Hawai’i wins 6th straight Senior Night Game to spoil Colorado State’s bowl hopes

Hawai’i wins 6th straight Senior Night Game to spoil Colorado State’s bowl hopes

Hawai’i wins 6th straight Senior Night Game to spoil Colorado State’s bowl hopes

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED NOV 25, 2023

HONOLULU – The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (5-8, 3-5 MWC) played spoiler on Saturday night, denying Colorado State (5-7, 3-5 MWC) an automatic bowl selection and winning on Senior Night for the sixth consecutive year, using a career-long 51-yard Matthew Shipley field goal as time expired to stun the Rams. 

Below, you can find all the quick hitters of the action from Hawai’i’s thrilling 27-24 win over Colorado State on Senior Night. 


1ST HALF:  

  • Hawai’i wins the coin toss and defers possession to the 2nd half, opening kickoff goes through the end zone for a touchback. Colorado State converts a pair of third downs in Hawai’i territory on the way to the game’s first points, a 21-yard TD run by freshman RB Justin Marshall. 
  • UH’s offense works quickly to pick up a few 1st downs before stalling out near the CSU 40, punting the ball away and bouncing past a Hawai’i gunner into the end zone for a touchback with 7:48 left in the 1st quarter. 
  • Elijah Palmer snags his 2nd INT of the season on a deep bomb from Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi to keep the UH deficit at seven with 4:38 left in the opening quarter. 
  • Hawai’i’s Brayden Schager connects with a streaking Steven McBride to get the ‘Bows out near midfield and Landon Sims dashes inside the CSU 35 on the next play to set up UH’s offense. The ‘Bows overcome an illegal man downfield penalty to score with eight seconds left in the 1st quarter on a 12-yard TD reception by Steven McBride, his 9th TD of the season. 
  • Hawai’i forces a punt, but a UH personal foul penalty on the play moves the sticks for a fresh set of downs for CSU instead. The drive continues after pass interference is called on Elijah Palmer for a free 3rd down conversion to set the Rams up at Hawai’i’s 25. UH’s Cam Stone comes up with a phenomenal PBU on 3rd & Goal to force CSU to settle for a 22-yd FG for a 10-7 Rams’ lead with just over 9 minutes left in the first half. 
  • The ‘Bows respond with a 5-play scoring drive, accented by a 26-yard TD reception for Devon Tauaefa on a double-pass from Schager to Chuuky Hines and into the end zone for the freshman TE’s 1st career touchdown. The ensuing PAT is good and Hawai’i takes a 14-10 lead. 
  • Colorado State drives to the Hawai’i 38-yard line with 1:31 left in the opening half and the ‘Bows defense produces the stop on 4th & 8 to give the offense a chance to double up on points with two straight possessions. 
  • Hawai’i makes it into CSU territory before Matthew Shipley’s 43-yard FG misses wide-right to end the 1st half, leaving the UH lead at 14-10. 

2ND HALF: 

  • Hawai’i receives the opening kickoff and calls for a fair catch, starting the drive at the HAW25. The ‘Bows offense goes three-and-out to begin the 3rd quarter, punting the ball away after just 90 seconds with possession. 
  • CSU’s first possession of the 2nd half comes from the Colorado State 35-yard line, responding with a three-and-out of their own without picking up a single yard during the possession for a single minute. Hawai’i takes over possession at the HAW15. 
  • UH overcomes a 2nd down holding penalty that backed them up deep with a laser from Schager to Pofele Ashlock to move the sticks. The two followed it up with a 41-yard catch-and-run to set the ‘Bows up at the CSU33 after a nice spin cycle by Ashlock left the Rams’ defender in the dust. 
  • Hawai’i finishes the drive with an 8-yard Tamatoa Mokiao-Atimalala touchdown run, the senior’s 1st career rushing TD, to extend the lead to 21-10 in favor of the ‘Bows with 8:24 left in the 3rd quarter.  
  • ‘Bows force a punt, drive inside the CSU5 before the 3rd quarter ends as Schager slices up the Rams’ defense with his arm and legs. When play resumes, an illegal blindside block penalty backs up the UH offense, forcing the ‘Bows to settle for a 35-yard field goal to make it 24-10 with 13:32 left in the game. 
  • Colorado State works quickly, stringing together 1st downs before Fowler-Nicolosi connects with Louis Brown IV on a 17-yard TD reception to cut it to 24-16 with 9:05 remaining in the 4th quarter. The 2-point conversion is NO GOOD, broken up by UH LB Noah Kema. 
  • Hawai’i goes three-and-out, punt the ball back to CSU’s 30-yard line. After being stopped on 3rd & 7 in Hawai’i territory, Colorado State attempted a 53-yard FG that came up way short and kept the UH lead at 24-16 with 4:25 left to play. 
  • After moving into CSU territory, Shipley’s 45-yard field goal try was blocked by the Rams with 2:30 remaining. Colorado State would capitalize by going to their best player, Tory Horton, for a 70-yard catch-and-run touchdown with 54 seconds left in regulation. Horton brought in the 2-point conversion to tie it at 24. 
  • Hawai’i goes 41 yards in 54 seconds, scrambling with eight seconds left and somehow getting off a 51-yard FG as time expired for the win, 27-24.

