Tight end Caleb Rillos described the mood of the team with these words in this weeks press conference: “We wanted to win so bad, and because we didn’t, we have so much more to prove now. It is a huge setback for us, so in order for us to get over this, not only do we have to win, but we need to start beating teams by a lot.”
The Rainbow Warriors would seem to be an opportune opponent to begin the task of recovery. Hawaii is tied with three other teams for last in the Mountain West. However, they are coming off their first win of the conference season over Nevada, which should make the Falcons leery about providing any early opportunity to gain momentum.
When researching an opponent of the Falcons, the first thing to look for is the ability of the team to defend the run, and that area is a weakness of the Rainbow Warriors. They allow an average of 176 yards per game and against the opponent with the best rushing attack, UNLV, they gave up over 300 yards. They are last in the Mountain West with 21 rushing TDs allowed. They are however decent at disrupting plays in the backfield, with 56 TFLs.
Offensively, Hawaii employs the run and shoot offense, with four receivers and one running back. Sophomore Brayden Schager is the quarterback, completing 62.3% of his passes and averaging 277 yards per game with 22 TDs and 12 interceptions. The primary targets are WR Steven McBride and WR Pofele Ashlock. McBride is the primary deep threat averaging over 16 yards per completion with 8 touchdowns, Ashlock is used more on short routes averaging 11 yards per completion.
A major weakness of the Hawaii offense is pass protection. Hawaii quarterbacks have been sacked more often than any other MW team, 34 times. The Falcons are tied for second in the MW in sacks with 21.
Prognosis and Prediction
On social media, and in my messages, many Falcon fans were expressing a good deal of shock at the outcome of the Army game. The players are well aware of the shortcomings displayed in that game. The task for this weekend will be to return to the execution, discipline, confidence, and team play that got them to 8-0. It shouldn’t take to long to find out if the 8-0 team has returned. Watch for players maintaining their assignments, good ball security, and responding to good plays by the opponent with solid execution of the game plan. I’m mainly referring to the offense here, because the defense already has reverted to what we expect. It again pitched a shutout in the second half of last Saturday’s game, allowing only 55 yards and 2 first downs by the Army offense.
I would expect the boring version of the Falcon offense, plenty of power runs and dives with interspersed outside pitches. OC Mike Thiessen might dial up an early rollout for Larrier for a short completion and a shot of confidence.
I think the defense will come out strong, trying to take advantage of their strong pass rush to get QB Schager rattled when in the pocket. Hawaii has not been much of a running team this year, averaging 2.7 yards per attempt. FB Emmanuel Michel himself has as many carries as the entire running back position for the Rainbow Warriors. The key will be to upset that passing attack.
DraftKings has the current line for this game as Falcons -19 with an over/under of 47 points, implying a score of 33-14. I expect the Falcons to play pretty conservatively on offense, so I’m not expecting the Falcons to cover the spread and I think the defense will come out with a chip on it’s shoulder, so I predict a score of 24-7.