When the betting market opened last week, Air Force was a 16-point favorite against Hawaii. A curious number, some onlookers figured it would be much higher than that. The spread ballooned to as high as 19.5-points by the end of the week. Arriving on Oahu for Veterans Day weekend, surely the result of this football game would be a formality for Air Force, even after a shocking loss to Army, right?
In a complete stunner, Timmy Chang’s Warriors put together a defensive performance that will be remembered for years to come in a 27-13 victory over previously 8-1 Air Force.
The Falcons were in the College Football Playoff poll a week ago. Two weeks ago, Hawaii lost 35-0 to San Jose State at Clarence T.C. Ching Complex. This is surely one of the most improbable results in MWC football history.
Defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro and his Rainbow Warrior defense have been maligned by critics throughout this season, and in fairness for good reason. It would’ve been easy for Hawaii to fold up tent and wish this season away, but the defense bounced back impressively last week against Nevada. However, Nevada is not exactly stiff competition.
Air Force, however, has the top-ranked offense in the conference. It’s unclear what happened to Air Force quarterback Zac Larrier, but at some point during the first half he exited with an injury and never returned. Backup quarterback Jenson Jones took over and wasn’t as effective.
Hawaii forced four turnovers on the evening, three interceptions and a Peter Manuma fumble recovery that resulted in a touchdown. They held the Falcons to 315 total yards, an unthinkable outcome before the game. There have been flashes of something greater from this defense all season, but timely penalties have often killed momentum. Tonight, the Warriors put it all together in a special performance.
Hawaii understood the assignment
Playing against Air Force, or any triple option team, can be tricky and requires efficiency and execution to come out with a victory. Hawaii’s 297 total yards of offense will not make the top of the record books, but quarterback Brayden Schager was 22/29 for 176 yards with two touchdown passes and most importantly...no interceptions.
The running game finished with 121 yards on 29 carries, 4.2 yards per carry. Again, nothing flashy, but Hawaii stayed on schedule. Hawaii’s FIRST OPENING DRIVE TOUCHDOWN OF THE SEASON came against Air Force of all teams via a 12-play, 75-yard drive that ate up more than seven minutes of clock. Giving the Falcons a taste of their own medicine.
Make no mistake about it, Timmy Chang wants to throw the ball all over the yard. That’s the run-and-shoot, but tonight Hawaii had to wear a different hat and the offense played a complimentary role to a defense in form. The result is the biggest win for Hawaii football in years.
The Kuter Trophy returns to Manoa
Hawaii’s shock victory comes with a trophy! Straight from the Hawaii Athletics’ website, the Warriors pick up the victory and add some hardware to the trophy case for the next calendar year. It’s Hawaii’s first time holding the trophy since 2016.
The Kuter Trophy (pronounced COO-ter) is named for the late General Laurence S. Kuter, who was the first head of the Pacific Air Forces Command in 1957. The trophy is awarded to the winner of the University of Hawai‘i and Air Force Academy football game.
It is a striking tribute to the friendship between the schools and to the cooperation between the people of Hawai‘i and the Air Force. It was conceived by UH, sponsored by the Pacific Air Command, and designed by the Air Force Academy.
The Kuter Trophy was presented to the winner of the annual game from 1980-97 when both teams were members of the Western Athletic Conference. Air Force left the conference in 1998 and the rivalry was later renewed in 2001. With UH joining the Mountain West Conference, the trophy has once again been renewed.
It’s hard to not feel good for Timmy Chang and his program. The loss to San Jose State two weeks ago was rock bottom, and it felt like it would be years before Hawaii found any type of momentum for football. Take this in, Hawaii fans. The highs have been few and far in between lately.
Hawaii will take on Wyoming next week in Laramie. The game is on Saturday, November 18th at 9 a.m. HST on Spectrum Sports.