Fresno State has a week to lick its wounds after giving away the game to Hawaii and losing its AP Top 25 football ranking on Saturday night in the islands.
The formerly 18th-ranked Bulldogs will need the bye week to emotionally recover after blowing a 24-10 lead and turning the ball over six times — including an interception off a Fresno State receiver at the Hawaii 2-yard line with nine seconds remaining.
The coaching staff can also use the week to brainstorm ways to better protect Haener and use the running game to protect leads.
The road ahead gets significantly harder for Fresno State, which is 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the Mountain West. Coach Kalen DeBoer’s team next plays at 4-0 Wyoming, which had a bye last week after edging UConn, 24-22, in Storrs, Connecticut. The Bulldogs blasted UConn, 45-0, at home in their season opener.
However, comparative scores won’t mean much in the Mountain West matchup at Laramie, Wyoming. The Oct. 16 forecast calls for cloudy skies, a daytime high of 51 degrees, and an overnight low of 28. Wyoming plays at 4-1 Air Force this Saturday.
After Wyoming, the Bulldogs face Nevada (3-1, 1-0) and Boise State (2-3, 1-1) at home sandwiched around an Oct. 30 visit to 25th-ranked San Diego State (4-0, 0-0).
In case you missed it, Nevada demonstrated its strength with a 41-31 victory at Boise State. Wolf Pack QB Carson Strong threw for 263 yards a TD in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score.
Speaking about the stinging 27-24 loss to Hawaii, DeBoer said: “We had a chance to put them away and we didn’t do that and they’re still a good football team, especially here at home. Those little things that we missed on in the past couple games that we got past, bit us in the butt today.”
First Home Hawaii Win Over ‘Dogs Since 2007
The heroes were many for Hawaii (3-3, 1-1), which started true freshman Brayden Schager at quarterback instead of injured regular Chevan Cordeiro.
Hugh Nelson II intercepted the victory-clinching pass after Matthew Shipley kicked a tiebreaking 33-yard field goal with 3 minutes, 33 seconds remaining.
Hawaii (3-3, 1-1 Mountain West) recorded its first win over a ranked opponent since beating No. 19 Nevada 27-21 on Oct. 16, 2010. It also was the Rainbow Warriors’ first win at home against Fresno State since 2007.
Fresno State racked up 505 yards of total offense, including 388 passing from Jake Haener, who entered the game as the FBS leader in passing yards. He finished 28-of-50 passing but was intercepted four times — three times inside Hawaii’s 10-yard line.
That last pick stalled a 13-play drive. On the play, Haener’s pass bounced off receiver Ty Jones’ hands right to Nelson.
Tough Game Physically for Haener
Haener went down with 6:31 left in the third quarter after Hawaii’s Quentin Frazier rolled into his legs. A penalty for roughing the passer was assessed, but Haener required assistance leaving the field, prompting freshman Jaylen Henderson into action.
Haener, however, was back out with the offense to start the next drive and missed just three offensive plays.
DeBoer offered an optimistic prognosis after the game.
“He’s got a lower leg injury,” he said. “And he got it looked at and came back, obviously, and extended some plays for us, so I’m sure it’s going to be a little sore tomorrow, (but) we got a bye week so it’ll be fine. He looked fine there at the end.”
Fresno State fell 34-19 to Hawaii last season at Bulldog Stadium.
(Associated Press contributed to this report.)