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Hawaii Football: Q&A with Ralphie Report

I talked with Ralphie Report about this weekend's Hawaii-Colorado game and how the Buffs will fare against the Warriors on Saturday.

Doug Pensinger

Hawaii wraps up the Pac-12 portion of their schedule this Saturday, when the Warriors travel out to the mainland for their first road test of the year against the Colorado Buffaloes. I ventured out to a pasture where I found Jack Barsch of The Ralphie Report, SBNation's Colorado-oriented site, riding a Buffalo toward Folsom Field. I was able to flag him down, and we talked this weekend's matchup:

CT: The Colorado offense has put up some impressive numbers to start the year, ranking 33rd in the country in total offense behind the play of Sefo Liufau. The Hawaii pass defense has been spotty at best to start 2014, do you see MacIntyre letting Liufau throw a lot on often on Saturday?

JB: Unquestionably, the most impressive part of CU's offense has been the passing game thus far. A lot of that credit goes not to Sefo, but to his supporting cast. Nelson Spruce and Co. have bailed him out plenty this year and have shown plenty of promise. While Liufau has missed his fair share of easy completions, the true sophmore has shown he has what it takes to lead this team past the 10 starts he has under his belt. I can see Coach Mac going to him pretty often, especially in the no-huddle. However, CU is not one to abandon the run game, and they have indicated a stubborn insistence on the run game. I would say the split will be about 55-45 pass run.

CT: Addison Gillam seems to have picked up right where he left off with 22 tackles, 5.0 TFL, and 1.5 sacks to start the year. What makes him such an effective LB as just a sophomore?

JB: It's funny you say that, because inside the program Gillam's performance thus far is regarded as a bit of a letdown, which I think reflects on our unreasonably high expectations rather than his play. To be honest, that's the first time I've seen his stat line through three games, and that's damn impressive. 22 tackles is a little low compared to last year, but who's counting? What makes him so effective, especially in the backfield, is his closing speed. If you look at the UMass highlights, you can see flashes of the old, not-injured Gillam in the QB blitz for a sack in the 4th. He comes in like a bullet when he's running downhill. He also has great awareness and can clean up a lot of plays, though this year he has overpursued a bit. Addison Gillam is quite simply a freak. That's what makes him so good.

CT: Talk about Nelson Spruce. He's been improving in each year since arriving in Boulder in 2012, and now he's become Liufau's number one target this year. He leads the team with 24 catches for 246 yards, and six touchdowns in 2014, but can he effectively replace the production Paul Richardson brought to this team last year going forward?

JB: So far, he has succeeded in replacing P-Rich's production, albeit in different ways. When CU's coaches meant that Richardson would be replaced by committee, they were correct. He gave us a deep threat and kept the defense honest. So far Bobo, Spruce and Fields have all taken turns getting deep and catching screens, two of P-Rich's most important roles. Nelson Spruce has been everything we could have asked for and more. He's been fantastic and it's hard to believe he has one more year left.

CT: Hawaii's front seven has had success in stopping the rush this year, allowing just 3.3 YPC this year. Coming off a 118-yard performance against Arizona State, what does Christian Powell need to do to have success against the Warriors?

JB: What's lost in that 118 yard figure is the fact that a big chunk of that came on two long runs when he was lined up at the FB spot. While certainly an exciting and useful wrinkle, I doubt we get those kind of long runs from Powell this season. However, the rushing attack came alive against ASU. Despite Michael Adkin's (my personal favorite) struggles, the backfield thrived on the back of Powell and Lindsay. Tony Jones should be back from injury too, so expect a Thunder and Lightning trio for the Buffs. It's just icing on the cake if Adkins come back, if he could run with conviction most of his problems would be fixed. Expect Powell to always fall forward and get about 4 or 5 yards a carry, that's what he's best at.

CT: Talking about the program generally, do you think Mike MacIntyre​ has the Buffs heading in the right direction?

JB: This was the easiest to answer. I personally love Coach Mac. If you read this you can see why. His vision goes beyond a winning football team to winning people who happen to play great football. He was given a dumpster fire in a giant crater as a football program, and the building up has to be slow and steady to also be sustainable. That's what we're seeing. If you look at the impact players on defense, other than Greg Henderson, almost all were recruited by Mac or had a renaissance under his coaching (Kenneth Crawley). Gillam, Chidobie Awuzie, Tedric Thompson, Sefo Liufau, Shay Fields (all players to watch on Saturday, by the way) represent a bright future for this program, and I fully support MacIntyre and his vision. The one question mark is his supporting staff. As of right now, Jim Jeffcoat and Toby Neinas are fully on the hot seat, or they should be, neither bring in many recruits and both of their units have underperformed (DL and ST). To answer this question, Coach Mac has the right plan for this team, and he can bring us back to the football Mount Olympus we used to be on, or at the very least start the ascent.

CT: Finally, what is your prediction for this Saturday's game?

JB: Hawaii has played the PAC-12 tough this year, and OSU and Washington survived close ones. However, that was on the island, and it's well documented that Hawaii on the mainland is almost a different team. Combine that with the brutal start time and Iosefa's unfortunate injury, as well as Colorado's forward momentum after playing ASU until the end, and it all adds up to Buffs victory. I'll go CU 31- UH 20, with the Buffs covering for the 2nd week in a row and faith starting to creep back in the program.

Thanks Jack for the Q&A, and be sure to check out The Ralphie Report for all your Colorado Buffaloes news and updates this season!