HONOLULU — Wendell Mathis did everything he could to give Fresno State a rare win at Hawaii.
Mathis ran for career-best 229 yards and three touch-downs, including a 78-yarder late in the fourth quarter, to lead No. 22 Fresno State to a 27-13 victory over Hawaii on Saturday.
The victory was the first at Aloha Stadium for Fresno State since 1994 and kept the Bulldogs (6-1, 4-0 Western Athletic Conference) atop the WAC standings with Boise State, which defeated Nevada earlier in the day.
“We knew the road to the WAC championship goes through Hawaii,” Mathis said. “We really wanted this one for all the games we played here and lost.”
His previous best was a 191-yard performance at Louisiana Tech last year.
Fresno State’s defense also came up big, and recorded five sacks.
With only a few minutes remaining in the game, the Warriors easily drove to the Bulldogs’ 6 and threatened to tie the game. But Colt Brennan’s fourth-and-goal pass was tipped away near the goal line with 2:46 left.
Trying to run out the clock, Mathis burst through the line of scrimmage and sprinted 78 yards to seal FSU’s fifth-straight win.
“It’s big,” said Bulldogs coach Pat Hill, who got drenched with water by his players after the game. “Now I don’t have to hear about all the losses in Hawaii. This is not easy travel for anyone. … It’s a big win for us.”
Paul Pinegar completed 15-of-25 passes for 213 yards and a touchdown for Fresno State. He was also intercepted twice.
Brennan was 35-of-54 for 327 yards and a TD pass, and freshman receiver Davone Bess caught 14 passes for 158 yards. It was the fifth consecutive 100-yard receiving game in the past six games for Bess.
“This is definitely the hardest loss of the year,” said Brennan, who has passed for 1,299 yards in the past three games.
Hawaii (3-5, 3-3) committed a costly running-into-the-punter penalty in the third quarter that kept Fresno State’s drive alive and resulted in Mathis’ second TD of the day, a 3-yarder, to push the lead to 20-13.
“We knew coming in that their run defense is not very good,” Mathis said. “So we really wanted to focus on the run and try to hammer them.”
The Warriors threatened to tie early in the fourth after driving it to Fresno State’s 8, but linebacker Alan Goodwin intercepted Brennan’s pass in the end zone. Brennan was 6-of-6 for 67 yards on the drive before the pick.
Turmarian Moreland intercepted a tipped pass from Pinegar and returned it 36 yards to FSU’s 24, setting up a 39-yard field goal by Kelly that cut Fresno State’s lead to 14-13. Moreland also intercepted another pass in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors’ run-and-shoot offense racked up 456 yards of offense against the Bulldogs, who entered the game allowing a WAC-best 290.2 yards a game.
“It’s frustrating because we’re just a young team learning how to win,” Hawaii coach June Jones said. “In a couple years, or maybe next year, we’ll learn to win these types of games.”
The Bulldogs took a 14-3 lead in the second quarter on a 3-yard run by Mathis, who had a 49-yard run up the middle to set up the score. Mathis carried the ball seven times in the first half for 88 yards.
Hawaii trimmed Fresno State’s lead to 14-10 when Brennan scrambled right and threw a 14-yard pass to Bess, capping a six-play, 80-yard drive that included a 35-yard run by Nate Ilaoa.
“We just ran out of steam at the end,” said Ilaoa, who finished with 95 yards on 10 carries.
Pinegar connected with Jermaine Jamison on a 58-yard touchdown pass along the right sideline to break a scoreless tie early in the second quarter.
Hawaii came up empty after driving to Fresno State’s 15 and 37 in the opening quarter. The Bulldogs broke up a pair of Hawaii pass attempts on fourth-and-1, including one off a fake field goal.
The Warriors also failed to capitalize after Ikaika Ilama-Francis stripped Pinegar on the Bulldogs’ 35. Bulldogs defensive end Garrett McIntyre blocked Dan Kelly’s 30-yard field goal attempt to preserve FSU’s 14-10 lead.
Fresno State is now 2-11 at Aloha Stadium since 1965.