Hawaii vs Colorado State Week 9 preview: Rainbow Warriors host Rams for Homecoming

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Week 9 sees Hawaii host Colorado State after their second bye week of the season. Despite almost coming back against UNLV the Rainbow Warriors remain win-less. CSU are travelling into Honolulu after a victory over Wyoming last weekend.

When: Saturday, Oct. 26th at 6 p.m. Hawaii time.

Where: Aloha Stadium, Halawa (Honolulu), Hawaii

TV: Oceanic Pay-Per-View/Mountain West Netwlrk

Radio: ESPN 1420 AM (Hawaii); Colorado State Sports Network (105.5 FM ESPN, flagship)

Colorado State 2013 record: 3-4-0, 1-1 in MWC

Hawaii 2013 record: 0-6-0, 0-4 in MWC

All Time Series Record: CSU leads 12-9

Last Meeting: Oct. 27th 2012 in Fort Collins. Ram won 42-27

Coaches:

Colorado State - Jim McElwain  (7-12). McElwain is in his second year as the head coach of the Rams.

Hawaii - Norm Chow (3-15). Chow is currently in the second year at the helm of the Rainbow Warriors.

Hawaii is hoping to finally get a W on the board after going through the first eight weeks of the season with six losses. Colorado state will be looking to get their first back to back wins on the year after last weeks victory over Wyoming. This game will also serve as Homecoming for the Rainbow Warriors. Fingers crossed for a competitive game.

Hawaii has had no answer at quarterback this year. Be it the injury to Taylor Graham, the inconsistency of Ikaika Woolsey or the promise of Sean Schroeder, it seems none will lead the team this week. In fact, its looking like it could well be a combination of all three, and maybe Jeremy Higgins as a fourth option too. When questioned on his plan to play all four against CSU, Norm Chows response was simple, 'Why Not?' After all this team sits at 0-6 and at this point of the season a realistic chance at the Hawaii Bowl has passed by, so why not? There's nothing to lose and hopefully the competition will garner positive results. I don't think Chow can really be blamed for this approach. If I was to lean to one of the four it would be Sean Schroeder. He was the incumbent starter from last season and he's shown just as much as anyone else at this point. Time will tell if Chows approach will pay dividends. A change at offensive line has been made too, with Sean Shigematsu playing at left guard. Again, there's no reason to not experiment with line ups, especially when there is little that can be lost.

There will be no such experiment at the quarterback position for the Rams with Garrett Grayson continuing to be the man to lead the team. Last week he threw for 219 yards and three TDs against the Cowboys. He did have an interception but that was just the fifth he has thrown all year. Grayson is completing over 60% of his passes with 1670 yards and 13 TDs in total. Grayson has a very efficient offensive line protecting him which has given up just seven sacks so far this season. Experience has been the key to this unit which includes four seniors and one junior. Since the end of the Tulsa game they have only given up four sacks in 154 pass attempts. Senior center Weston Richburg is a candidate for the Outland Trophy, Rimington Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award.

CSU has been a pretty balanced offense this year. They rank 58th in the nation in passing and 59th in rushing. Kapri Bibbs has been the primary rusher picking up 201 of the 290 total yards gained on the ground against Wyoming. With a great line to run behind Colorado has seen an increase of just under  50 yards per game compared to last year. Bibbs is averaging a massive 6.7 yards per carry and has nine TDs. Chris Nwoke is the main back up who himself has 320 yards and a TD to his name. He also has four receptions on the year. Nwoke is averaging 4.5 yards a carry.

This game will be too early for the return of Iosefa who is probably still at least a fortnight away from suiting up for the Warriors. More bad news came this week when Faga Wily, a player on the cusp, was told he'll likely miss the rest of the season after failing to overcome a concussion. Wily only started one game this year but he'll be a loss to the rotation. For now Steven Lakalaka and Diocemy Saint Juste will lead the team. With the option of Ikaika Woolsey under center Hawaii have the chance to get a bit more dynamic with their running backs. Lakalaka leads the team on the ground this year with 286 yards. The next best is Saint Justes 119 yards. With no offensive line and two freshmen running backs it could be a long afternoon for Hawaii's offense.

