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Hawaii falls short vs. No. 25 Washington in season opener, 17-16

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The Warriors upset bid over the Huskies fell just short, but Norm Chow seems to have UH trending in the right direction

Marco Garcia-USA TODAY Sports

Hawaii fell short in their season opener vs. the 25th ranked Washington Huskies Saturday night in Honolulu, but my goodness, did they look good doing it.

The Warriors opened up with a 10 play, 58 yard drive in just over three minutes, capped off by Senior Joey Iosefa going over the top to put Hawaii on the board. Sophomore Ikaika Woolsey looked calm and composed on his first drive as well, going 4/4 for 50 yards to open the game.

Woolsey and the 'Bows came out on their second drive and looked just as good as they did on the first, effectively moving the ball the length of the field over a 17 play, 79 yard drive that lead to a Tyler Hadden field goal. Through two drives, UH held a huge advantage for Time of Possession, hanging on to the ball for nearly ten minutes to the Huskies two.

The Warriors defense kept the Huskies from much early success, but a costly roughing the passer penalty on third and long lead to a John Ross 20-yard TD and put UW within a score.

Hawaii drove the length of the field again, but failed on a fourth down conversion on the Washington 9 to give the ball back to Jeff Lindquist...who would launch it 91-yards down the middle of field to John Ross for the score, completing the fourteen-point swing for the Huskies.

Senior Tyler Hadden was 1-2 on Field Goals in the first half, nailing a 28-yarder and missing a 40-yarder just as a the clock ran out on the first half, sending the 'Bows into the locker room trailing 17-10.

Saturday was our first taste of Hawaii's new 3-4 defense under new DC Kevin Clure, and it shined in the second half.

The Warriors forced a three and out on five of the first six UW possessions in the second half, holding the Huskies to just 38 yards in that span. The front seven created a ton of pressure on Jeff Lindquist, forcing him to make quick decisions or throw it away almost all of the second half.

Hawaii hit a field goal early in the third and fourth quarters to put the 'Bows within one, but that's as close as they would get as Washington holds off the Warriors in a surprisingly close season opener, 17-16.

I, like other Mountain West fans I assume, was shocked by how well Hawaii played out of the gate and down the stretch in the second half. Things seemed to be clicking and it looks as if UH could be a much more improved team in 2014. Here's a couple thoughts on tonights opener:

1. Ikaika Woolsey was the right choice as starter.

The Taylor Graham experiment was a fun little diddy in 2013, but Norm Chow made the choice to not go through that again when he named Ikaika Woolsey his starter several weeks before Saturday's opener. The more athletic Woolsey seemed to be making strides this spring/summer with help from former Utah QB Jordan Wynn as UH's QB Coach, and it showed against the Huskies. Woolsey completed just 54% of his passes for 207 yards on Saturday night, but he made very few mistakes in his throws, threw zero interceptions against a very good UW secondary, and looked calm and confident on the field. There is still a need for improvement in his pocket presence, but Woolsey looks to have been the right choice to lead this offense in 2014.

2. Hawaii is utilizing Joey Iosefa as much as possible.

Injuries kept Iosefa out of the majority of his junior year, but made a huge impact in the last five games of the year, rushing for nearly 600 yards and five touchdowns for the Warriors. Now back for his final year in Honolulu and at 100% health, we could be getting the best Joey Iosefa in 2014.

Iosefa ran for 143 yards and a score off of 30 carries, running and bouncing off of almost every UW defender on his way to a big game. Chow just has to keep feeding him the ball and he'll give you the consistent production out of the backfield you missed all last year.

3. Quinton Pedroza will be the #1 WR in 2014

The Hawaii WR corp got as thin as it could this last month, with Vasquez Haynes and Devan Stubblefield going down with injuries, and Keith Kirkwood transferring to Temple before camp started. That left Scott Harding as the lone returner from the top six receivers in 2013, and meant Chow would have to dig into the depth chart to find a true #1 wideout for 2014.

Utah transfer Quinton Pedroza may have staked a claim for that title after his debut performance for the 'Bows on Saturday night, catching nine passes for 90 yards. He was originally set to be the back up H-Receiver behind Harding this year, but the setbacks at WR convinced the coaches to move him over to Y, and it seems to be paying dividends. His size and athleticism make him a great asset for Woolsey on short routes, and should see a lot of balls thrown his way this season.

4. Defense had its' lapses, but the new look will work very well.

Yes, the defense gave up the huge 91-yard TD pass to John Ross early in the second quarter, but Warriors kept the Huskies offense from other big plays throughout the game. Former USU DC Kevin Clure made his debut for the Warriors, and so did his 3-4 defense. The front seven was the best part of the UH defense all night long, holding UW to just 3.6 yards per carry and creating pressure in the pocket for Jeff Lindquist with several all-out blitzes.

As long as the front line can continue to find their way into the backfield and wreak havoc, the Hawaii defense will continue to improve this season.

The Warriors (0-1, 0-0 MWC) welcome another Pac-12 opponent to Aloha Stadium next week in Oregon State.