“Must-Win”; ‘Bows understand importance of non-conference finale against Aggies

“Must-Win”; ‘Bows understand importance of non-conference finale against Aggies

Hawaii’s Brayden Schager, left, passes against Oregon during the first half in Eugene, Ore. Sept. 16, 2023. Credit/© Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard/USA TODAY NETWORK

“Must-Win”; ‘Bows understand importance of non-conference finale against Aggies


HONOLULU – There was no stuttering from the ‘Bows following their Tuesday morning practice regarding the mindset going into Saturday’s matchup versus New Mexico State (2-2). The Aggies, a team that Hawai’i (1-3) has historically had the number of before falling 45-26 in Las Cruces during the ‘22 season, have been on the mind of UH since then due to the embarrassment they felt. 

It’s been a feeling that’s been multiplied in the past few days as well, after a 55-10 shellacking against at-the-time #13 Oregon left the ‘Bows humbled as they put the metaphorical axe back to the grindstone. (Oregon moved up to #10 in the nation in the most recent CFB rankings) 

Hawai’i enters the weekend with an opportunity to pick up some positive momentum ahead of Mountain West conference play, taking on a quality New Mexico State team in the 12th meeting all-time between the two programs, and a chance to wash away the sour taste left by a pair of games on the minds of the ‘Bows. 

“These are must-wins for us,” Hawai’i head coach Timmy Chang said of the schedule before his team’s Week 6 bye. “We have to play better; we’ve got to execute. [NM State] is a good team, [Aggies head coach Jerry Kill] got those guys going early on in his first year there [in 2022]. That’s a good 2-2 team that going to come in and challenge us and we’ve got to answer the call.”   

Kill (who has a track record of turning programs around for the better) has been great for the Aggies, going 7-6 in his first season at the helm for New Mexico State. Prior to his arrival, the Aggies had never beaten the ‘Bows in 10 tries while giving up over 40 points in eight of the contests. In his first try versus the Rainbow Warriors, Kill’s unit held UH to just 26 points while running all over the defense. 

The visitors out of Conference USA come to Honolulu after an exciting 27-17 win over in-state rival New Mexico and looking to reach above .500 during the regular season for the first time since 2014. While the Aggies have twice finished the season at 7-6 since then, both of those seasons finished 6-6 ahead of Bowl season and never would reach a winning mark during the 12-game slates. 

With high stakes for both sides looking to build strong programs in the G5 world of FBS college football, Hawai’i will look to the past for help while New Mexico State hopes to keep the recent times rolling under head coach Kill with the program’s first ever win in Honolulu. 


Tale of the Tape – ‘Bows beat Aggies again & again, until they don’t 

As alluded to, before 2022 it was the Rainbow Warriors’ dream to see the Aggies on the schedule during the fall. For 10 straight games, the ‘Bows would defeat New Mexico State behind a potent offense like it was their job. When the whistle blows Saturday, Timmy Chang and company hope to bring shades of those games back to fans in attendance now. 

For Jerry Kill’s Aggies, they’ll look to continue business as usual after the only meeting between the programs with the current head coaches went the way of the Conference USA members. While it was just one matchup, it’s a game that has even QB1 for the ‘Bows still thinking about how they needed to be better. 

“I left out of there really embarrassed,” Hawai’i QB Brayden Schager recalled of the 2022 matchup. “I thought it was all around just a bad game, we didn’t play well on any phase of the ball.” 

The Aggies ran for 357 yards and five touchdowns, gashing the Hawai’i rushing defense repeatedly last year. That has been a common trend for the matchups, as NMSU has averaged 245 yards rushing across the last three meetings between teams. The Aggies also scored on a TD on 5-of-6 first half drives, compared to a measly 10 points from UH in the first 30 minutes of play. 

“We definitely still have that sour taste in our mouth from last year,” Schager added. “I think that’s something everybody remembers this week – just how bad that game was.” 



Players to Watch – Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors 

Brayden Schager – QB (Jr.) 

I don’t care.  

You are going to listen to my reasoning why he’s on the list again and you will LIKE IT. 

Jokes aside, this week pits a pair of offenses off to an electric start in 2023 with a duo of QBs that rank inside the nation’s top 15 of passing yards and passing touchdowns. Of the two, Hawai’i’s Schager ranks higher with the third-most yards through the air in the nation with 1,103 yards while coming in at number four of all QBs with 11 passing TDs. 

We’ve seen the good – like leading the nation in passing yards for a few weeks to start the season while continuing his streak of games with at least 1 passing TD – the bad (tossing a pair of back-breaking picks against Vanderbilt), and the ugly at times this season from the junior signal-caller. 

Despite struggling against Oregon last week, Schager bounced back late with a touchdown to redshirt freshman Alex Perry to close the game on the right foot. It was important for the quarterback to do after going against (arguably) the best defense the ‘Bows will face all season. According to PFF, Schager had 4 turnover-worthy plays and was held without a big-time throw for the first time all season. 

Against the Aggies, it’ll be important for the gunslinger from Texas to get back to his production levels over the first three games of 2023. That means completing the easy ones underneath – sure – but also means the offense needs a healthy dosage of “Schager Bombs” to succeed. 

He’ll also need to take care of the football. He has thrown an interception in three of Hawai’i’s four games so far and is third nationally with six picks tossed this year. That’s part of what happens when you throw it as much as the Rainbow Warriors do. This season, Schager has thrown 34 more times than the next closest QB (Sheduer Sanders, 137) and saw three INTs in the same game – the ‘Bows 31-20 win against UAlbany. He has shown stretches of taking excellent care of the ball. 

In what is expected to be another pass-happy game with the Aggies’ aerial attack coming into town, Schager will get yet another chance to put up some eye-popping numbers this weekend. For the ‘Bows to win however, he’ll need to keep those notable statistics on the positive side of the books. He’s got a decent chance, too. The Aggies have yet to intercept a pass through four games. 

Pofele Ashlock – WR (R-Fr.) 

After two extremely productive games to begin his college career saw him get over the 100-yard receiving mark twice to go along with three trips to the endzone, Ashlock has seen a dip in production over the past couple of weeks. 

Against UAlbany, the 6-foot-1 wideout caught four passes for 74 yards and was held out of the endzone for the first time in his college career. Facing national-powerhouse Oregon presented different issues, as the redshirt freshman was able to catch eight balls but was held to his lowest yards output of the year with just 47 yards. 

He’s shown an ability to get open against even the top corners he has faced this season and should have another high-volume day of targets on Saturday. His speed and fluidity on the field has been a weapon through four games and a return to the endzone would boost the ‘Bows offense again. NMSU’s defense has given up five passing touchdowns in four games. 

He should have time to work deep as well while the UH offensive line protects against an Aggies’ unit that has mustered less sacks than games played in 2023 (three sacks, four games). Put together those factors and “Schager Bombs” – on the rocks to Pofele Ashlock – could be flying all over Manoa once again this weekend. 

Peter Manuma – S (Soph.) 

An All-Mountain West honorable mention in his true freshman season, Manuma has had an interesting start to his second college campaign. While productive with the second-most tackles for the defense this season, Manuma has yet to create a turnover for the ‘Bows. That was something he excelled at in his debut year with his hometown school, totaling two forced fumbles and two interceptions over 13 games.  

On top of that, Manuma has struggled with some untimely penalties that extended opponent drives through the first few weeks of 2023 to the point where he felt the need to address it himself following the UAlbany game. 

Under coach Kill, the Aggies have enjoyed a successful passing attack with dynamic plays of their own. While they are no “Schager Bombs”, New Mexico State has averaged almost 18 yards per completion this season, good for sixth-best nationally. Additionally, NMSU has complied a total of 11 plays through the air of 25+ yards, showing a propensity for the big shot at any time. 

