The 2023 Mountain West football campaign is nothing if not unpredictable. Hawaii defeating Air Force at Clarence T.C. Ching Complex was one of the more shocking conference results in recent memory, a possible turning point for Timmy Chang and his Rainbow Warrior program. The next question was whether the team could turn their focus to Wyoming after experiencing such a high.
The answer is no.
Hawaii was absolutely crushed by Wyoming, down 35-0 at halftime. The Cowboys eventually won 42-9 and essentially eliminated Hawaii from bowl contention. What on Earth happened?!
First half boogeyman returns
In the past two weeks, Hawaii seemingly turned a corner when it came to their first half woes. After starting games terribly all season, the Nevada and Air Force games featured solid performances in the first and second intervals, especially on defense.
Not the case in Laramie. Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley was 10/11 passing for 269 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone. Tighe End John Michael Gyllenborg had three catches for 128 receiving yards and a long 89-yard touchdown catch. Wide receivers Wyatt Wieland and Ryan Marquez each added touchdown catches of 40+ yards as well.
Needless to say, Hawaii dared Air Force to throw the football long and the Falcons failed. Wyoming saw that on tape and willingly exploited it despite their usual running game aspirations.
Hawaii quarterback Brayden Schager added two interceptions to the equation and Hawaii was down 35-0 after one half, outgained 361-190. Astonishing.
Offense couldn’t get the job done
I’m not in the Hawaii football offices, but I swear UH copy and pasted their game plan from last week to this week. The goal was to be methodical on offense. After Wyoming started quickly, going up 14-0, Hawaii put together a 13-play, 73-yard drive that killed 7:55 off the clock. Much like last week, Hawaii was hoping to give their clock-controlling opposition a taste of their own medicine.
That drive failed after quarterback Brayden Schager couldn’t covert on 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Hawaii was trying to meticulously move the ball down field, but the running game was squashed in the first half. Running backs Landon Sims and David Cordero combined for 20 rushing yards on 10 carries in the first half. Not ideal.
After Wyoming went up 21-0, Hawaii was thrown off-script, and it was a free fall the rest of the half.
Snoozer second half
Hawaii’s first drive in the second half resulted in a punt, but the early goings of the third quarter featured some positives. Hawaii’s Justin Sinclair forced and recovered a fumble on Wyoming’s first drive of the second half. Despite the solid field position, the Warriors settled for a Matthew Shipley field goal.
Hawaii’s next drive ended with a touchdown when Brayden Schager found Chuuky Hines for a 19-yard score. Those were the eventful notes as Wyoming ran away with the remainder of the half to win 42-9 and retain the Paniolo Trophy.
One step forward, two steps back. That’s been the narrative of the 2023 Warriors. In that sense, we shouldn’t have been surprised by the outcome. Conceding 472 total yards and 42 points to a mediocre Wyoming offense has to be a bitter pill to swallow for defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro and his Rainbow Warrior defense after playing so well for weeks.
Hawaii won the time of possession battle by over 13 minutes but were totally destroyed. Strange morning in Laramie for the ‘Bows. I take no joy in patting myself on the back, but I worried about Hawaii’s general focus after shocking Air Force and sure enough the team didn’t appear to be as determined as last week.
Hawaii will return to Oahu to host Colorado State for the season finale. That game is on Spectrum Sports come Saturday November 25th at 6 p.m. HST.