On Saturday evening in Manoa in front of an attendance of 13,739 fans, the Rainbow Warriors could not overcome critical mistakes and a creative Stanford Cardinal offense. An off-season spread of +10 Warriors shrunk all the way to +2.5 around kickoff, signaling the Warriors had a chance to upset Stanford. In the end, the talent gap that continues to grow between the power conferences and non-power conferences played a role at Ching Stadium.
Penalties and ejections
While Stanford’s talent advantage was clear, Hawaii shot themselves in the foot repeatedly. 10 penalties for 107 yards, several of them being timely penalties in which pass interference or roughing the passer extended drives that Stanford ultimately cashed in on.
Safety Meki Pei and linebacker Isaiah Tufaga both had targeting penalties that led to ejections, two key players for the Hawaii defense. No excuses here, the Warriors were outplayed by a better team, but Hawaii gifted the Cardinal too many opportunities in key moments.
The running game needs work
One of the positive things about the run-and-shoot offense: it tends to fill the stat sheet even if the game flow isn’t favoring the Warriors. Quarterback Brayden Schager finished with 355 passing yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. Albeit on 55 passing attempts, of course, but Hawaii found success through the air even if inconsistent.
Stanford linebacker/edge David Bailey had three sacks on the evening, Stanford put plenty of pressure on Schager with only four rushers at times. This is nothing new, one drawback of the run-and-shoot offense can be how exposed the quarterback is at times. Schager will have to learn to get the ball out quickly.
Running back Tylan Hines, a team captain, has 15 rushing yards on 9 carries through two games. The caliber of opposition must be noted, but Hawaii will want the running game to improve as the season goes on. Relying purely on Schager throwing the ball will back the offense into a corner.
The highlight of the game for the Warriors was wide receiver Karsyn Pupunu’s circus catch in the first half, when he caught a long pass off of a deflection. Pupunu is from Lahaina on Maui, he’s lost family to the tragic wildfires. It was heartwarming to watch him have this highlight moment, hopefully more to come.
Stanford will be fun going forward
I’ve been following Hawaii football for much of my life, and I swear Hawaii just cannot defend tight ends. Stanford tight end Benjamin Yurosek finished the game with 138 receiving yards on 9 catches with one touchdown. He proved very difficult to stop for the Warriors.
Credit Stanford, who began the weekend learning that their sports programs will be playing in the ACC going forward. Former Sacramento State head coach Troy Taylor promised to bring an exciting offense to Stanford and through one game appears poised to deliver on that promise. Their play design was impressive and quarterback Ashton Daniels is going to annoy Pac-12 defenses for one season.
It was clear that the difference between Hawaii and Stanford was in the trenches. It’s hard to judge too harshly, Hawaii will not be playing Power 5 (4? I don’t know anymore) opposition every week, but it was obvious Hawaii was at a talent disadvantage.
With eyes on an upset, this was a disappointing reality check for Hawaii. Still, there were bright spots. Wide receiver Pofele Ashlock had 114 receiving yards and two touchdowns, he is off to a blazing start as a freshman and has a shout for being Hawaii’s best player. Freshman Alex Perry also played well; the future is very bright for this young receiving corps. It was good to see Koali Nishigaya get involved, he fits well into this run-and-shoot system.
Hawaii will stay on the island this week and face Albany of the FCS. The Great Danes pushed Marshall to their limit in a 21-17 loss. Kickoff is at 6:00 pm HT on Saturday, September 9th.