All that to say, Manuma should get a chance to make some plays this coming weekend versus a team that likes to air it out nearly as much as the ‘Bows do. For the Rainbow Warriors to get back to winning ways against their CUSA foe, Manuma being impactful against the Aggies’ passing game is paramount. 


Players to Watch – New Mexico State Aggies 

Diego Pavia – QB (Jr.) 

In his first year under center for the Aggies, Pavia showed off an ability to do a little bit of everything in Kill and crew’s offense. The transfer from New Mexico Military Institute (who quarterbacked the Broncos to a 2021 NJCAA National Championship) led the Aggies in passing yards (1,450) and finished second in rushing yards (508) while contributing 21 total touchdowns (13 pass, 8 rush) to a 7-6 season and bowl win in 2022. 

He’s started his second year with home-state NMSU strong, tossing eight TDs and four INTs in four games so far and is among the top 15 in passing yards with 918 yards. His legs have continued to pose an issue for opposing defenses, averaging about five yards per carry and racking up almost 200 additional yards on the ground for the Aggies. 

His four interceptions are interesting, after he threw just six picks across 12 games last season. Part of that is an added aggression in the offense this year. Pavia has nearly doubled his yards per game passing from last season while taking some deep shots to a talented cast of skill position players. 

It will be vital for the ‘Bows to contain Pavia’s ability to run around and make something happen on a broken play. Should they be able to keep things in front of themselves defensively, Hawai’i could challenge an otherwise aggressive aerial attack. 

Jonathan Brady – WR (Soph.) 

The Aggies’ version of Ashlock, Brady is one of 20 receivers across the nation in Division I football to compile a pair of 100+ yard receiving games already. Those two performances have come in the past three weeks, sandwiching a –7 yard outing between 102 and 109-yard games.  

Brady lines up mostly inside the numbers in the slot, meaning he could see former high school teammate Elijah Palmer across from him. The pair helped national powerhouse Bishop Gorman to the Nevada state championship in 2021 when Brady was a senior and Palmer was a junior. That is a good thing, as the ‘Bows could use any advantage to stopping the Aggies’ offensive weapon they can get. 

While he can burn you with his speed (his longest reception this season was 80 yards), he is someone who gets a lot of touches. He will get a few carries to run the ball from time to time but is equally dangerous returning the ball as he is lining up at wideout. Expect to see him try to use his speed in the kick return game to try and win the hidden yards for the Aggies. 

He’s also matched his TD output from last season already with three scores in four games. In his true freshman season, the Bishop Gorman-product totaled three TDs in 13 games (9 starts) for New Mexico State. Pavia will look to the 5-foot-11 shifty receiver early and often – he leads the team with 16 targets and 10 receptions – when he is in trouble because of what the pass-catcher can do with the ball. Of his 252 receiving yards this season, 146 have come after the catch. 

It’ll be important for the ‘Bows to slow down the speedster if they want to get back to their winning ways against NMSU. 

Star Thomas – RB (Jr.) 

While much of the conversation in this piece has been regarding the passing attack expected to be on display Saturday in Honolulu, it would be foolish not to mention the Aggies’ leading rusher in Star Thomas after NMSU made it look more like Ruidoso Downs Racetrack than a football game in 2022. 

The Aggies rushed for over 300 yards against Hawai’i last season and had five rushing TDs to boot. Thomas chipped in 144 of those yards and a score himself and has started off his junior season strong by averaging about six yards per carry to the tune of 195 yards rushing and three scores. 

Part of that is due to the offensive line put together for the team, seeing four returners from last season build from where they left off. So far in 2023, the Aggies’ O-line has ranked among the top-10 units nationally by allowing just three tackles for a loss or less each time out. Physical and athletic, the UH defensive line will have their hands full. 

If the ‘Bows want to avoid a repeat of last year and not allow the Aggies to get their first win ever in Honolulu, they will need to key in on shutting down the rushing attack and allow the corners to create turnovers when NMSU becomes too aggressive. If New Mexico State gets the ground game going, it will be a long, frustrating night for the ‘Bows. 


What-2-Watch-4 & Final Thoughts – New Mexico State @ Hawai’i 

Two teams enter this matchup with a similar thought in mind: 

“This one is winnable.” 

After a loaded non-conference schedule for the ‘Bows included three Power 5 opponents, a Group of 5 opponent does not look as daunting on paper. With that said, Hawai’i enters the game below .500 against a team that is starving to get into the positive when it comes to record. It will be no easy feat for either side, meaning little things will decide the outcomes and big moments late – per usual. 

Some keys and quick notes before the ‘Bows host the Aggies to close out the non-conference schedule. 

  • It’s a family reunion! Hawai’i OL/RB Solo Vaipulu and brother A.J., who plays OL for New Mexico State, will get a chance to suit up against each other (kind of). Solo has transitioned from a key cog along the ‘Bows O-line to being a versatile chess piece for Chang to use on offense as an extra blocker or receiver. His brother, A.J., has been a strong piece for that good unit the Aggies have, though the younger Vaipulu has been penalized three times this season. 
  • Going against a team from a similar conference size, can the ‘Bows get their own ground game going? We’ve seen how dangerous Schager can be when he’s in rhythm, slinging it around to the numerous offensive weapons Hawai’i has. Tylan Hines has been banged up to begin the year and has faced some massive defensive lines that clogged up holes quickly. Will an increased bill of health for the backfield help launch the Rainbow Warriors towards the over once again? 
  • Speaking of health, can Hawai’i be semi-whole again? Season-ending injuries aside, UH has dealt with a bevy of injuries to key players for every phase of football. Top CB Cam Stone has missed the last two games and is still working his way back. Hines didn’t play last week versus Oregon. Various others have also managed pain with soft-tissue tweaks in practice. How healthy can Hawai’i get before the weekend? 
  • Win the turnover battle, win the game. This one will likely be high scoring and fun with plenty of splash plays for both sides. Can Hawai’i copy the gameplan from the UAlbany win and create some defensive turnovers while improving the overall turnover margin? Schager will need to take care of the ball and continue the Aggies’ wait for their first pick of 2023. 

After a somewhat shocking loss last season and a tough outing last week, Saturday against New Mexico State can’t come soon enough for the University of Hawai’i football team. For the Aggies, it is a chance for Kill and Co. to show off that this isn’t your grandpappy’s New Mexico State football team. 

The game will be broadcast on Spectrum Sports with kickoff scheduled for 6:05 p.m. HT on Saturday, September 23. The University of Hawai’i at Manoa welcomes back father and son Tom (UH ‘80) and Tuma Tuinei (UH ‘18) to campus for a chance to visit with fans and will honor the duo between the first & second quarter. The Rainbow Wahine basketball team will be honored during the opening quarter for their back-to-back Big West championships and release the 2023-24 schedule. At halftime, NFL Flag Football Hawai’i will hold a five-minute scrimmage between two teams. The Rainbow Wahine tennis team will be honored during the third quarter for their regular-season and tournament titles from last year. 

Gates will open at 3 p.m. for “Kickoff at the Les”, featuring free ice cream in honor of National Ice Cream Cone Day with music from The Vitals. There will also be concessions available for fans, along with an upgraded Keiki Zone for Youth Night and Heineken Beer Garden among other things. 

Reminder that parking passes for lower campus must be purchased in advance for the game. 

Duck Hunting: ‘Bows hit the road for battle with 13th-ranked Oregon

Duck Hunting: ‘Bows hit the road for battle with 13th-ranked Oregon

Duck Hunting: ‘Bows hit the road for battle with 13th-ranked Oregon 


HONOLULU – It wasn’t particularly pretty, but the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors came out of last Saturday with the team’s first victory of the 2023 season. Timmy Chang’s squad worked for the 31-20 win over a scrappy UAlbany Great Danes squad, holding the FCS squad to just three points in the second half after being tied at 17 coming out of halftime.  

