The Manoa mist descending on Clarence T.C. Complex was heavier than usual. Consider that Hawaii’s Saturday opponent, the Albany Great Danes, had just narrowly missed upsetting FBS opponent Marshall the previous week, and it would have been hard to fault fans for feeling like the stage was set for a potential upset. While there were bumps in the road, Timmy Chang’s team showed off some competitive resilience and defeated Albany 31-20 to pick up the team’s first win of 2023.
Discipline issues persist
Protecting the football and disciplined play has eluded Hawaii to this point in the season. The Spectrum broadcast picked up a sequence during the game where Timmy Chang appeared to be scolding safety Peter Manuma. Maybe he was inviting him to his birthday party in animated fashion, I don’t know, but it certainly looked like a tongue-lashing. A personal foul penalty by Manuma extended an Albany drive that led to points for the Great Danes.
Hawaii had 11 penalties on the evening, and it was a focus for Chang in his press conference that these issues need to be addressed. Too often the Warriors are hurting themselves.
Turnovers continue to be a problem
On top of the variables listed in the opening paragraph, if I had appeared in-person from the future and notified fans that Hawaii would lose the turnover battle against Albany, a sense of dread would have filled the stadium...along with confusion over how I arrived from the future. Brayden Schager threw three interceptions on the evening, each killing promising drives. Schager finished 23-40 for 266 passing yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. It wasn’t his best performance, although he and his wide receivers came through when it mattered late in the game.
Hawaii rushed the ball for 113 yards. Not impressive by any means, but notable considering how dormant the running game was prior to this game.
Hawaii did enough to win on offense, but Schager and company will want to decrease the turnovers, miscues, penalties, etc. if they want to improve on last year’s record.
The defense showed improvement
Albany quarterback Reese Poffenbarger showed off his legs against the Hawaii defense, it was known that this would be a factor, but credit the Warrior defense that largely stymied the Great Danes all evening.
Poffenbarger finished with only 93 passing yards, while the Great Danes running game had 124 rushing yards on 36 carries.
Hawaii defensive lineman Ezra Evaimalo had two sacks along with three tackles for loss and is quietly emerging as the D-Line menace Hawaii desperately craves. Safety Peter Manuma, personal foul withstanding, had a solid performance as well leading the team with 7 solo tackles.
Freshman nickel Elijah Palmer is emerging as a playmaker, picking up an interception off Poffenbarger. He’s poised to be a factor going forward.
One special teams note: credit wide receiver Karsyn Pupunu for blocking an Albany punt. He is making an impact no matter where he plays on the field.
Football games against FCS opposition can be tricky. These programs often use these “buy games” to fund their programs, but it also serves as their Super Bowl as they attempt to knock off supposed superior opposition. Not this time, Hawaii wins and does a better job against the Great Danes than Marshall did.
Speaking of buy games, next up for Hawaii is a trip to Eugene, Oregon to take on the ranked Oregon Ducks. Oof. The game starts at 2 p.m. HT on the Pac-12 Network