The sun is starting to get lower and lower for the Norm Chow tenure at Hawaii.
Last week's loss to Nevada brings his career record in Honolulu to 6-26, a career winning percentage of .188 since accepting the job at UH in 2012. In his defense, the 2014 Warriors look better and more competitive than his previous teams, losing five of their six games by 10 points or less. The new defense under Kevin Clune has surprised myself, and others, by how effective they've been in both creating pressure and stopping the run.
The argument against Norm Chow has to be terrible offensive output this year. The reason Hawaii hasn't been able to win those close games is simply because they can't score, with the 'Bows posting a mark of 20.6 PPG this season, good for 111th in FBS. Good news? IT'S AHEAD OF MICHIGAN.
Meanwhile, at Utah State, the Aggies have gone through almost the entire depth chart of quarterbacks due to injuries, and now the offense is in the hands a true freshman, Kent Myers. USU still has the offensive weapons in JoJo Natson and Zach Vigil, but can Myers lead this team down the field effectively in his first start this Saturday?
Hawaii hosts Utah State this weekend, and the 'Bows need to put up a 110% level performance on offense if they hope to pull an upset over the Aggies to salvage some of this season. I found Connor Comeau, our own Utah State writer, in the MWCConnection bar drinking milk and eating pretzels, so I figured I would sit down and talk about this weekend's matchup with the 'Bows:
Chris Turner: So you wanna talk about Utah State-Hawaii? I probably need to sleep soon since the game won't be over till 3 AM my time.
Connor Comeau: Let's do it! Go ahead and ask away!
CT: Obviously the driving storyline at the beginning of the year was the return of Chuckie Keeton, but he went down with another knee injury earlier this month. After that, it was Darrell Garretson who saw his season come to an end with a wrist injury. And finally, Craig Harrison went down with a leg injury against UNLV, now leaving the offense in the hands of true frosh Kent Myers. He was able to come in and lead the Aggies to victory last week against UNLV, but we haven't seen him play a full game under center this year. What should we expect out of Myers not only on Saturday against Hawaii, but for the rest of the season?
CC: Expect Myers to come out and play with a lot of confidence. He did very well for the little amount of time he was in against UNLV. The way he can run the football is very impressive but not quite Chuckie-like. The Aggies have four relatively easy games coming up (at Hawaii, at Wyoming, vs. New Mexico, vs. San Jose State) that will allow him to improve his stats and skills. If the defense does it job the rest of the way and he can use both his arm and legs to make plays, expect Myers to have a ton of confidence heading into the BSU game.
CT: Now, in their own right, Hawaii's defense has been much improved under new defensive coordinator (and former Aggie linebackers coach) Kevin Clune. The 'Bows rank 6th in the conference in total defense, but struggled to contain Cody Fajardo (261 all-purpose yards and 3* TDs) in UH's loss to the Pack last week. Still, the front seven has looked very good this season at creating pressure, and for the most part, avoiding big run plays. Do you see OC Kevin McGiven more willing to let Myers air it out early, or will he keep to the ground and pound running against Hawaii?
CC: I think we can expect to see Myers air it out early. As you said, that front seven is good at getting pressure, but I think the offensive line should do enough to negate that. With that being said, if Myers struggles early, look for McGiven to run the football more to help mix up play calling and keep Hawaii off balance.
CC: Who are some playmakers on offense (and defense) that could make a splash in Saturday's game?
CT: Keep your eyes in the backfield on both Steven Lakalaka. Since Joey Iosefa went down with an injury, the majority of the touches have fallen to Lakalaka and he has performed well over the past six games, accumulating 510 yards on 4.1 yards per carry. He has a style similar to Iosefa, where he can bowl over defenders with his size and rumble forward for extra yards. He's only a Sophomore, so he may have a few years before he reaches his full potential, but he's still a viable weapon for the Warriors rushing attack.
On defense, watch for Beau Yap and Kennedy Tulimasealii. Both have thrived in Kevin Clune's new 3-4 set he brought from Utah State, combining for 3.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss. Each creates pressure off the edge and up the middle, and will have an impact in some way on Saturday.
CC: Will the defense be as decent as it has and keep Hawaii in this game?
CT: Well, it starts with how the front seven performs in pressuring Myers early. If Hawaii can set the tone and rattle Myers, the 'Bows can stay in this game as much as possible.
CT: Talk about the USU defense, who hasn't allowed over 24 points since the season opener against Tennessee. Who has stepped up and had a huge impact for this unit?
CC: I think big props have to go to both B.J. Larsen and Zach Vigil. Both of these guys have been beasts, especially in the run game. They have been a big part of the reason why USU is ranked seventh in the country in run defense. Don't forget, Vigil had a career high 22 tackles in the game against Air Force. Look for him and Larsen to keep it going.
CT: No road trip is easy for any team nowadays, so how do you think the Aggies fare against Hawaii on Saturday night?
CC: Long trips can take it out of a team, but I don't see the Aggies suffering that much. Hawaii will keep it close, especially with a freshman at QB, but in the end the defense steps up a does its job. USU will win this one and handily, 31-13
CC: If the Warriors do win this game, what does it do for Chow's job?
CT: A win would put Hawaii at 3-6 this year, tying Chow's best win-total since taking the job at Hawaii. It would give him a career best mark with two conference wins, but the rest of Hawaii's schedule doesn't look promising in terms of making a potential push for a bowl game. I've said throughout the year that 4-5 wins would possibly give Norm Chow at least one more year at UH, and still think that holds true. A win is a step in the right direction, but there needs to be several more of those if Chow will be in Honolulu next season.
CC: What is the biggest key for the Warriors if they want to pull the upset?
CT: Simply, the offense has to move the ball. That's the reason Hawaii has lost several close games this year was the lack of offensive output. We need to see an Ikaika Woolsey that's hitting his receivers and moving the ball up the field with effectiveness, rather than one who is over/underthrowing his targets on three straight attempts. You wanna win? You need to score. I think Hawaii can do that, but it won't be enough to move past the Aggies. Utah State 27, Hawaii 20