The ‘Bows tallied their first two defensive turnovers forced of the season, one in each half of play to swing the momentum in Hawai’i’s favor. Elijah Palmer, the true freshman DB from Bishop Gorman, drew first blood of the year for the ‘Bows turnover–hungry defensive unit. LB Noah Kema, who entered for senior LB Logan Taylor after the defensive captain went down with an ACL tear, had a big-time fumble recovery returned 41 yards to help Hawai’i seal the game. 

In big moments, UH was able to overcome both adversity and errors to come away with a win. It was an important one for the ‘Bows to get too, as they now hit the road at 1-2 overall to play nationally-ranked Oregon in Week 3 of the college football season. 

It’s been a great start to the year of the 13th-ranked Ducks, leading the nation in scoring with 59.5 ppg after their 81-point explosion against Portland State to begin the season was followed up with an exciting 38-30 comeback road victory over Texas Tech last week. It’s just a continuation of success at what has become a powerhouse of a program over the past few decades under different coaches. 

The newest head man in charge of the Ducks’ program is Dan Lanning, who is in his second year at the post after totaling a 10-3 record in his debut season as the 35th head coach of Oregon Ducks’ football. He has come in and continued to roll as each coach in Eugene has this century and has had a nice start to the ‘23 season even with 63 new faces on the roster. The Oregon program currently holds the longest home winning streak in the nation against unranked opponents with 31 consecutive victories. To put into perspective, the Ducks have had seven different head coaches since the last home loss to an unranked opponent back on September 20, 2008 versus Boise State. 

Standing in the way of the Ducks and their final season of Pac-12 play is just one more non-conference game hosting the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors. The ‘Bows are looking to get to .500 for the first time this season and complete one of the bigger upsets in recent memory for the program. The ‘Bows haven’t beaten a top-15 ranked opponent since taking down Alabama in November of 2002 and have never beaten a top-15 ranked program on the road. 


Tale of the Tape – Old Time Rivalry Renewed 

Just the eighth meeting between the programs, there is a history between the rivalry of the 20th century. Much like two weeks ago versus Stanford, you’ll have to dust off the ol’ record books to find the last meeting between the programs. Coming back in September of 1994, the ‘Bows beat the Ducks in Honolulu, 36-16. Hawai’i has won the last three contests (‘88, ‘92, ‘94) between the programs after Oregon won the first four meetings (1921, ‘28, ‘29, ‘69). 

Obviously, it’s been nearly 30 years since the last time the two teams squared off on the gridiron. Much has changed in that time, as Oregon has seen remarkable growth in continuous success in becoming a national powerhouse while Hawai’i has played the on-again-off-again national darlings of the late-night CFB slot. 

Just because the dog in the fight got bigger doesn’t mean that the ‘Bows will be backing down. Head coach Timmy Chang shared that in his comments to the media earlier this week, talking about his message to the team of going to play good football and not backing down to anyone. It’s a tall order, but the ‘Bows are looking to fill it. 


Players to Watch – Hawai‘i Rainbow Warriors 

Brayden Schager – QB (Jr.) 

Maybe you’re tired of seeing his name on the list each week. Perhaps it’s obvious that the player that touches the ball the most of almost anyone on offense is someone you “should watch out for” in every game. 

My counter is – okay, fair point. 

An actual counterpoint – Schager has consistently been one of the most must-watch players to develop over the last year in the scheme. In his sophomore season, he won a starting QB job under a staff that did not recruit him and that could’ve gone to a veteran to get them over for a couple years. He threw for just under 2,350 yards and 13 touchdowns across 12 games for the ‘Bows in ‘22. 

He has started this year with a bang, throwing for 10 touchdowns in just three games so far and checking in just below 1,000 yards through the air in that same span. At his current pace, Schager would finish the season with over 4,200 yards passing and 43 touchdowns, which would put him in the top-10 single-season record books at UH for both (43 TDs would be good enough for 2nd-most ever, behind Colt Brennan’s 58 TDs in 2006). 

Now, the mistakes have been there as well for the junior from the Lone Star State. In the first three games, he had two multi-interception games en route to five total picks thrown in three games. If that pace continues, he would challenge his own head coach’s single-season record for interceptions (Chang had 22 INT in his ‘02 season). 

Will he continue to put up the same numbers he did across the first three games? Time will tell, but there are things to see in the meantime. Can he cut out the negatives? He has set new career-highs in each game played this season but also has had turnovers and trouble getting the ball out at times to make his play look less shiny. 

He has shouldered the critisism through a couple of years of figuring out if he was the next “guy” for Hawai’i. Now that he is, he’s showing off all the reasons why he won that spot. If he can cut down on turnovers, the narrative around him will shift towards the positive. 

He has got a cannon of an arm. He has a good connection with his teammates. He takes accountability and wants to be better each game. Against #13 Oregon, he will get his best chance to show off to the bigger stage that he has arrived at last. The 13th-ranked Ducks team has an elite defensive unit that can cause turnovers as well. Test time. 

Noah Kema – LB (Sr.) 

One of the players expected to step in to fill the void left by senior defensive capitan LB Logan Taylor after he went down with an ACL tear, Kema came up with a fumble recovery in the ‘Bows win over the Great Danes just a week ago. The former JUCO star-turned-Rainbow Warrior made his mark on special teams last season but now steps into a bigger role (with the rest of the room) to make up for the intangibles and production Taylor brought. 

Kema has manned a nationally-competitive defense before, back in his time at Snow College in Utah. The Badgers went to the NJCAA title game in spring of 2021 (playing what was the 2020 COVID-season), falling to #1 Hutchinson, 29-27. Kema recorded nine tackles in the national championship loss for Snow before transferring to Hawai’i. 

With plenty of snaps, experience leading defenses and a tendency of flying all over the field, Kema gives UH defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro an athletic chess piece to use next to Isaiah Tufaga. He won’t be the only one to get those snaps and opportunities, but after coming up big against UAlbany he should be someone that gets a chance to take hold of that job in Taylor’s absence. 

Against a strong offense in Oregon, it’ll also be important for the ‘Bows to wrap up and tackle. PFF had Kema with one missed tackle against UAlbany, something that the ‘Bows have struggled with from parts of games this season. Also expect to see some opportunities for another Bishop Gorman product in true-freshman LB Jamih Otis, who saw playing time last week against the Great Danes. 

Virdel Edwards II – CB (Sr.) 

It seems Cam Stone will be out again for the ‘Bows on Saturday, marking two straight weeks that UH will have to see the “next man up” again. Luckily, it is the ‘Bows deepest defensive position group, as we saw JoJo Forest step in without missing a beat last week against UAlbany. 

It’s a tough ask this week against a talented Oregon offense with multiple options (much like the ‘Bows enjoy on their offensive attack), but one player sticks out among the rest in WR Troy Franklin. We’ll get to him more later, but the wideout has a touchdown catch in his last six games and will certainly be someone often mentioned Saturday night in Eugene. 

That’s where the Rainbow Warriors de facto #1 corner comes in, as Edwards had himself a nice 2022 campaign and quietly has been productive through three games this season. Part of that is opportunity, as he has matched up with some offenses’ favorite targets. Nonetheless, he’s been a consistent finisher of tackles and provided a stop to get off the field on third down against Pac-12 member Stanford in Week 1. 

If the ‘Bows hope to pull off one of the biggest upsets in program history, they’ll need Edwards to bring his hardhat and soft catching hands on Saturday to create some chaos against a steady Oregon defense. 


Players to Watch – #13 Oregon Ducks 

Bo Nix – QB (Sr.) 

