HAWAII VS. NEW MEXICO
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico (University Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 21st at 12:00 p.m. (Hawaii Time)
Television: Spectrum Sports PPV (Hawaii only)
Streaming: Team 1 Sports app (mainland only)
Radio: ESPN Honolulu
Head-to-Head: Hawaii leads this series 16-10 and has won the two most recent contests played in 2019 and 2020. Prior to that, the Lobos had won seven straight spanning from 1993-2016. With long-time rival Fresno State off the 2023 schedule, the Lobos are one of the more unusual faces Hawaii plays against this season.
Spread: Hawaii +1.5
Three things to look for:
1. Is the run-and-shoot here to stay?
After a disappointing 2022 season that resulted in one of Hawaii’s worst offensive outputs ever, Timmy Chang and his staff elected to readopt the run-and-shoot offense, the offense June Jones made famous at Hawaii. It’s worked before, Nick Rolovich did the same thing in 2018 to instant results.
Yet, through six games in the 2023 season Hawaii’s highest scoring output was 31 points against Albany of the FCS. Yes, some of the schedule was difficult, but the lack of points still left onlookers feeling like this was the run-and-shoot offense in name only. After a bleak 17-0 start against San Diego State, capped by a Brayden Schager pick-six, Hawaii fans were on the verge of smashing the panic button.
Against the grain, Hawaii’s offense suddenly found some consistency and eventually even popped off. Wide receiver Pofele Ashlock had eight catches. Steven McBride and Nick Cenacle both hit the century mark. Those are the run-and-shoot stat lines we were hoping to see. Brayden Schager settled down and had his best performance of the season. The offense finished the evening with 480 total yards. Was this a flash in the pan? Or has the offense finally turned a corner? New Mexico is conceding 39.3 points per game in their last three, for what it is worth.
2. Lobos are having a tough time
New Mexico head coach Danny Gonzales has been leading the Lobos since the 2019 season and I think it’s fair to say that he’s starting to feel the pressure. Sitting now at 2-4, the Lobos were in a tight contest with San Jose State this past weekend at halftime winning 17-14. Running back Jacory Croskey-Merritt scored twice that half. He’s been excellent for the Lobos and will be a handful for the Warriors. He’s rushed for 499 yards on 80 carries, scoring nine times this season.
Just as it seemed the Lobos were making some progress, San Jose State absolutely freaked out. A 38-7 second half explosion ended in a 52-24 beat down. Familiar face Chevan Cordeiro had 272 passing yards on eight completions. Running back Kairee Robinson dominated.
New Mexico’s pass defense ranks 86th-nationally, although that may only be the case because they’re too busy ranking 112th-nationally in rushing defense. On paper, Hawaii should be able to have success on offense.
Quarterback Dylan Hopkins is capable. He’s better than what the Lobos have had in recent seasons, although hit and miss this season.
Oh, and the stat you were really looking for: the Lobos rank 125th-nationally in Team Sacks. If the offensive line can’t keep Schager clean this weekend, they never will.
Hawaii fans know the drill. No road game is ever easy (we’ll get to that next), but the Lobos are easily Hawaii’s weakest remaining opponent. Saturday will be a battle of the MWC cellar.
3. Timmy Chang’s road drought
November 27th, 2021. Hawaii traveled to Laramie, Wyoming in the thick of winter season. Thanks, MWC schedule makers. Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro (?!) dropped 323 passing yards on the Wyoming Cowboy defense on the path to a shocking 38-14 blowout on Wyoming’s Senior Day.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, it’s the last time Hawaii football registered a victory away from Manoa. To this point, Timmy Chang has yet to win a road game in his short tenure. The closest the Warriors came to winning on the road was last fall in Ft. Collins when the Rams defeated Hawaii 17-13.
Hawaii has a winnable game in Reno. The late-season trip to Laramie, not so much. Again, there is no such thing as an easy road game for Hawaii football. Never, not when you deal with the travel hurdles the program faces. That said, Timmy Chang has a solid opportunity to rid himself of this goose egg on Saturday. The time is now.
The weather forecast for Hawaii’s mid-October trip to Albuquerque appears to bring with it warm weather. Bullet dodged for a program that isn’t fond of the cold. The betting odds list this game as an essential toss-up.
New Mexico isn’t playing well right now. Frankly, Hawaii isn’t playing anything close to complete football either. This is definitely a clash of the bottom of the conference. I’ve watched too many Hawaii road games that appeared “winnable” to feel overly confident about this game, but I think Hawaii’s offense can find some success. I’ll lean on the bold side and predict we go to overtime. Give me Rainbow Warriors 30, Lobos 27 OT.