HAWAII AT MASSACHUSETTS
Location: Amherst, MASS. (McGuirk Alumni Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, August 26th at 12 p.m. (Hawaii Time)
Television: Eleven Sports Network/Spectrum Sports (Game should be free of PPV charge for this game only on Oahu)
Streaming: MW app (for mainland viewers)
Radio: ESPN 1420Head-to-head: Hawaii won the lone contest between the two schools last fall, winning 46-40 at Aloha Stadium.
Head-to-head: Hawaii won the lone contest between the two schools last fall, winning 46-40 at Aloha Stadium.
Things to look for: Much like last season's opener in Australia, Hawai'i will open the 2017 season in "Week 0" when they once again travel a very, very long way, this time to Massachusetts. The Warriors dodged a bullet by having this game moved to . It was originally slated to be in October, and would have presented problems as it likely would have been paired with another road trip. Traveling 5,000+ miles isn't ideal. but by moving this game UH can spare themselves the wear and tear that would involve a mid-season trip across the planet.
As noted above, Hawai'i and UMass met for the first time ever in the final game of the 2016 regular season. Despite UMass sporting a 2-9 record, the Minutemen gave the Warriors more than they wanted. A late 2nd quarter touchdown pass from Dru Brown to Marcus Kemp gave the Warriors a comfortable 24-13 halftime lead. Of course, this team never did things the easy way and by the middle of the 3rd quarter, UH was down 24-26. Hawai'i then delivered two blows to the Minutemen and led 40-26 with only 12 minutes remaining in the game. Once again, UH allowed UMass back into the game, tying it at 40-40 with 5 minutes remaining. A 56 yard touchdown pass from Dru Brown to Keelin Ewaliko and one last defensive stand gave Hawai'i the 46-40 win and sent UH to the Hawai'i Bowl for the first time since 2011.
That's great! However, few expected a 2-9 team to give the Warriors that much trouble at home, but the Minutemen did. Despite a poor outlook for 2017, it would be unwise for UH to overlook this trip to Massachusetts and the 2017 Minutemen.
At the time of writing this preview, Hawai'i is a slim 1-point favorite with the o/u on overall points at 64.5. Vegas expects a close game. The Minutemen got some good news this past off-season when tight-end Adam Breneman decided to give college football one more shot instead of entering the draft. His 808 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns were both team highs last season, so you can bet returning quarterback Andrew Ford is glad to have him back. With 7 returning starters on both offense and defense, while the overall forecast for 2017 isn't good for UMass, they'll at least have some experience returning.
Hawai'i also returns a lot of experience from last year's squad, but wide receiver Marcus Kemp might be the biggest loss between both teams. That said, Hawai'i has a lot of momentum going into this season, and optimism is spreading throughout Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex and Manoa. That said, Hawai'i is 4-18 all-time in road openers and struggled to put this Minutemen team away last season. Head Coach Nick Rolovich and his program have big aspirations for 2017, even preaching the Mountain West Championship as a present goal in the mind's of his players, but nothing would let the air out of the balloon for UH's 2017 season like opening with a loss to a team projected to win only 5 games in the brightest of predictions. After the home opener against Western Carolina, Hawai'i will play at UCLA, at Wyoming, and home vs. Colorado State. You can bet that Rolo and co. will want to avoid starting off on the wrong foot.
Prediction: As I noted in my preseason preview, I'm terrible at making predictions. But they're fun to do, so I'll make a weekly guess that will sure to be wrong 90% of the time. Despite the long trip and history being against them, I think Dru Brown will take the next step as Hawaii's starting quarterback and he will once again pepper the ball all over the Minutemen. I expect fireworks in a game in which UH once again comes out on top. Hawaii beats UMass 37-31.