The most experienced quarterback in all of college football with 49 starts under center, Nix returned to Oregon for a fifth season of collegiate football. After an up-and-down career in the SEC at Auburn, Nix enjoyed a renaissance in 2022 at UO while showing off flashes of dynamic dual-threat quarterback play. 

Before a late-season injury slowed the momentum, Nix was dicing up defenses in ways nobody else in the country could. He was the only player in the country last season to record at least 3,500 passing yards, 500 rushing yards, 25 passing TDs and 10 rushing TDs, putting up multiple scores in 11 of 13 games. 

That dual-threat ability is something that the ‘Bows have struggled with in the past. In 2022, Mike Wright from Vanderbilt tore apart the Hawai’i defense on the ground and through the air in the first game of the Timmy Chang era. It will be important for UH to not only keep Nix behind the line of scrimmage with his legs, but also try to pressure him and record sacks. 

It’s easier said than done, getting sacks against this Ducks’ offensive line. Despite having to replace four starters from last year’s unit, Oregon has given up just one sack and five total quarterback hurries in two games thus far. The ‘Bows struggled to get pressure against Stanford, not recording a sack during the contest, but were able to get Vanderbilt QB AJ Swann to the ground three times in Week 0. 

It may not be feasible to get game-changing “sacks” with the mobility of Nix, but the Rainbow Warriors’ defense needs to limit his running room after he pulls the ball down.  

Troy Franklin – WR (Jr.) 

Previously mentioned, the junior wideout has caught a touchdown pass in six consecutive games while recording at least one reception in the last 19 games he has played in. A big-time key to their offense and a safety-valve for Nix to throw to, the 6-foot-3 target has been phenomenal the past two seasons after giving the world a sneak preview of what he could do his first year at college. 

His sophomore season finished with him being selected as an all-Pac-12 second-team selection, catching 61 balls for a team-high 891 yards and nine TDs (which was tied for the most of all Pac-12 receivers) in 13 starts in 2022. He has continued with a hot start to 2023, going over 100 yards receiving in each of the Ducks’ first two games along with three TD catches so far. 

He’s someone that the Ducks will look to get involved in both the short and deep game, as the junior from California has shown in two games this season. He had a long of 72 yards last week at Texas Tech on one catch, but also chipped in five more receptions outside of the one long play. 

If the ‘Bows want to keep it close, they need to limit Franklin’s opportunities as much as possible and key in on him when Oregon crosses the 50 especially. Hawai’i has the talent on the outside to match up and compete, it’s up to the players to heed coach Chang’s advice and not back down to the challenge.  

Jeffrey Bassa – ILB (Jr.) 

Bassa came to Oregon as a defensive back before making the switch down into the box, where he has now stepped up into a vocal leadership role at inside linebacker. He’s the Ducks’ leading tackler among returners and had at least five tackles in each of the last four games of 2022. 

He has stepped it up a notch in 2023, as evidenced by his monster performance in Oregon’s comeback road win over Texas Tech. The junior led the way with nine tackles (1 TFL) and put the dagger into the hearts of Texas Tech fans with a 45-yard pick-six with 35 seconds left to put the Ducks up by eight. 

He recorded three picks over the previous two seasons and as a player who should be involved in a lot of the action for the Ducks’ defense tonight, look for him to try and take advantage of an aggressive gunslinger in Hawai’i’s Schager. It’ll be crucial for the ‘Bows QB not to stare down targets over the middle or the former DB-turned-LB for the Ducks will take advantage. 


What-2-Watch-4 & Final Thoughts – Hawai’i @ #13 Oregon 

Last second thoughts and keys to look for as Hawai’i tries to pull off the biggest upset of the Timmy Chang era so far. 

  • Turnovers will be key in this one. Oregon does an excellent job taking care of the football, much like the ‘Bows last opponent in UAlbany does. Hawai’i was able to create two defensive takeaways against the Great Danes, helping offset an up-and-down day from Schager. It’s key that the defense does that again while Schager plays closer to his Stanford game in terms of protecting the ball. It’ll be tough, as Oregon has posted a +5 in turnover margin to begin ‘23. 
  • With Cam Stone likely out again, it’s another week of a depleted room for the ‘Bows defense. Troy Franklin and a trio of transfer WRs for Oregon might be licking their chops to get after a less-proven group, but they should be careful what they wish for. Despite the loss of Stone, the talent in the room is still there to compete. Edwards II has the size to match Franklin and Elijah Palmer has continued to piece together great game after great game in his true freshman season. 
  • Oregon’s rushing attack features a three-headed monster, which spells trouble for the ‘Bows. In three games, Hawai’i has been so-so against the run, sandwiching a poor showing against Stanford with two solid showings in Week 0 and 2. The Rainbow Warriors have to try and take away something from this Oregon offense, and if the rushing attack is going for the Ducks, it’ll be a long night for the ‘Bows. 
  • Strength versus strength, Hawai’i’s receivers have been incredibly productive through three games but now go up against a stout Oregon passing defense. The ‘Bows offensive line will need to provide Schager with time, but it’ll be important for receivers and the QB to be on the same page against a defense hungry to create chaos. 

Hawai’i is coming off their first win of the season, but there was a feeling of “we can do better” from players and coaches alike postgame. A wonderful time to fix a lot of the little issues that persisted through Week 2 is in a nationally-recognized matchup against a strong Oregon unit. 

It’s a tall ask for an upset but keep an eye on how the ‘Bows fight in this one. Oregon just came off one scare last week and could see another if all things can click for Hawai’i. Little things and little wins against an opponent now can pay dividends in conference play. 

You can watch the game on the Pac-12 Network, with kickoff scheduled for 2 p.m. HT (5 p.m. PST) on Saturday. 

‘Bows beat Great Danes: Three Takeaways from Hawai’i’s Week 2 win over UAlbany

‘Bows beat Great Danes: Three Takeaways from Hawai’i’s Week 2 win over UAlbany

‘Bows beat Great Danes: Three Takeaways from Hawai’i’s Week 2 win over UAlbany


HONOLULU – On the board. 

Timmy Chang’s Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors picked up their first win of the 2023 season on Saturday, taking down the UAlbany Great Danes, 31-20. 

It was an up-and-down game; one might even call it a “dog fight” for most of the contest for the level of physicality and competition on display. 

(It’s me, I would call it a dog fight) 

After a hard-fought, roller-coaster ride of a contest for the ‘Bows, here are three takeaways from the first win of the season and heading into a tough Week 3 road contest against #13 Oregon.  


1. The ‘Bows are banged-up, and they may have to face their best competition of the season without some of their defensive stars

It was a nightmare second half for Hawai’i defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro, but not at all because of the on-field product of his defense. The ‘Bows totaled four sacks for a loss of 43 yards, including two on the Great Danes’ final drive, and tallied the first two forced turnovers of the season with true freshman Elijah Palmer’s first career INT and LB Noah Kema’s 41-yard fumble return that helped Hawai’i seal the game. 

In all, the ‘Bows defense gave up just 13 total points (UAlbany’s Larry Walker Jr. intercepted Hawai’i QB Brayden Schager in the second quarter and returned it for a touchdown) in the win against the Great Danes. So why was it a nightmare second half? 

Four different injuries to every level of the Rainbow Warriors’ defense blanketed the final 30 minutes of the night. In all, DL Fo’i Sila, DT John Tuitupou, DB JoJo Forest and LB Logan Taylor were all forced to leave the contest with varying degrees of injuries. Forest started in place of the injured Cam Stone, who suffered a knee injury late against Stanford in Week 1, and performed admirably in his absence while on the field. 

The two worst-looking injuries were to Sila and Taylor. Sila, the defensive lineman, had to be carted off the field and left with a towel covering his face while exiting on the back of the cart. Taylor, the “spiritual leader” of the ‘Bows, went down holding his left knee after a non-contact injury and was quickly spotted on crutches over on the sideline afterwards.