Hawai’i finishes year two of the Timmy Chang flying high, winning three of the team’s final four games after adopting the mantra of “push the sled” as the defense pulled itself up by the bootstraps to allow 24 points or less in three of the final four contests after holding opponents to 20 or less in two of the previous nine games. 

The ‘Bows finish the season above .500 at home, going 4-3 inside the friendly confines of T.C. Ching Athletics Complex during the 2023 season. The win pushes Hawai’i to 7-7 at home under Timmy Chang over the past two years. The victory over Colorado State saw season-highs for total offense and rushing yards with 497 yards and 151 yards, respectively. 

Brayden Schager finished 30-for-43 passing the ball for 320 yards and a TD, the 20th time in the last 21 games that the QB has tossed for a score and the sixth game over 300 yards passing this year. One of his favorite targets, Steven McBride, moved over 1,000 yards on the season in the middle of the third quarter with a 16-yard reception. McBride is the 24th UH WR all-time to reach the 1,000-yard plateau and first Rainbow Warrior since 2019 to topple over the mark. 

Andrew Choi recorded Hawai’i’s lone sack in his final game as a Rainbow Warrior on Colorado State’s final drive of the night. Shipley’s game-winner was his second of the season, the previous coming against New Mexico State back on September 23. 

In a year of ups-and-downs, ugly moments and rough road trips, the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors stuck together through the toughest times to win three of their final four games and catapult the program into the offseason flying high as one of the best recruiting classes in recent program memory entering Mānoa for Year Three of the #BRADDAHHOOD under Timmy Chang and company. 

Don’t go anywhere, you’re not going to want to miss what’s coming next. 

Long shot bowl odds for Hawai’i no more after 42-9 loss at Wyoming

Long shot bowl odds for Hawai’i no more after 42-9 loss at Wyoming

Nov 18, 2023; Laramie, Wyoming, USA; Hawaii Rainbow Warriors head coach Timmy Chang after the game against the Wyoming Cowboys at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports

Long shot bowl odds for Hawai’i no more after 42-9 loss at Wyoming 

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED NOV 18, 2023

The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (4-8, 2-5 MWC) turned into pumpkins in the 1st half, reverting to an awful October form on Saturday while allowing 35 first-half points to the Wyoming Cowboys (7-4, 4-3 MWC), falling in Laramie, 42-9. With the loss, Hawai’i’s slim bowl hopes were dashed for good. 

In a series that had been known for parity and not having a repeat winner since joining the Mountain West, Wyoming was able to stun UH out of the gate and never allowed them to recover to become the first of the programs to hold onto the Paniolo Trophy for consecutive meetings as MWC members. 

Below, you can find the quick hits of the action from the ‘Bows blowout loss in Laramie. 


1ST HALF: 

