Hawai’i Football: Who’s on the 2024 schedule & how does it look?

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 29, 2024 | SCHEDULE UPDATED MAY 30, 2024

HONOLULU – The University of Hawai’i football program, in conjunction with the Mountain West Conference, revealed the 2024 football season schedule for the Rainbow Warriors Thursday morning that features 12 regular season games, three bye weeks, the new Pac-12/Mountain West crossover game and much more. 

In 2023, UH played a 13-game schedule and finished 5-8 overall, just missing out on bowl game eligibility in year two under Timmy Chang. The ‘Bows will play a completely different slate of non-conference opponents while only seeing four repeats from the Mountain West schedule this year as the conference works with the overall realignment in college football that impacted the remaining Pac-12 teams.

Below is a quick week-by-week breakdown of the 2024 Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors’ football opponents with dates and game locations included. 

WEEK 0 – vs Delaware State (August 24) 

Last season record: 1-10 | All-time record vs Hawai’i: 1st Meeting 

Hailing out of the FCS, the Hornets finished last in the MEAC (Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference) in 2023 after posting just one win and losing all five conference contests. It’ll be Year 2 of the Lee Hull rebuild of the Delaware State program as the former CFL wideout and Patriots’ training camp invitee looks to incorporate 13 new signees, six high school prospects and seven college transfers. 

The first-time opponent of Hawai’i returns most of last year’s extremely-youthful roster while adding key pieces like UNLV transfer WR Jordan Jakes and former 5-star QB recruit D’Wan Mathis – the later of whom previously spent time with Georgia backing up Stetson Bennett before transferring to Temple in 2021. 

WEEK 1 – vs UCLA (August 31) 1:30 PM HT • CBS

Last season record: 8-5 | All-time record vs Hawai’i: 4-0 

The ‘Bows will look for their 1st win in program history over the Bruins as UCLA visits UH for the first time since 1939 for the Poi Bowl at Honolulu Stadium. Hawai’i and UCLA have played twice since the turn of the century, both in Pasadena and both 3+ TD wins for the Bruins. 

UH will serve as first-time head coach and former UCLA All-American DeShaun Foster’s first game as HC for the Bruins. The former NFL standout spent the past seven seasons as the RBs coach for his alma mater, was promoted to associate HC ahead of the 2023 campaign and took the full-time gig after Chip Kelly’s February departure. Under Foster’s tutelage, UCLA has led the Pac-12 for two straight years but lost leading rusher Carson Steele to the NFL draft. The Bruins will still have RB T.J. Harden, who completed his sophomore season right behind Steele with 827 yards and 8 rushing TDs. 

WEEK 2 – BYE (September 7) 

WEEK 3 – at Sam Houston State (September 14) 1:OO PM HT • ESPN+

Last season record: 3-9 | All-time record vs Hawai’i: 1st Meeting 

The second of two first-time opponents for UH, the Bearkats will be participating in their second FBS season and first that it is eligible for the postseason. Sam Houston began to figure things out to end last season, winning three of the final four games in 2023 as they competed as members of Conference USA. 

Hawai’i serves as the home-opener for the Bearkats as Sam Houston hits the road for the opening two games of their slate. Sam Houston received six CUSA player honors, placing three players on the all-freshman team while also returning DB Da’Marcus Crosby – one of the program’s two 1st-team all-conference defenders from last year. 

WEEK 4 – vs Northern Iowa (September 21)

Last season record: 6-5 | All-time record vs Hawai’i: 0-1 

The 2nd FCS opponent on UH’s 2024 schedule, the Panthers worked through a difficult slate last year to finish above .500 with two wins over ranked FCS opponents and five total ranked opponents. Northern Iowa will see Dylan Raiola and Nebraska in Lincoln before traveling to Honolulu to take on the Rainbow Warriors for the second time ever. 

UNI is led by longtime head coach Mark Farley, who ranks second amongst active coaches in FCS wins with 180 and has guided the Panthers to winning seasons in 19 of the 23 years he has been head coach, developing 40 NFL players in that time. He is *almost* as legendary as the great Stan Sheriff, who spent 23 years as UNI’s head coach for football before becoming the school’s athletic director for another 13 calendar changes. Sheriff is in both UNI and UH Hall of Fames, serving as Hawai’i’s athletic director for 10 years as well before his passing.  

