One step forward, two steps backwards.
Hawaii finally removed the goose egg in the win column last week, defeating Duquesne on homecoming at Clarence T.C. Ching Complex. The defense shined. The Warriors were hoping to continue that momentum against 0-4 New Mexico State. That did not happen, at all.
The musical chairs at quarterback continued for Timmy Chang’s offense, this time with sophomore Brayden Schager getting the nod after Joey Yellen started the prior three games.
Hawaii started off on the right foot, with running back Dedrick Parson featuring heavily on an 8-play, 75-yard scoring drive that concluded with a 1-yard touchdown run from Parson. 7-0 Warriors early on.
That was the end of good news in the first quarter. New Mexico State had three possessions in the first quarter, all resulting in touchdowns. The Aggies rushed for 206 yards, good for 12.5 yards per carry in the opening quarter. Absolute carnage. A shocking start for a defense that appeared to be turning the corner in a positive way. Aggies would lead 21-7 early in the second quarter.
On the ensuing drive, Hawaii’s running game came alive again, this time freshman running back Tylan Hines shining as he sprinted the Warrior offense into Aggie territory. The drive ultimately stalled, and Hawaii settled for a Matthew Shipley field goal to close the deficit to 21-10.
On the next possession, Hawaii forced a much-needed three-and-out for the Aggie offense. Hawaii matched them with a three-and-out of their own.
The scoring onslaught continued for the Aggies on the following drive, this time Aggies quarterback Gavin Frakes victimized the Hawaii defense. With halftime nearing, Hawaii trailed 28-10.
Hawaii’s next offensive possession, Brayden Schager continued to struggle with accuracy, missing several wide-open receivers. Another failed drive gave New Mexico State another opportunity on offense, and the Aggies gashed the Warriors again. New Mexico State led Hawaii 35-10. Things have been bleak this season for the Warriors but being destroyed by the 0-4 Aggies of Las Cruces is arguably rock bottom.
Hawaii’s defense conceded 268 rushing yards in the first half, 339 total. Abysmal.
Hawaii did find some positives in the second half. The dreaded streak of games without a passing touchdown is finally over when Schager found wide receiver Jalen Walthall for a 16-yard touchdown late in the 3rd quarter. The offense, while plagued by dropped passes and occasional inaccuracy from Schager, was nonetheless more efficient in the second half.
Hawaii had another scoring drive in the fourth quarter, capped off by a short Schager run off a zone-read. That added factor to the offense could help going forward.
Alas, it was not enough. The damage was done in the first half against the Hawaii defense, stunting any real chance at a comeback.
Brayden Schager isn’t perfect, but I think it’s clear you have to take the bad with the good. He’s the best quarterback Hawaii has right now. Leaning on the running back corps and mixing in the quarterback keeper, opening up the passing game is the best trick the Warriors have at the moment.
Hawaii now enters the bye week sitting at 1-4 and dealing with a mountain of injuries. They’ll hope to be healthy before heading to San Diego to face the Aztecs in their new stadium.