Tuitupou’s injury is an interesting case as well, as the senior DT currently has the longest streak of consecutive games started of any current UH football player after making his 16th straight start on Saturday. Hawai’i head coach Timmy Chang was unable to give any updates regarding the statuses of the players after the game. 

As they head to Eugene, Oregon to take on the 13th-ranked Ducks, the ‘Bows will almost certainly be without a few defensive starters while dealing with nagging injuries everywhere else. 

2. The rushing attack might just end up alright, but health will be vital going forward

Continuing our trend of medical talk, Chang revealed postgame that star sophomore running back Tylan Hines has been dealing with a nagging injury, calling the back “banged up” in his availability after the game. That would make some more sense to All-Mountain West honorable mention’s slow start to his second year, who came into the contests with just 28 total rushing yards over 14 carries. 

Hines, injured and all, rushed for a season-high 30 yards on just four carries before the coaches leaned on the fresher legs of sophomore Jordan Johnson and senior Nasjzae Bryant-Lelei for the remainder of the night. 

Johnson enjoyed a career-best showing, going for 76 yards over 11 carries to lead the ‘Bows on the night. Coming into the game, Johnson had totaled just 69 yards on 12 carries in 5 appearances last season before more than doubling his career output. 

Bryant-Lelei, who had suffered an injury early on during training camp that had sidelined him up until this past week’s practices, returned with the same bruising style fans have known to love from him. The senior running back had 35 yards rushing in eight total touches on the night, a nice workload as “Mojo” (as he is known by the team) works to get his mojo back. 

Last season, it felt as though the identity of UH offensively was built on the rushing attack. While that has clearly changed this season (Brayden Schager has totaled 972 yards and 10 TD passes in three games), it will be important that the running attack continues to see success similar to what it saw Saturday night against UAlbany. It was the first time this season that the ‘Bows have eclipsed over 100 total yards rushing, though there has not been a UH running back to record a score yet this season. 

For the triple-digit production to continue and the scoring stat to change, it is vital that health begins to wrap the metaphorical arms around the ‘Bows RB room. 

3. It may not have looked like it, but these ‘Bows are learning to win tough

Okay, maybe you read this takeaway and roll your eyes. Perhaps you believe the same thing, that this team that overwent a massive overhaul of personnel just two offseasons ago with both players and coaches, the one that went 3-10 last season, needs to learn how to win the close games and Saturday was a step towards that.  

Taking a closer look, the ‘Bows lost four conference games by one score in 2022, two of which were at home. It’s a little bit of coach-speak, but in those games, the little things matter way more than the name suggests. In three of those games, Hawai’i did not force a defensive turnover and lost the turnover battle. 

While the ‘Bows did not win the turnover battle Saturday night, they did force the first two turnovers of the season for a UAlbany squad that has been particularly good at taking care of the ball for the past two years. Palmer’s INT of Great Danes’ QB Reese Poffenbarger was just the fifth total interception the 2023 Walter Payton Award preseason watchlist member’s UAlbany career. 

Hawai’i also lost the total offense battle in three of those four one-score losses from ‘22, even twice finishing with less rushing yards than their opponents despite a strong offensive line and a running identity. This season, back in the Run-N-Shoot that Hawai’i is known for, they have fared far better offensively and finally out-rushed their opponents in their Week 2 victory. 

It seems like small things, but winning the rushing game and overall offensive attack while being aided by some defensive turnovers quickly add up to victories. Pulling out a game that was tied at halftime is a tough feat, no matter the opponent. Next up, they need to clean up the penalties and turnovers, especially against a nationally-ranked opponent hosting them next week. 

It’s why they play the games instead of simulating through paper and names, though. When competitors get on the field, it is about the little things. Those who learn to win those areas learn to win games. Saturday was the ‘Bows first step in showing they can do that. 

Both fresh and familiar faces help ‘Bows pick up season’s first win against UAlbany

Both fresh and familiar faces help ‘Bows pick up season’s first win against UAlbany

Both fresh and familiar faces help ‘Bows pick up season’s first win against UAlbany 


HONOLULU – It took a little longer than expected but with the help of both new names and the usual suspects, the University of Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (1-2) picked up the team’s first win of the season Saturday night with a 31-20 victory over visiting UAlbany. 

The Great Danes (1-2) out of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) entered the contest fresh off an upset bid that came up just short in Week 1 on the road against FBS Marshall and a hunger to finish the job against their second FBS opponent in as many weeks. 

It was the Rainbow Warriors striking first, though, blocking a punt on the opening Great Danes possession after forcing a three-and-out to set the offense up deep in Albany territory. A drop and two short runs followed, resulting in UH having to settle for a field goal and an early 3-0 lead. 

After the teams traded a pair of fruitless drives, UAlbany jumped ahead for the first time on the legs of sophomore QB Reese Poffenbarger, taking a QB read option 41 yards to the house for the game’s first touchdown. The 2022 CAA Offensive Rookie of the Year had a 54-yard touchdown run in last week’s loss to the Thundering Herd for UAlbany. 

Hawai’i looked to answer back quickly, as junior QB Brayden Schager found WR Pofele Ashlock for a catch-and-run that went for 53 yards and set the ‘Bows up at the Albany 17-yard line. It was just the start of volatile night for the QB though, as Schager tossed his first interception of the night three plays later, trying to get the ball to Solo Vaipulu on a screen pass that Great Danes’ LB Dylan Kelly tipped and came down with for the pick. 

The Rainbow Warriors answered back with an interception of their own on the ensuing possession, as true-freshman DB Elijah Palmer came up with his first career pick on a deep shot by Poffenbarger. It marked the ‘Bows first defensive turnover forced in the 2023 campaign and shifted the momentum back to the host Hawai’i.

They built on that momentum with a nine-play, 74-yard scoring drive capped off by the return of senior WR Jonah Panoke to the field with a 4-yard TD catch. A fun way to celebrate, it was the birthday boy’s first touchdown catch of the season and second of his career that put the ‘Bows up, 10-7, with nine seconds left in the opening quarter. 

UAlbany showed off the defense a bit in the second quarter, as Larry Walker Jr read the eyes of Schager perfectly and returned the Hawai’i quarterback’s second INT of the night to the house for six and the lead, 14-10, with 11:20 left in the first half. 

The ‘Bows answered back in the best way that they know how: Schager to Steven McBride for a score. Driving 62 yards across seven plays in less than three minutes, Hawai’i re-took the lead after the two connected for the third consecutive game for a touchdown – this time a 30-yard catch McBride was able to haul in for a 17-14 UH advantage with just over three minutes left in the half. 

Hawai’i looked like they had gotten to halftime with the lead, but a personal foul called against Peter Manuma helped extend the half and put the Great Danes into field goal range. UAlbany kicker John Opalko stepped up and drilled one from 46 yards out to send the teams into the halftime break, tied at 17. 

The ‘Bows re-took the lead on their second possession of the second half, continuing the trend of Chang being ultra-aggressive on fourth down so far this season with a 4th-and-6 ‘Schager Bomb’ down the right sideline to sophomore WR Jalen Walthall. The wideout hauled in the deep shot with one hand – while being interfered with – to catapult Hawai’i to a lead with 6:10 left in the third quarter that they would not relinquish. 

It wasn’t due to a lack of effort from UAlbany, as Great Danes’ DB Aamir Hall intercepted Schager at the ‘Bows own 21-yard line and Opalko drove home a 32-yard FG to make it a four-point game with just over 18 minutes left to play. 

