Flying into New Mexico for Week 7, the Rainbow Warriors have an ugly 2-4 record. After starting off the season 2-1, which included an amazing effort against Ohio State, UH has dropped three straight. They now sit second to last in the West Division.
Redemption for the 2015 season is not completely out of question. So far the Rainbow Warrior's opponents have a record 22-14; that includes UC Davis' 1-6 record. In fact no FBS team that Hawaii has played thus far has a losing record. Their remaining schedule has just one team with a winning record, Air Force.
In the past three weeks, the coaching staff got a real hard look of what ails this team. There is still time to get things right and talent is present on this team to make a push for a bowl game. THERE STILL IS HOPE GUYS!
In order for this hope to remain, Hawaii must come into Albuquerque and beat the New Mexico Lobos. Let's take a look at some things this team will need to get right tomorrow.
Protect the Quarterback: Tomorrow Hawaii will put their porous offensive line against New Mexico's ferocious defensive line. The Lobos get 3.17 sacks per game (11th in nation) while the Rainbow Warriors give up 2.5 sacks per game (86th in nation). We don't need the stats to tell us how bad the line has been. It seems that Wittek gets punch drunk towards the end of most games. There have been times where he had time to make a throw but rushed anticipating pressure resulting in an inaccurate throw. No offense can do well with a quarterback being haunted of blindside hits past. It might be worthwhile for the coaching staff to consider keeping extra blockers in to help keep their gunslingers upright.
Hawaii cannot afford to allow shots on their QB like this one.
Get Things Going Early: UH has only scored first once this season and that was six weeks ago against Colorado. Don Bailey needs to get Max Wittek or Ikaika Woolsey going early. He needs to call plays to get easy completions to generate some rhythm. It will also help to try and get the run game going. I can't believe that I am saying this but it might help to put in Steven Lakalaka. As boring of a runner as he is, his heavy style might be beneficial to soften up the UNM defense. With a collective completion percentage of less than 50% and the New Mexico pass defense ranked 65th, the way to attack might be on the ground. If Wittek can't get things going by half it might be time to revert to the 2014 tandem of Woolsey and Lakalaka. Both should provide a boost to the struggling run game of the Rainbow Warriors.
Stop the Rush: Hawaii has been horrid at stopping the rush. The team ranks 115th allowing 231.5 yards on the ground per game. The Lobos' offense moves the chains on the ground, which ranks 11th with 262.4 yards per game. Quarterback Lamar Jordan leads the team with 433 rushing yards and 3 touchdowns. He was benched in favor of Austin Apodaca last week but all signs still point towards Jordan remaining the starter. Jhurell Pressley leads a trio of running backs with 369 yards and 3 touchdowns. Teriyon Gipson and Richard McQuarley are the remaining pieces to the trio and have combined for 382 yards and 6 touchdowns. These four form a formidable ground attack. They are the focal point of everything that the Lobos do and the Rainbow Warriors must sell out to stop them.
Containing Lamar Jordan will be a tough task.
Make the Lobos Loco: If you can stop their run attack the Lobos will have a hard time moving the ball through the air. They are one of the few teams that rank lower than Hawaii in passing offense. They also rank low in pass efficiency at 115th (105.66) and have completed only 54.2% of their passes. Both Lamar Jordan and Austin Apodaca have contributed to the pedestrian passing numbers this season.
Jordan provides the home team with his fantastic athleticism and will no doubt create some highlight reel plays. He will more than likely be the starter tomorrow. Apodaca is supposed to be a better passer as his skill set was originally recruited for the pass heavy offense at Washington State in 2011. However his game has not shown up like the UNM coaches would have wanted. Bottom line is, who ever starts tomorrow probably won't tear apart the secondary. UH must force them into passing downs and let the pass rushers like Luke Shawley run wild.
Bits of Hope:
- If the team can win tomorrow they will improve to 3-4. The last time the team started with a 3-4 record (2008) they went bowling.
- UH was shut out in their three trips to the mainland this season. They have never been shut out in four games in a single season in the history of the program.
- The four losses that UH have were against top 25 ranked teams in total defense.
- The Rainbow Warriors are 6-3 when playing games in the state of New Mexico. This included wins in the last three trips to the state.
Numberfire opened with Hawaii getting 3.5 points but has since increased to 5.5 points. They are picking New Mexico with 5.5 point disadvantage right now. It's hard for me to go into tomorrow with a lot of conviction with any prediction I may have for the Rainbow Warriors but it must be done. I think the Lobos will strike first as Hawaii has struggled to score first, doing so only once. The Bows will come on slowly but surely and ultimately squeak out a 3 point win.
Final score will be 24-21 Hawaii.