*Note: If Hawai’i wins versus both Delaware State and Northern Iowa, only one of the victories will be counted towards bowl eligibility requirements. * 

WEEK 5 – BYE (September 28) 

WEEK 6 – at San Diego State (October 5)  2:00 PM HT • CBSSN

Last season record: 4-8 | All-time record vs Hawai’i: 22-9-2 

Some déja vu here for Hawai’i, who has dropped the last four meetings against SDSU with the most recent matchup ending in a 41-34 home loss for the ‘Bows while coming off of a bye week back in October of 2023. The ‘Bows have historically struggled in San Diego, sitting at 3-11 all-time while visiting the Aztecs, but will look for some revenge as they get a do-over of sorts from last season against a rebuilding San Diego State program under new head coach Sean Lewis. 

It’ll be the UH defense, newly under the watch of longtime coaching veteran Dennis Thurman, who will especially circle this one. The ‘Bows allowed 21 points in the 4th quarter of that 2023 loss to the Aztecs and hope to begin the Mountain West portion of the schedule with a resounding response one year later while changing the series’ historical narrative. 

WEEK 7 – vs Boise State (October 12) 5:00 PM HT • CBSSN

Last season record: 8-6 | All-time record vs Hawai’i: 15-3 

The 2023 season was a strange one for Boise State, but one that ended in a record fifth overall Mountain West title and the conference-best fourth championship game behind over 300 rushing yards. The Broncos did it under the leadership of then-interim head coach Spencer Danielson, who won the final three games of the year (including the MW title game against UNLV) before being elevated to the full-time head coaching position. 

Boise State will be boosted by On3’s highest-rated Mountain West recruiting class since 2002 with 28 total players being added to the defending conference champions. The most notable is former 5-star recruit and USC transfer QB Malachi Nelson, the 13th-rated high school recruit in the class of 2023. The 6-foot-3 redshirt freshman will likely compete for the starting job for the Broncos after previous starting QB Taylen Green transferred to Arkansas this offseason. 

WEEK 8 – at Washington State (October 19) • CW

Last season record: 5-7 | All-time record vs Hawai’i: 2-3 

Taking the place of Hawai’i visiting Air Force, the ‘Bows will head to Pullman instead as part of the Pac 12/Mountain West alliance (agreement? partnership?) that sees all MW teams playing one of Oregon State or Washington State during the conference schedule. The programs haven’t met in 15 years – the last matchup was September 12, 2009 – but both sides have something to prove after five-win seasons. 

It’ll be a matchup of young, third-year head coaches as WSU head coach Jake Dickert and UH head coach Timmy Chang face off. Hawai’i has struggled on the road over the past two seasons and Dickert sits a game under .500 after his couple years as Pullman’s main man. The Cougs have a couple Hawai’i connections on the roster in DBs Kapena Gushiken and Tanner Moku. Gushiken is a KS-Maui graduate and transferred into WSU after two seasons at Saddleback College while Moku is a KS-Kapālama alum who is the younger brother of former UH offensive lineman Kaiwi Chung (‘18). 

WEEK 9 – vs Nevada (October 26) 

Last season record: 2-10 | All-time record vs Hawai’i: 12-13 

Another team with a change in the lead chair, Nevada hired Jeff Choate as the 28th head coach in program history back on December 4, 2023, replacing Ken Wilson after serving as the co-defensive coordinator at Texas for the past three seasons. The Wolfpack won’t be Choate’s first head coaching job at the college level, though. The longtime football coach spent four years as the head man at FCS Montana State, leading the Bobcats to back-to-back playoff appearances in his final two seasons. 

This matchup is always fun for multiple reasons, perhaps none bigger than the connections between the two programs. Defensive tackle Dion Washington made the flip in the transfer portal from the Wolfpack to the ‘Bows this past offseason while Hawai’i’s head coach Timmy Chang spent a few seasons with Nevada before taking over his alma mater’s football program. Nevada also started redshirt freshman QB A.J. Bianco for eight games last season as the former Saint Louis standout battled for the position all year.