Three straight turnovers-on-downs (Hawai’i-UAlbany-Hawai’i) began the final quarter of play, ending up with a possession for the Great Danes starting in ‘Bows territory. UAlbany drove the ball down to the Hawai’i 17-yard line before a holding penalty backed up the visitors and a fumble picked up by ‘Bows LB Noah Kema flipped the momentum back in favor of the hosts. 

Schager promptly provided the knockout blow, finding McBride in the endzone for the second time of the night to go up, 31-20, with 3:20 remaining for UAlbany to work with. On an up-and-down night for the junior from Dallas, Texas, the gunslinger finished on a high-note with a new career-high four TD passes to put the game away. 

UAlbany QB Reese Poffenbarger finished with 93 passing yards, going 10-of-31 passing on the night with one total touchdown and one interception. The pick thrown by Poffenbarger was the first turnover of the season for the Great Danes. Linebacker Dylan Kelly had a game-high 13 total tackles (11 solo) and an interception in the loss. 

The Great Danes head to Baltimore next week, taking on Morgan State in hopes to get back on track after a pair of losses where their upset try came up short. 

In an overall up and down night for Schager, the junior QB finished 23-of-40 for 266 yards and a career-best four TD passes to go along with three interceptions. McBride continued his early season golden touch, hauling in seven passes for 72 yards and a pair of scores. The Kansas transfer has scored at least once in every game this season for the ‘Bows. 

Pofele Ashlock paced the receiver room with a game-high 74 yards receiving on just four catches. It was the first time this season that Ashlock had not scored a touchdown and eclipsed 100 yards in a game. Senior WR Jonah Panoke celebrated both his return to the field and birthday with four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown. 

Hawai’i also got the running attack going, led by sophomore Jordan Johnson’s career-high 76 yards on 11 carries while Nasjzae Bryant-Lelei ran for 35 yards over eight carries in his return from an injury suffered in training camp. A banged-up Tylan Hines also rushed for 30 yards on just four carries for the Rainbow Warriors. 

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for the ‘Bows, seeing multiple players exit with injuries throughout the second half of play. The defense was massacred by the injuries; among those who left hurt were DL Fo’i Sila, DB JoJo Forest, DT John Tuitupou and LB Logan Taylor. 

Forest had started in relief of injured CB Cam Stone, who left against Stanford with a knee injury, and played well throughout the night with four tackles and three passes broken up before exiting. Sila was carted off the field in clear anguish, while Tuitupou suffered a lower-leg injury that he was able to walk off on his own. Taylor, the ‘Bows defensive captain and “spiritual leader”, went down with a non-contact left knee injury that will likely hold him out going forward. 

Hawai’i heads to the continent next Saturday to take on #13 Oregon, who had to hold off an upset bid this past weekend while visiting Texas Tech. The game will kick off at 2:00 p.m. HT and the TV feed will be broadcast on the PAC-12 Network. 

A win is a win, even if it was ugly at times. For a team like the Rainbow Warriors, it’s no time to be picky about the “how” – they’re finally learning to win the little moments late. Now it’s time to clean up everything else. 

‘Bows look to escape doghouse against scrappy visiting Albany Great Danes

‘Bows look to escape doghouse against scrappy visiting Albany Great Danes

‘Bows look to escape doghouse against scrappy visiting Albany Great Danes


HONOLULU – Two games in, it hasn’t been the start to the season Hawai’i football was looking for. 

Progress and potential oozes from everywhere on the field for the ‘Bows, as dynamic weapons on offense like Steven McBride and Pofele Ashlock continue to make plays in both practices and games while putting up numbers that compete for tops in the country after two weeks. The defense added bigger and faster athletes in the offseason, including a couple transfers who have already put fingerprints all over the positive moments from the first pair of games in CB Cam Stone and DL Kuao Peihopa. 

The Rainbow Warriors even have the nation’s leader in passing yards in junior QB Brayden Schager, who followed up a career-best level game in Week 0 with an even better performance against Stanford. He’s up to 706 passing yards and six TD passes through two weeks, just one season after it took UH quarterbacks nine games to reach the same number of passing TDs.  

All that sounds wonderful, but it has still resulted in zero wins and two frustrating losses. That is not an outsider’s perspective either. UH edge rusher Andrew Choi said as much on Tuesday, sharing how the team felt as though it had opportunities come away with a pair of wins but “too many mental errors [and] too many mistakes” sank the ‘Bows. 

While there is no time machine to go back and fix the mistakes already made, Hawai’i will get another chance to right the wrongs from the first two weeks of the season as they host the Albany Great Danes of the FCS on Saturday at Clarence T.C. Ching Field. It will be the first meeting ever between the two programs when the action kicks off at 6 p.m. HT in Manoa. 


Tale of the Tape – First Meeting Between ‘Bows and Great Danes

Like previously stated, these two programs have never met. The Great Danes, who hail from the Coastal Athletic Association (formerly the Colonial Athletic Association), enter the Week 2 matchup against the ‘Bows having already experienced a W this season after dismantling Fordham in Week 0. 

That season-opening performance saw Albany rack up 10 sacks, a number that remains the same after the team failed to take down the QB in last week’s loss at Marshall. Leading the way and setting the program’s single-game sack record with 4.0 sacks of his own against Fordham was senior defensive lineman Anton Juncaj, the reigning CAA defensive player of the week as the Great Danes set up to take on their second FBS opponent in as many weeks. 

Speaking of that FBS school, Hawai’i has enjoyed considerable success against FCS programs this century. Since 2001, the Rainbow Warriors have won 19 straight matchups versus the Football Championship Subdivision by an average of 26.7 points per matchup. In 15 of the last 16 seasons, UH has played at least one FCS program. 

The ‘Bows may have won bunches against similar programs, but they would be wise to take caution with the Great Danes coming to the islands. Albany enters Week 2 off a loss to a quality FBS program in Marshall, leading the Thundering Herd into the fourth quarter before falling late. The Albany defense held Marshall scoreless through two quarters, entering halftime leading 3-0. 

The Hawai’i football program likely has more overall talent than this Albany team, but the ‘Bows are still a young unit trying to learn how to win. That complicates things more than veteran-led teams with track records of success at the college level. 

Saturday presents another prime opportunity for Timmy Chang’s team to register their first win of the season and jump-start their learning curve on how to win. 


Players to Watch – Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors

Steven McBride – WR (Sr.) 

McBride enters Saturday tied with Pofele Ashlock for the team lead in touchdown catches, each hauling in three TDs in two weeks so far. While Schager has shown a tendency to spread the ball around with a bevy of offensive weapons at his disposal, the wideout duo has separated themselves above the rest as the go-to targets when it comes to scoring looks. 

It’s been Ashlock with two games over 100 yards receiving so far, twice being named the Mountain West’s freshman of the week to kick off his career for the ‘Bows. The redshirt freshman developed a connection with his fellow Texan in Schager that teams will have to take notice of going forward. 

The same could be said for McBride, even though some might think of him as just a “Schager Bomb” threat. The 6-foot-1 pass-catcher had a quiet first half against Stanford before finding some space in the second half and coming down with a spectacular touchdown catch to begin the fourth quarter for UH. Otherwise, the Cardinal did a nice job limiting downfield opportunities for the speedster after his torching of the Vanderbilt secondary.

Week 2 presents a new challenge for McBride and the ‘Bows against a stingy Albany defense allowing 17 points a contest. The Great Danes have yet to allow a 100-yard receiver this season and recorded the team’s first interception of the season last week against Marshall. Hawai’i didn’t have a turnover in Week 1 but had a pair of giveaways against Vanderbilt in the season opener. 

McBride is a big-play threat on any snap. The question becomes if the ‘Bows can get him free as he continues to break out after transferring from Kansas. 

Elijah Palmer – DB (Fr.) 

