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Sydney Cup 2016: Hawaii vs. Cal game preview

Take a look at the 2016 season opener for the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors against the Cal Bears

Promo for the Syndey Cup game between the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and the Cal Bears.
Picture courtesy of

Gameday Info:

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors vs California Bears

August 26, 2016; 4:00 PM HST/10 PM EST/12 PM local; ANZ Stadium, Sydney, Australia


Radio: KKEA ESPN 1420 (Honolulu), KNUI 550AM (Maui), KHLO 850AM (Hilo), KKON 790AM (Kona), KTOH 99.9FM (Kauai), KNWJ 104.7FM (American Samoa), XM Radio 203 and Sirius Radio 93.

Web Audio-Cast: ESPN 1420 AM

Web Video-Streaming: WatchESPN

Spread: +23 Hawaii

Gameday Tidbits:

  • This game will be the first college football game in Melbourne, Australia since 1987.
  • The series between Hawaii and Cal is tied at 2-2. The last game was played in 1994 and UH won 21-7.
  • This is the 7th straight time that the Rainbow Warriors opened the season against a PAC-12 team. They are 2-4 so far.
  • This game will officially start the Nick Rolovich Era in Hawaii. The last time Rolo saw the Bears he helped lead Nevada to a 31-24 win as the OC for the Wolf Pack.
  • His former teammates Brian Smith, Craig Stutzman and Abraham Elimimian will be teaming up with their former Coach in Kevin Lempa to try and bring some of the magic from the 2001 season. A season that culminated in a win against Rival BYU when they were the 6th best team in the nation.

Injury Report:

Hawaii: N/A

Cal: OUT FOR SEASON: Damariay Drew (DB)

Returning Team Leaders:

Passing: Ikaika Woolsey (Hawaii): 79-149, 908 TD, 6 INT; Chase Forrest (Cal): 10-18, 162 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: Paul Harris (Hawaii): 197 carries, 1166 yards, 6 TD; Khalfani Muhammad (Cal): 87 carries, 586 yards, 1 TD

Receiving: Marcus Kemp (Hawaii): 36 receptions, 563 yards, 2 TD; Chad Hansen (Cal): 19 receptions, 249 yards, 1 TD

Tackles: Jerrol Garcia-Williams (Hawaii): 89 (55 solo) tackles; Luke Rubenzer (Cal): 43 (24 solo) tackles

Sacks: Jahlani Tavai (Hawaii): 3.0 sacks; Cameron Walker (Cal): 2.0 sacks

Interceptions: Jalen Rogers (Hawaii): 1 interception; Devante Downs (Cal): 2 interceptions

Names to Know:

Hawaii: (QB) Ikaika Woolsey, (RB) Paul Harris, (RB) Diocemy Saint Juste, (WR) Marcus Kemp, (WR) Keelan Ewaliko, (LB) Jahlani Tavai, (DB) Daniel Lewis Jr.

Cal: (QB) Davis Webb, (RB) Tre Watson, (WR) Chad Hansen, (WR) Demetris Robertson, (OG) Chris Borrayo, (DB) Darius Allensworth, (DT) James Looney.

For the Hawaii depth chart click here and go to page 9.

For the Cal depth chart click here.

Keys to the Game:

Start fast and get on the board early: The Cal defense returns five starters and only three of them started more than ten games. As a whole, their defense is young which may lead to getting caught up in the atmosphere of the game. The ‘Bows need to seize the moment and use their experience on offense to take advantage of any early game jitters the Bears might have.

Also, the Bears’ defense is anchored by a talented secondary but their front seven is a big weakness. If the Rainbow Warriors can get out to an early lead they can avoid playing into Cal’s defensive strength. The depth at running back should be able to exploit the holes up front but won’t be able to do that if they get behind by a lot.

Stop the run: If the Rainbow Warriors can force the Bears to pass, Cal’s inexperienced receiving corps will definitely help the Hawaii gain the advantage. Cal lost their top six receivers but return all three of their top rushers in addition to a solid veteran o-line. The Bears will try to ease the offense into the season by leaning on their rush attack. If UH wants to win they mus stop the run.

The Bears will likely lean on Tre Watson but make no mistake Vic Enwere and Khalfani Muhammad will get theirs. Their predicament in the backfield is not unlike the one that Hawaii has with Diocemy Saint Juste, Paul Harris and Steven Lakalaka. Cal will give Hawaii multiple looks in order to get the pillars of their offense going.

Hurt them with the return game: A huge point of emphasis for the Bear’s this offseason was their kickoff coverage. Keelan Ewaliko, Hawaii’s primary weapon in the return game, averaged 26.3 yards per return which would have placed him 23rd in the nation (he does not show up in rankings because he did not play in 75% of Hawaii’s games in 2015). If Ewaliko and the Rainbow Warriors use their special teams advantage to get an edge in field position, it should ease the pressure off of the offense. Who knows, Ewaliko might even get the ‘Bows on the board.

Hopes, Wishes and Predictions:

The team will start off a little slow but will come on near the end of the first half. A key return from Keelan Ewaliko will energize the team and get them going in the second half. The experience that Woolsey has with his receivers will aid in the Rainbow Warrior attack. It will be the rushing attack of Diocemy Saint Juste and Paul Harris that will carry this team to a rather surprising victory.

The final score will be 31-28 with Ewaliko earning player of the game honors gathering more than 100 total yards.

Update: What I think will need to happen and what I think will happen are two different things. The impact that the rush attack , defense and the return game will have in the game will offset the failure of the team to start fast.

We’ve all seen the highlights from practice and the strong camaraderie that this team has developed this offseason. The strong bond will provide the team with a nice foundation in the first game of the season. If the Rainbow Warriors function as a team, the rest should come easy.

No matter what the final score is, it will be nice to see the Rainbow Warriors back in action.

Make sure to follow along on twitter for play-by-play reaction!

Stats and info courtesy of the University of Hawaii and University of California at Berkley Media Guides.