Fresno State football kicks game-winner at buzzer against Hawaii

Fresno State kicker Cesar Silva put up the game-winning field goal against Hawaii as time expired. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

At the beginning of the year the Las Vegas oddsmakers set the win total for the University of Hawaii football team at a meager 5 1/2. Given the degree of difficulty of this year’s schedule it might have been a wise bet to take the under and live to see another day.

But Rainbow Warriors quarterbacks Cole McDonald and Chevan Cordeiro have spent most of this season defying the odds trying to overcome a porous defense that is among the worst in the country, and so many stupid penalties and untimely turnovers that have plagued this program all season.

Such was the case again Saturday as UH blew a 10-point halftime to fall behind by 14 only to catch up with 1:08 remaining in the game only to lose on a last-second drive that resulted in a 37-yard field goal by Cesar Silva as time expired. The kick gave Fresno State a 41-38 win in a key Mountain West Conference game before a sparse Aloha Stadium crowd of 17,583 that Hawaii had a chance to win despite all the mistakes.

The loss dropped Hawaii to 5-4 for the season and 3-3 in MWC play. The Bulldogs improved to 4-5 overall and 2-2 in league action. Hawaii hosts San Jose State on Saturday. Fresno State heads home for a game with Utah State.

And yes, Hawaii is still under the win total for the season despite McDonald, who completed 21 of 42 passes for 275 yards and one touchdown, and Cordeiro, who hit five of nine passes for 71 yards and one score. Cordeiro also ran for the game-tying score from 10 yards out to tie it, but it wasn’t enough as the Bulldogs rallied for the win.

McDonald also ran for another in a key moment in the first half as UH tried to overcome another slow start, but couldn’t sustain much offensively in the second half until the late stages of the fourth quarter with Cordeiro coming off the bench to lead the charge.

Trailing 31-24 after getting outscored 17-0 in the third, Hawaii tried to get back in it with the passing game, but this wasn’t always one of McDonald’s best nights as he threw a pick early in the fourth quarter, putting UH in a world of trouble. The Bulldogs converted the miscue into a 26-yard touchdown pass from Jorge Reyna to Jared Rice. Silva hit the PAT to make it 38-24 with 10:04 remaining in the game. Reyna hit 17 of 27 passes for 188 yards and one touchdown. Ronnie Rivers ran the ball 19 times for 103 yards and two scores. The Bulldogs managed 514 yards offensively. UH countered with 555.

The Warriors scored a touchdown late on a 3-yard run by Miles Reed to pull within 38-31 with 2:13 remaining, and then recovered the onside kick at the Bulldogs’ 49 with backup quarterback Cordeiro in control.

Trailing by 10 to start the third quarter, Fresno State got the ball first and went quickly down the field to score on a 44-yard touchdown run by Rivers as Silva hit the PAT to make it 24-21 with 13:09 remaining in the quarter. After holding Hawaii on downs, Fresno State took over at its own 26 and marched steadily down the field toward another score. Several UH penalties helped the Bulldogs along the way, but eventually they settled for a 22-yard field goal by Silva to make it 24-24 with 4:19 remaining in the third.

And the Bulldogs weren’t done yet. After forcing a UH punt, Fresno once again moved through the UH defense as if it wasn’t even there, going 62 yards on six plays with Rivers scoring from 4 yards out. Silva hit the PAT to make it 31-24 with 1:07 remaining in the quarter.