called a touchdown before repositioned at the one.

On the night, Schager finished 11 for 27 for 116 yards and two touchdowns. He connected with Caleb Phillips on a crossing route that the tight end would take in for the score.

But it was the two-headed monster of Dae Dae Hunter and Calvin Turner Jr. that led the offense. They combined for 232 yards on the ground, 131 by Hunter (21 carries) and Turner contributed 41 yards and a score through the air. 

He made a catch in the end zone very reminiscent to Lelie's catch 20 years ago that tied the game up in the fourth quarter.

After playing in what is now known as Week 0, the Warriors have already played six games heading into their bye week. They head to Nevada out of the bye, and will rotate home and away games for the rest of the season. 

Hawaii used that win 20-years ago to propel them to a 9-3 record which also included a late season win over then 12-0 and top 10 ranked BYU. 

After a big come from behind win against Fresno State on Saturday, maybe they can find the same magic they did all those years before.

It may be time to start marking your calendar for late, late night college football watching once again.

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