The true-freshman defensive back from Bishop Gorman is part of the first group of the fresh pipeline between the Nevada prep football powerhouse and Hawai’i, cultivated by UH LBs coach Chris Brown. It’s easy to see why the whole staff is excited about the future of the pipeline after early returns. 

Palmer started his first game for the ‘Bows in the home-opener against Stanford and rewarded the coaches with seven tackles, good for second-most among Rainbow Warriors defenders in the 37-24 loss. The slot corner could be found involved in plays all over the field last Saturday night, finishing with UH’s second-best coverage grade via PFF of the night. 

The only player better than Palmer for the ‘Bows in coverage was Stone, who left late in the Stanford loss after suffering a knee injury on a special teams return. While Stone tweeted out that he was okay the next day, the defensive back is questionable going into this weekend’s matchup. 

Should the Hawai’i coaching staff decide to rest Stone while he recovers and works back towards 100%, it’ll be important for the rest of the corner room to step up in his absence. Luckily for the ‘Bows, corner is arguably the team’s deepest position group with Virdel Edwards II leading the way and JoJo Forest continuing to put together a solid senior season. 

Palmer may be tasked with defending electrifying junior Albany wide receiver Ray Alexander, who tallied a pair of touchdown catches in Week 0 against Fordham and has proven to be extra quick through his time returning kicks for the Great Danes. If Palmer can help keep Alexander at bay and continue his quick adjustment to the college game, the ‘Bows will be in a good spot. 

Logan Taylor – LB (Sr.) 

Taylor finished with a team-high 85 tackles in 2022, filling in admirably after fellow LB Isaiah Tufaga went down with an injury that didn’t allow him to return for the rest of the season. The 2023 defensive captain led UH in tackles in each of the final six games of the season while Tufaga recovered from injury. 

After an ejection from a tough targeting penalty in the second half of the ‘Bows loss to Stanford, Tufaga is forced to miss the first half of the next contest. Once again, it’ll be Tufaga out and Taylor taking control of the middle of the field for “the Lion’s Den” against the Great Danes. 

It will be important for the Rainbow Warriors to not just start quick offensively but also hold Albany’s offense at bay. Although head coach Greg Gatturo did not make the trip for the Great Danes, the visitors will be in good hands with associate head coach and offensive coordinator Jared Ambrose calling the shots. 

When Ambrose was first introduced as part of the staff, Gatturo said that he had been impressed by the energetic Ambrose’s “ability to utilize his personnel to attack defenses based on strength of his players,” and added that the former Delaware offensive coordinator “understands the importance of a strong and consistent run game.” 

With an athlete at QB for the Danes who is unafraid to run and a coach who will remain committed to the run to tire out defenses, it’ll be paramount that Taylor continues to be the communicator and leader in the middle for Hawai’i with Tufaga out. 


Players to Watch – Albany Great Danes 

Anton Juncaj – EDGE (Sr.) 

As mentioned before, the defensive edge rusher comes into the contest against Hawai’i as the reigning CAA defensive player of the week. The 6-foot-3 senior tallied four sacks against Fordham in Week 0 before chipping in three tackles against Marshall. 

The ‘Bows have seen some issues in sack numbers, giving up nine total in two games so far and six in last week’s loss to Stanford. On top of that, UH’s rushing attack has been slow to begin the year after playing a pair of Power 5 opponents. 

If Juncaj is able to get similar penetration against the Rainbow Warriors like he did against Fordham, it could be a long day for the running game once again and Schager could be forced to move around more than Chang and company would prefer. 

It does provide a chance for a Hawai’i offensive line, one that saw plenty of fresh faces join it after the 2022 season, another chance to establish itself with a cohesive look after switching to the Run-N-Shoot fully. Juncaj (and company) will look to continue the questions about the Hawai’i run game and pass protection through Saturday night. 

Roy Alexander – WR/KR (Jr.) 

One of the more diverse skill players on the roster, junior receiver Roy Alexander doubles as a solid kick returner for the Great Danes. He has averaged nearly 30 yards per return to start this season and can be one of the main outlets for QB Reese Poffenbarger on offense, helping move the chains on four of his six Week 0 catches. 

Alexander was quiet in Week 1, albeit on only eight snaps where he ran routes against Marshall. That performance doesn’t take any attention away from the 5-foot-10, 200-pound receiver. 

If he is a full-go, look for him to try to impact the game in the little ways and find hidden yards on special teams. If the ‘Bows can limit him in the return game, they have the tools to hold him to a quiet Week 2. If they allow him to get his momentum started on specials and carry over? A performance far like Week 0 could be in store for Alexander. 

Reese Poffenbarger – QB (Soph.) 

The sophomore quarterback transferred to Albany after redshirting his first year at Old Dominion and set the CAA on fire as a redshirt freshman for the Great Danes. In a 2022 season that saw him named as the Coastal Athletic Association’s offensive rookie of the year and all-CAA 3rd-team selection, Poffenbarger threw for 2,999 yards while completing 62% of his passes.  

While his early success was impressive, it was his ability to take care of the ball while allowing the offense to work for him that helped him to the honors. In his first season for the Purple and Gold, he threw 24 touchdowns and only four interceptions in 11 starts. His efforts led him to a runner-up finish for the 2022 Jerry Rice Award, given each year to the top FCS freshman. 

Expectations are there now for the redshirt sophomore. He was given an all-CAA preseason honorable mention for this year and was one of 35 players named to the 2023 Walter Payton Award preseason watch list, an award given annually to the FCS Division I offensive player of the year. 

While his arm and decision-making are each high-quality, the 6-foot signal caller also has the ability to take off and run when the defense allows. Last week against Marshall, he scrambled his way 54 yards into the endzone to put the Great Danes ahead by 10 in the second half. 

A week after struggling to get home against Stanford’s Ashton Daniels, Hawai’i needs to find a way to get pressure against Poffenbarger if they want any chance to force the QB into a mistake for a turnover. 


What-2-Watch-4 & Final Thoughts – Albany @ Hawai’i 

Just a few more things to keep an eye out for, some key storylines and questions as the ‘Bows continue to fight towards their first victory of the 2023 season while welcoming a new foe to the arena. 

  • Is this the week the Hawai’i defense finally forces a turnover? Strange things in sports “are more normal than normal is normal,” if you catch my drift. Albany has a quarterback that took care of the ball better than almost anyone in the country last season going into year two of the scheme, but Hawai’i has a lot of talent in the secondary. Can they bring in an interception, or maybe punch the ball out to force and recover a fumble? Turnovers are a need for a team as aggressive on fourth down as the ‘Bows. 
  • Brayden Schager was able to piece together back-to-back games with no interceptions twice last season. After playing a beautiful game against Stanford taking care of the football, the junior has an opportunity to accomplish back-to-back games without a pick for the first time this season. It’ll be important not to give extra possessions to an Albany team that doesn’t hand out too many free ones themselves. 
  • Who from the WR room has a breakout game this week? It seems that every time the ‘Bows step on the field, another name is producing in the RNS scheme. Against Stanford, it was Koali Nishigaya and Karsyn Pupunu joining in the fun for UH receivers. Before them, Alex Perry, Ashlock and McBride all enjoyed career-best outings against Vanderbilt. Every week, multiple players get a chance to have a big game. Who will it be this week? 
  • Can Hawai’i get Tylan Hines going? The shifty back has gotten praise after a promising freshman campaign but has struggled to get going in the early portion of 2023. He hasn’t gotten a ton of touches, averaging seven carries per contest so far and only gaining a net total of 20 yards. Against an FCS school, can the ‘Bows offensive line open some holes for the lightning-quick back to explode through and spark his season as we creep closer to conference play? 

Hawai’i started the first year of Timmy Chang’s tenure with three straight losses and stare a similar fate in the face if the ‘Bows aren’t prepared to take on an Albany program hungry for an FBS upset after coming up short just a week ago. 

