The 3,000 miles plus that the University of Hawaii Warriors football team will have traveled to play the BYU Cougars in Provo, Utah, is but one of many obstacles the Warrior team has to try and overcome if they want to beat the Cougars. There will be about 60,000 fans present at LaVell Edwards Stadium on Friday night (this evening) before a nationally televised event. No time like the present to show your wares and impress the nation.
The game has of course different dynamics, not the least of which is Norm Chow returning to the school he was an assistant coach at for so long. In fact, Chow spent 27 years at BYU, mostly as their offensive coordinator before leaving for other places like USC, the NFL Tennessee Titans and UCLA before finally getting his shot at a head coaching job back home where he was born and raised. Some say there are animosities but regardless, these two schools, Hawaii and BYU, have long been rivals dating back to their Western Athletic Conference days.
But, back to the question at hand. Can the Warriors, who have been shellacked by the two Division 1 (FBS) teams they've played, beat the Cougars on their own home field? First off, this won't be easy. Let's face it; Hawaii isn't going to blow away any FBS school no matter how bad the other teams play.
BYU offensive woes cure for Hawaii D?
The Warriors defense needs to play better. They have given up 118 points to the two FBS teams they've already played - that can't continue. To be fair, those two teams were USC and Nevada who both have prolific offenses. Still, giving up almost 60 points a game is atrocious and Hawaii needs to find a way to stop people … quickly.
But that might be where BYU comes into play. Their offense has been stagnant and senior quarterback Riley Nelson has been playing hurt and as such, hasn't been effective. But then again, neither has the Cougar running game been able to get going. Freshman quarterback Taysom Hill is capable but hasn't shown to be multidimensional yet. If the Warriors have any advantage on defense, it might be in the secondary. If Hawaii can shut down any attempt by BYU to throw, it could keep the game close.
Considering Chow having notoriety for being an offensive guru, the offense has been very vanilla without much explosiveness. The running game looks like it wants to get going but the passing game has been erratic under new quarterback Sean Schroeder. He has good receivers, talented enough to make some plays for the Warriors but Schroeder must start connecting consistently or the running game will never get moving. To be fair, Schroeder has shown signs of improvement but now is the time to shine. And note, when you scout the BYU secondary, I'm not sure they've been tested - something to think about.
Hawaii's redshirt freshman running back Will Gregory looks better and better and just may be the kind of back that could be a difference-maker. If Joey Iosefa can stay healthy, this Warrior backfield duo may do some damage to opposing defenses.
The problem with the Hawaii offense against the Cougars defense is, the Cougars defense. The BYU defense is Top 10 nationally and has shut down the likes of Boise State, so the Warriors will have their hands full.
Punt to win?
The game could be a defensive struggle and as such, the punt game may be critical. That's good because Hawaii gets back their great punter Alex Dunnachie who was on suspension due to a drunk driving back in early July. In the relative thin air of Utah, he could be a huge weapon, keeping the Cougars stuck back in their own end of the field.
So do the men of Manoa have any chance against the BYU Cougars? If Hawaii plays a great game and BYU continues their offensive struggles, then this is anyone's game. But long road trips against a superior defense don't bode well for the Warriors. I see some elements there and a small possibility they can pull this off … but it's highly doubtable.
Sources - University of Hawaii, Brigham Young University, USA Today
Through thick and thin, Daryle has been a huge fan of college football as well as Hawaii, visiting there as a second home for over 40 years. Go 'Bows!