Did you enjoy those six days when Hawaii was atop the West Division? I sure did.
It was almost a month ago when the Warriors opened up Mountain West play with a 38-28 victory over Wyoming, taking home the Panilolo Trophy for the first time since 1992. The offensive had its' best outing of the season with over 500 total yards of offense in the win, with Ikaika Woolsey guiding the team to victory on 8/9 passing, 173 yards, and two scores.
Since then, UH has dropped three straight games to San Diego State, Nevada, and Utah State, and while those were contests the majority of fans expected Hawaii to lose, they were close in each contest for the majority of the time. I would even say that's the mantra for Hawaii Football this year, "Almost finished". The Warriors have lost five games by ten ponts or less this season, and the big reason for several of those losses has been absolutely zero help from the offense. They can't score! They're are averaging 19.9 PPG this season, only breaking the 20-point threshold three times this season. Barring a drastic turnabout, Hawaii will be relieving Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator Norm Chow from his duties this December.
After two straight home contests, Hawaii is flying back to the mainland with a trip to Fort Collins to meet the Colorado State rams this Saturday. CSU is riding a seven-game win streak, and is on the cusp of finding themselves ranked in the Top 25. Senior QB Garrett Grayson has lead the Rams to their best start since 2000, and while a win over Hawaii wouldn't boost CSU in the playoff committee's minds, a loss would shatter any hopes of a New Year's Bowl game would be thrown out the window. Three reasons why Hawaii could top Colorado State:
JOEY IOSEFA BACK
After going down with an ankle injury vs. Oregon State in the second game of the, then following it up with a DUI arrest in mid-October, Joey Iosefa will finally return to action against the Rams this Saturday.
Iosefa is one of the stronger backs to come through the islands in recent memory, at 6-0, 245 lbs, he can run over just about anyone at the line of scrimmage. He seemed destined for a big career as a Warrior, but injuries and now his recent suspension has forced him out of 18 games in his career. We haven't really seen the full potential the Iosefa brings to offense, and I fear we never will.
Still, the return of Iosefa might bring that extra spark the offense needs to get clicking the rest of the year. We know he's truly capable of that, when he returned from his 2013 foot injury with nearly 600 yards in the last four games of the season. I would hope Coach Chow integrates him into the offense as soon as Hawaii goes on offense. That is most likely their only hope to move the ball.
KEMP & PEDROZA, LLC
The Warriors passing game has been pretty bad this season, bouncing around with three quarterbacks before Taylor Graham and Jeremy Higgins saw their seasons come to an end due to injury. Now, the depth chart is down to Ikaika Woolsey and two true freshmen in Beau Reilly and Eric Prater. While Woolsey has had his fair share of struggles, and then some, moving the ball through the air, he has shown flashes of competency with the passing attack.
Yes, his stat line isn't anything to be truly impressed about, but one thing he has been able to do often and effectively s get the ball to his two biggest (literally) receivers in Marcus Kemp and Quinton Pedroza.
Pedroza and Kemp have a combined 91 catches for 1,099 yards and four touchdowns this year. That's more yards than the rest of the 'Bows WR group combined, and almost half the passing TDs this season.
Woolsey has struggling with his accuracy and has a tendency to over/underthrow receivers more often than not. That's why you need to stick to short routes for Kemp and Pedroza and let them do the work moving the ball, rather than Woolsey chucking it 30 yards deep for an incompletion 5 times a game.
DEFENSE CONTAINS DEE HART
With the departure of Kapri Bibbs, it was up to Alabama transfer Dee Hart to fill the void in the backfield. So far this year, he hasn't disappointed. Hart leads the Rams with 794 rushing yards and 10 scores this year, averaging 6.0 YPC as well.
He'll go up against an improved Hawaii rush defense, allowing 4.0 YPC and 174.4 YPG compared to 4.4 YPC and 202.0 YPG in 2013. Those numbers may not seem like much, but the change is noticeable in DC Kevin Clune's 3-4 look he brought to Hawaii this off-season.
The front seven is reeling a little in the latter half of the year, allowing five straight 100-yard rushers since the loss to Rice in early October. The talent is still there to make an impact on keep the CSU O-line moving backward rather than forward. Beau Yap and Kennedy Tulimasealii have constantly been stopping run plays around the edge and up the middle, respectively.
It'll be difficult, but if UH holds Hart under 100-yards on Saturday, they'll have a chance to steal one on the road in Fort Collins.
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Is an upset vs. Colorado State possible this Saturday? Yes. Upsets happen all the time, anyone can beat anyone on a good or bad day.
Do I think Hawaii will pull the upset? No. The offense simply won't be able to keep up, and I fully expect Colorado State to roll the 'Bows to their fourth straight loss this year. Colorado State 41, Hawaii 21