The ‘Bows offense took a little time to get fired up in the home opener in front of over 12,000 fans in white attire. They’ll need to have all cylinders firing at full steam come kick-off Saturday night. 

No more screwing around, no more hurting themselves with penalties. If the Rainbow Warriors expect to compete in a competitive Mountain West, it’s time to start racking up the W’s by winning their 20th straight game versus an FCS opponent. 

The game will be broadcast on Spectrum Sports with kickoff scheduled for 6:00 p.m. HT on Saturday, September 9. It’ll be “Legend of the Run-N-Shoot Night” as the University of Hawai’i at Manoa welcomes back Bryant Moniz, Chad Owens and Greg Salas to campus for a chance to visit with fans and will be honored during the first quarter. Gates will open at 3 p.m. for “Kickoff at the Les”, which will feature a live musical performance by Chardonnay for fans in attendance while working alongside a DJ to keep the party going. There will also be concessions available for fans, along with a Keiki Zone and Heineken Beer Garden among other things. 

Reminder that parking passes for lower campus must be purchased in advance for the game. 

Cardinal Sins: Three Takeaways from Hawai’i Football’s Week 1 loss to Stanford

Cardinal Sins: Three Takeaways from Hawai’i Football’s Week 1 loss to Stanford

Cardinal Sins: Three Takeaways from Hawai’i Football’s Week 1 loss to Stanford 


HONOLULU – The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors fell for the second time in as many games this past Friday, dropping their home opener to the Stanford Cardinal, 37-24. 

Much like the first game of the season for Timmy Chang’s squad, there were many positives to take away from the matchup against Troy Taylor’s team. Unfortunately for the ‘Bows, many of the same issues also persisted through Week 1’s loss after showing themselves against Vanderbilt. 

Without further ado, here are three takeaways from Friday night’s loss to Stanford before Hawai’i prepares to host the Albany Great Danes for Week 2.  

1. The defense is better than last year but needs to start making splash plays. 

Look all around the Hawai’i defense and you will see the new and returning pieces on that side of the ball for defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro and crew. From star defensive back transfer Cam Stone to true freshman corner Elijah Palmer, the newcomers made their presence known all throughout the ‘Bows home opener. 

For some reason, Stanford continued to test the pre-season All-Mountain West honoree Stone through the air. He answered the challenge across 24 coverage snaps, allowing just one reception for nine yards while being targeted five times. Stone finished as the top-graded ‘Bows defender in coverage by PFF, finishing the night with a 71.6 coverage grade and as the 2nd-best overall graded defender for Hawai’i (only behind defensive lineman Jonah Kahahawai-Welch) on the night with a 72.9 overall rating. 

Finishing right behind the senior Stone was freshman Elijah Palmer, a 2023 graduate of Bishop Gorman in Nevada. The Hawai’i staff has been incredibly excited for the newfound pipeline that has been created between the national football prep powerhouse and the ‘Bows program since LB coach Chris Brown left the Gaels and joined UH. Palmer showed why on Friday, earning the 2nd-best PFF coverage grade of all Hawai’i defenders with a 68.8 grade in his first career start for the ‘Bows. The nickel corner was all over the field, totaling seven tackles in the loss – good for 2nd-most among UH defenders. 

It wasn’t all peachy-clean for the ‘Bows. Stanford TE Benjamin Yurosek dominated all night to the tune of a game-high nine catches for 138 yards and a touchdown catch as Hawai’i defenders struggled to wrap up Stanford players all night (11 missed tackles in total according to PFF). 

On top of the struggles to finish plays, it was the second straight week the defense failed to produce an interception or fumble. With an aggressive offense in Chang’s Run-N-Shoot, turnovers are incredibly important to maximize opportunities. Not only were the ‘Bows struggling to get hands on the ball on defense but also struggled getting hands on the quarterback as well. Stanford sophomore QB Ashton Daniels was not sacked a single time Friday night, whereas Hawai’i’s Brayden Schager was taken down six times behind the line of scrimmage. 

Without pressure in his face, Daniels was able to dice up the UH defense in his first start for new head coach Troy Taylor. 

If the ‘Bows are to pull off upsets against bigger programs, it is imperative the defense begins producing turnovers and gets after the quarterback. 

2. Penalties continue raining on the ‘Bows parade 

Undisciplined play is a coach’s nightmare. 

Timmy Chang’s crew struggled with the amount of penalty yardage they gave up in Week 0 to Vanderbilt (7 for 59 yards against Commodores) before nearly doubling that negative output in Week 1 versus Stanford by being flagged 11 times to give the Cardinal 114 free penalty yards. 

Not only did they hand out over a full field’s worth of free yardage, but many penalties also came at inopportune times for the ‘Bows by extending offensive drives for Stanford. The visitors scored 20 points on drives that the UH defense was called for a penalty, including a back-breaking roughing the passer on third down with the Cardinal backed up and Hawai’i within two scores and more than 12 minutes left. 

Add in a pair of targeting penalties that resulted in immediate ejections for a pair of ‘Bows defensive starters and the errors became too much for the team to overcome. 

The defense of the ‘Bows was not the only culprit of sloppy play. The offense and special teams each had blunders that backed up the team just as momentum began to mount for Hawai’i. After falling behind in the first half, 14-7, a holding penalty backed up the offense for a 2nd down needing 20 yards to move the chains. A punt was the result, quickly giving the ball back to Stanford for another touchdown drive to go ahead two scores with less than five minutes left in the second quarter. 

If the ‘Bows want to compete for a bowl this season, the undisciplined penalties need to end rapidly. Albany, who held Marshall scoreless in the first half in Week 0, comes to the island looking for an upset of a program still searching for their first tally in the win column for 2023 and hopes the trend of Hawai’i hurting itself on the football field continues. 

3. Pofele Ashlock will challenge for an All-Mountain West selection by season’s end. 

Gross amounts of negativity to start these takeaways for a team who had lots to smile about following the first two outings of the year. While the Rainbow Warriors sit at 0-2 after two games, junior QB Brayden Schager leads the nation in passing yards with back-to-back career high games, totaling 706 yards to go along with six touchdown tosses to only two interceptions. The return to the Run-N-Shoot has resulted in a pair of games with three or more touchdowns to begin the season, something Hawai’i didn’t accomplish until five games into 2022. 

The biggest of all the positives though must be redshirt freshman wide receiver Pofele Ashlock. 

The 6-foot-1 pass catcher is the first freshman in ‘Bows program history to start their career with back-to-back 100+ yard receiving games and has now been honored twice as the Mountain West Freshman of the Week winner. He gave the world a taste of what could be expected going forward against Vanderbilt, demonstrating a high level of chemistry from fellow Texan Brayden Schager with seven catches for 127 yards and a score in his debut.  

He helped the ‘Bows pick up six first downs himself against Stanford, adding in a pair of touchdowns as he busts onto the college stage. After two games, the wideout leads the team with 15 catches, 241 yards and three scores. He also has been a yards-after-the-catch machine to start the year with 60 yards coming from the creativity of his feet after the reception. 

Ashlock’s 241 yards puts him atop all college wide receivers after Week 1, while his three touchdowns are tied with teammate Steven McBride for third-most in the nation for the season. He also has the most first downs among wideouts with 11 different receptions that have moved the chains so far for Hawai’i this season. 

In an offense with many strong and reliable weapons (and a quarterback that does a nice job spreading the ball around), Ashlock has distinguished himself ahead of the others as a go-to for Schager through two weeks. While McBride has produced, alongside Alex Perry and Koali Nishigaya, Ashlock continues to present issues for opposing defenses trying to shut down the Texas-connection between the WR and QB. The redshirt freshman is a star in the making, so it’s a good thing he’s been watching and talking to some other ‘Bows WR greats.