WEEK 10 – at Fresno State (November 2) 

Last season record: 9-4 | All-time record vs Hawai’i: 25-20-1 

The Bulldogs looked like the Mountain West favorite through the non-conference schedule in 2023 with a perfect 4-0 start and winning four of their first five conference games – and then the wheels fell off. Fresno State lost the final three regular season games, crushing conference hopes, before salvaging the end of the year with a win in the Isleta New Mexico Bowl over NMSU, 37-10. 

Hawai’i didn’t play the Bulldogs in 2023, last meeting in Fresno in 2022 – Chang’s first season. This could be a particularly good measuring stick game to show how far Hawai’i has come in a couple seasons against one of the conference’s typical powers. The matchup also pits the Mountain West’s top two passing touchdown leaders against each other in Hawai’i senior Brayden Schager (26 TDs in ‘23) and Fresno State junior Mikey Keene (24 TDs in ‘23). Preemptively take the over in this one. 

 WEEK 11 – vs UNLV (November 9)  4:00 PM HT • CBSSN

Last season record: 9-5 | All-time record vs Hawai’i: 14-19 

One of the four rivalry trophy games, it’s the “Island Showdown” Trophy on the line. The Rebels took the rivalry trophy back last season with a 44-20 win over Hawai’i as UNLV turned into the “Runnin’ Rebels” with 307 yards on the ground while the ‘Bows went 1-of-11 on 3rd down. 

It’ll be a much different UNLV squad coming to the islands after redshirt freshman QB Jayden Maiava transferred to USC this offseason and former starter Doug Brumfield retired from football. That doesn’t mean the Rebels will be in trouble in year two under 2023 Mountain West Coach of the Year Barry Odom, who recruited and gained the commitment of Holy Cross graduate transfer QB Matt Sluka – an FCS standout that totaled 29 total TDs, over 1,200 yards rushing and more than 1,700 yards through the air in his senior season. The 6-foot-3 dual-threat quarterback should be an excellent fit in Brennan Marion’s “Go-Go Offense” that saw great success last season. 

WEEK 12 – at Utah State (November 16) 

Last season record: 6-7 | All-time record vs Hawai’i: 12-5 

The fifth and final of Hawai’i’s opponents that made a bowl game in 2023, the Aggies have won seven consecutive matchups with the Rainbow Warriors and the last three in Logan, Utah. In fact, Hawai’i is just 2-6 on the road against USU since 1957.  As the ‘Bows look to switch back to an FBS contender again, this can be a statement of sorts on the road. 

Utah State finished just a game ahead of the Rainbow Warriors in 2023 and could be one of the key swing games for Hawai’i’s bowl hopes in Chang’s third year. There will be some NFL-level receiving talent on display in this one as Utah State’s All-Mountain West 1st-Team receiver Jalen Royals and Hawai’i’s 2nd-Team All-Mountain West receiver Steven McBride both returned to their respective programs. That doesn’t even mention UH’s Freshman All-America selection Pofele Ashlock, who led the team with 83 receptions last season while hauling in nine scores, tied with McBride for tops on the team. 

WEEK 13 – BYE (November 23) 

WEEK 14 – vs New Mexico (November 30) 

Last season record: 4-8 | All-time record vs Hawai’i: 11-16 

The loss at New Mexico last season ended up being a crushing blow to the bowl chances of Hawai’i as the Lobos were one of three teams to finish below the ‘Bows in the final conference standings. There’s a chance that this season’s bowl hopes will rest on this final regular season game and the Rainbow Warriors don’t want to repeat history. 

New Mexico will be the fifth team with a new head coach that Hawai’i faces in 2024 as Bronco Mendenhall takes over the program in his return to the Mountain West. The 57-year-old was BYU’s head coach for 11 seasons, beginning in 2005. He compiled double-digit wins in five of those seasons with the first one coming in year two. Mendenhall was also 2-0 in his time at BYU against Hawai’i with a win at home and at Aloha Stadium. The ‘Bows will have to expel former demons all the way through the end of the year for bowl opportunities.