At receiver for the Rainbow Warriors Chris Gant has been the stand out player over the past three games. He has 308 receiving yards on 14 catches during that time and now leads the corps with 403 yards and four TDs. Vasquez Haynes is another player Hawaii will be hoping to get the best out of against CSU. He has four catches of over 25 yards so far and could be a legitimate deep threat for whoever will be throwing the ball. After missing the first few games of the year Billy Ray Stutzmann has been a contributor since his comeback and has 11 catches for 181 yards and has one TD in each of his last three games. Harold Moleni should be the starter at tight end with Clark Evans and Jordan Pu‘u-Robinson backing him up. Evans has been a big factor in the passing game and will be looking to add to his 17 catches and one TD this year. Hopefully the offense as a whole can get going before the fourth quarter this week. If they can put in that performance for the other three quarters then it could get interesting.

Joe Hansley is not named as a starter on the depth chart for CSU for this game. Hansley is the second leading receiver on the team with 318 yards but is yet to pull in a TD this term. Rashard Higgins will be the number one target on Saturday and he currently leads all receivers with 377 yards and three TDs. Charles Lovett, a junior is named as the other starting receiver on this weeks depth chart. He only had one reception in last weeks game. The Rams do possess senior tight end Crockett Gilmore. Gilmore is one of three in the mountain west conference to be named on the Mackey award watch list. He has 19 receptions for 252 yards and a TD this term. Red-shirt junior Kivon Cartwright is the other tight end who will hurt Hawaii in the passing game if given the chance. He has a massive 6 TDs with only 16 receptions.

As bad as the defensive side of the ball has been for Hawaii this year there are still some things that they excel at. The Warriors have forced 12 turnovers (7 interceptions, 5 forced fumbles) which is tied for 51st nationally. They are also ranked fourth in the mountain west with 14 sacks. Junior defensive end Beau Yap's last two games have been his best in 2013. Against San Jose State he had six tackles, 1.5 for a loss, one sack and two quarterback hurries and then against UNLV he recorded six tackles, 2.5 for a loss and 1.5 sacks. On the opposite side Tavita Woodard will be wanting a better end to the season as he tries to get drafted in 2014. Hawaii's line-backing core remains largely unchanged and will be spearheaded by Art Laurel and Brenden Daley. The latter leads the team with 45 total tackles.

The Rams' front seven includes Shaquil Barrett at end/linebacker who has 12.5 tackles for a loss this year which is tied for third most in the entire NCAA. He also has 6.5 sacks which is fifth best in the country. Barrett can be a real menace on special teams too and has managed to block two kicks in one game, the first Ram to do so dating back to 1970 according to research. Colorado's defense collectively has been outscored by opponents 76-49 in the fourth quarter. Linebacker Aaron Davis leads the team with 64 total tackles, four more than the next best who is middle linebacker Max Morgan.

Colorado States secondary have some play-makers that Hawaii will need to be wary of when throwing the football. Safety Trent Matthews has picked off three passes this season whilst fellow safety Kevin Pierre-Louis racked up 15 tackles against CU earlier on this year. That number is the fourth most ever in one game in the mountain west. There has also been progress this year in terms of opponents third down conversions. Last year the percentage stood at 48%, this year its down to 40%. Alabamas AJ McCarron has only been picked off five times over the past two years, one of those times was to CSU cornerback Bernard Blake. There are real ball hawks in this secondary.

Trayvon Henderson has really stepped up as a freshman in the secondary for the Rainbow Warriors. Henderson has registered an interception in each of the last two games and has continued to show promise every time he gets on the field. Ne'Quan Phillips leads all cornerbacks at Hawaii with 29 total tackles. He also has consecutive games with an interception this term. One thing this defense is good at is stopping the opposition from converting on third down. 37.9% conversion rate is good for third in the mountain west and 51st nationally. Safety John Hardy-Tuliau is another draft prospect on this defense that needs to get better if he is to impress scouts and have a shot at being selected in the 2014 NFL draft.

This game is should be close, at least on paper. CSU is a 5 point favourite is most places. One thing Hawaii has been good at is making the score close. But not until the very end. To just glance at the end result makes it look like a close game where to be honest UH has been blown away for most of the game only to come back and almost snatch victory at the death. The Rainbow Warriors need to compete for all four quarters for the first time this year. Then maybe, just maybe they can pick up their first W of the season.

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