When: Saturday, October 11 -- 12:00 AM EST
Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
2014 Season: Hawaii (1-4, 0-0 MWC), Rice (3-2, 1-0 MWC)
Radio: Hawaii's ESPN affiliate 1420 AM will broadcast the game; The Wyoming broadcast can be heard on KFBC 1240 AM.
TV: Oceanic PPV; Stream for free on TheMW.com
Stoppable force, meet stoppable force.
Neither Hawaii or Wyoming's offense are very good this year, both ranking in the bottom half of most FBS offensive stats this year. Hawaii is averaging 13.0 PPG the last two games, accumulating less than 300 yards in each contest. The biggest reason is the struggling play of Sophomore Ikaika Woolsey, who is completing less than 50% of his passes for just over 800 yards through the first five games. The injury of Joey Iosefa has hindering UH's offensive output as well. On the other side of the field, Wyoming is having just as much trouble scoring as Hawaii is. The 'Pokes haven't scored over 20 points in any game this year, but the defense has picked up the slack, ranking fifth in the conference in total defense. Hawaii needs a win tonight to have any shot at making a bowl game, as slim as those chances currently are. Here are three keys to a Warriors win at home vs. Wyoming:
Use both Taylor Graham and Ikaika Woolsey
While a two-quarterback system isn't ideally what any coach wants, it could be what Hawaii needs right now.
The quarterback position at UH is coming pretty close to a dumpster fire, with just three passing touchdowns this year for just above 800 yards. Woolsey has not been able to lead this offense effectively, and Coach Chow called upon Jeremy Higgins and Taylor Graham to try to see if they can do any better. Higgins is out for the year with a shoulder injury sustained in the 'Bows loss to Colorado, so it comes down to Woolsey and Graham for the starting quarterback job. Graham is the more experienced player with three years in Norm Chow's system, and he's the type of player who fits in well with the style of offense that UH is currently running. On the other hand, you have a younger player in Woolsey who can tuck it and run with good speed out of the pocket. He can be a dual-threat player, but his passing ability is still in question with a pretty terrible performance through the air this season.
Throw both QBs at Wyoming this Saturday. You'll be able to keep the defense on their toes and utilize both strength's in different ways, whether it be Graham's throwing ability or Woolsey's speed on a quarterback keeper. Whoever performs better, deserves the starting job.
Contain Shaun Wick
Wick sits at 5th in the Mountain West with 489 yards on 71 carries, including three 100-yard outings this season. Hawaii's rush defense, and the defense as a whole, has actually seen some impressive improvement under new defensive coordinator Kevin Clune, ranking in the top 50 with average of 3.7 YPC allowed this year. UH took a hit when it was announced Julian Gener, Hawaii's second-leading tackler, would be out for the next month with a fractured fibula. With Gener out, I'm concerned if we'll see the same effectiveness out of this front seven, especially against a RB that is averaging almost seven yards a carry this season.
Pretty self-explanatory, IMO.
Since Joey Iosefa went down with an ankle injury vs. Oregon State, Steven Lakalaka has been nothing short of a star for this struggling offense, racking up 321 yards in the three games since. He's very similar to Iosefa in his style and how he can just rumble over anyone he so chooses. He's smaller, but he definitely is faster than Iosefa in open field. As much as this offense has been struggling through the air, just keep giving Lakalaka the ball if you want a chance to win, Hawaii. He is your best bet. Assuming that Graham struggles as much as Woolsey has been struggling this season, he may be your only bet. Of course, a lot of credit goes to the improved offensive line, which has been graded above average through all the struggles Hawaii has had this year. The Warriors are currently averaging 148.0 yards per game this year, their best mark since 1995. There has been some shifting around on the line, with Kody Afusia and Ben Clarke bouncing around between Center/Guard, but this line has found some very good success in run blocking this year.
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As I said, any slim hope of a bowl game starts with tonight's game vs. the 'Pokes. Adding Taylor Graham to the offensive mix may help this team wake up and score, or it could backfire and we're somehow at square negative five. If the front defense can shut down Shaun Wick and create a lot of pressure on Colby Kirkegaard, Wyoming's offense will struggle to get anything going as well. This game could potentially end in a 14-9 victory for either team. Hawaii is at home, however, and while I wouldn't define the environment at Aloha Stadium a "home-field advantage", I think it'll at least be a factor somehow. This game probably won't be pretty. Or fun. Or high-paced. Or a lot of things, but someone has to win. Hawaii 17, Wyoming 14