FRESNO, Calif. – Viane Moala blocked Kody Kroening’s 43-yard field goal attempt on the final play of the game to seal a 14-13 Hawai’i win over Fresno State, Saturday at Bulldog Stadium. The Rainbow Warriors improved to 5-7 overall and finished Mountain West play at 4-4 for their best record since joining the league in 2012.
For nearly 57 minutes the teams played what would best be described as a lackluster game. However, the final three minutes made for one of the most exciting finishes of the year.
Trailing 13-7 with just 3:31 left, the Rainbow Warriors went on a 12-play 76-yard drive, capped by a Steven Lakalaka 2-yard touchdown run with 59 seconds remaining. The senior running back’s second score of the day gave UH its first lead since midway through the second quarter.
With one minute to work with, the Bulldogs had one last possession and drove down to the UH 26-yard line. That set up Kroening, who had nailed 15 consecutive field goals, including two earlier in the game—for a potential game-winner from 43 yards. But the 6-7 Moala penetrated the Bulldog line to get a piece of the ball and seal the UH win. It was the second block of the year for the true freshman from America Samoa
With the victory, UH ended a five-game slide against the Bulldogs, picking up its first win in the series since defeating the Bulldogs at Fresno, 49-27 in 2010. It also gave UH its most overall wins (5) since that 2011 campaign (6).
The Rainbow Warrior defense limited the Bulldogs to just 322 total yards, the second-lowest total by a UH opponent this year. Jahlani Tavai led the way with 12 tackles and tied his career-high with 3.0 tackles-for-loss, surmounting the century mark for season tackles early in the first half.
The UH offense struggled for much of the game, going just 1-of-11 on third downs and being forced to punt on eight occasions. However, Dru Brown was there when UH needed him the most, converting on a number of big throws on the final drive and finishing 20-of-31 for 227 yards. He connected on a 21-yard pass toJohn Ursua on a 3rd-and-25 from their own territory, then followed that with a big fourth-down conversion to Makoa Camanse-Stevens that kept UH’s hopes alive.
The Rainbow Warriors now return to the islands for their final regular-season home game of the year when they host UMass on Saturday, Nov. 26 for Senior Day. Kickoff is set for 6:00 p.m. at Aloha Stadium.