  • Wyoming receives the opening kickoff after Hawai’i wins the toss and defers possession to the 2nd half. The Cowboys march down the field in one minute, going 75 yards in three plays to open a 7-0 lead. 
  • Hawai’i’s 1st offensive possession stalls after a delay-of-game penalty makes third-and-manageable into third-and-seven and Schager can’t connect with his receiver. Matthew Shipley pins Wyoming inside its own 15. 
  • The Cowboys strike quicker on the second drive than on the first, as John Michael Gyllenborg takes an Andrew Peasley pass 89 yards to the house. Wyoming extends the lead to 14-0 less than four minutes into the game. 
  • The ‘Bows offense finds some momentum and drives inside the Wyoming 5-yard line before being stopped in its tracks on 4th-and-goal from the WYO2. Cowboys take over with 14-point lead still intact 
  • Hawai’i’s defense able to secure its first stop of the day on 3rd down as Ezra Evaimalo got home to Peasley to force a Wyoming punt to open the 2nd quarter. 
  • The ‘Bows offense goes three-and-out, quickly putting the defense back on the field. Wyoming capitalizes on a fatigued UH defense, going 69 yards in six plays to make it 21-0 with 10 minutes remaining in the opening half of play. 
  • Hawai’i goes three-and-out once again, Wyoming strikes quickly once again. Four plays, 66 yards and a 40-yard TD reception by Wyatt Wieland puts the Cowboys up 28. 
  • After picking up a first down, Hawai’i takes a few deep shots down the field, the last of which is intercepted at the Wyoming 35 and returned inside the Hawai’i 40 to set up the Pokes with the best field position of the day. 
  • The Cowboys capitalized on the turnover three snaps later as Ayir Asante found paydirt on a 6-yard rush to push the lead to 35 with 2:35 left in the 2nd quarter. 
  • Hawai’i’s offense drives deep into Cowboys’ territory before Schager is intercepted for the 2nd time in as many drives, this time in the end zone on a miscommunication with Steven McBride. The ‘Bows come up empty on offense again and Wyoming runs out the remaining clock of the 1st half to take the 35-0 lead into the locker room. 

Brayden Schager eclipsed the 6,000-yard career passing yard threshold in the 1st half, becoming the 7th QB in UH program history to achieve the feat. The junior also went over the 3,000-yard mark for passing yards this season in the opening half of play. 

2ND HALF: 

  • The Rainbow Warriors receive the opening kickoff of the 2nd half but are only able to muster one first down before being forced to punt the ball away. 
  • UH’s Justin Sinclair rips the ball free from Wyoming’s Treyton Welch, recovers the fumble and returns it inside the Cowboys’ 25-yard line, trying to spark the sleepwalking ‘Bows. 
  • Hawai’i gets on the board with a 30-yard FG by Matthew Shipley, making it 35-3 with 8:37 remaining in the 3rd quarter. 
  • Hawai’i’s defense strings together consecutive stops for the first time all game, forcing Wyoming’s offense to go three-and-out and punt the ball back the UH. 
  • The Rainbow Warriors’ offense finds the end zone for the first time all day with Chuuky Hines’ first career TD catch, a 19-yard strike from Schager for the score. The 2-point conversion is no-good for Hawai’i, so Wyoming’s lead sits at 35-9 with 16 minutes left in regulation. 
  • Momentum continued to swing in the favor of the ‘Bows when Wyoming K John Hoyland’s 46-yard field goal try went wide-right with 12 minutes to play, keeping the deficit at 26 for Hawai’i. 
  • UH’s offense can’t pick up a first down and is forced to punt the ball away after being stymied in their own territory. The defense returns it to Hawai’i less than two minutes later. 
  • A DoVonne Harris sack of Brayden Schager kills the ensuing Hawai’i possession and UH is unable to convert on 4th-and-6 from their own 27. 
  • UH’s defense, which had held Wyoming scoreless since halftime, finally breaks on 4th–and-1 and watches Cowboys’ QB2 Evan Svoboda get around the left edge for an 18-yard score to ice it for the Pokes. 

Hawai’i continued the rollercoaster ride that the 2023 season has been, showing both the good and bad that have led to head-scratching losses and hoarse-voiced wins for fans. Wyoming improved to a perfect 7-0 record at War Memorial Stadium this season and moved above .500 in conference play with the win. 

Cowboys’ QB Andrew Peasley finished the day 14-for-17 passing the pigskin for 319 yards and three TDs, becoming the first opposing QB to throw for over 300 yards against the Rainbow Warriors this season. Wyoming totaled 472 total yards of offense, scoring six TDs – five in the opening half of play – continuing the home dominance of 2023 for the Pokes. 

The win for Wyoming marks the first time since the Pokes and ‘Bows joined the Mountain West that one of the programs won consecutive games in the series against each other, keeping possession of the Paniolo Trophy for another season. The previous seven meetings between the teams had been alternating winners. 

UH quarterback Brayden Schager finished 25-for-44 passing for 278 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. The junior moved into fifth all-time for Hawai’i quarterbacks in career passing yards after Saturday, leapfrogging Dan Robinson and Chevan Cordeiro to enter all-time ‘Bows QB company. His TD pass to Chuuky Hines in the 3rd quarter was his 40th career TD pass, tying him with Nick Rolovich for 7th-most all-time. 

Hawai’i’s Justin Sinclair enjoyed a nice game, forcing and recovering his first fumble while co-leading the team with five total tackles. Despite losing the turnover battle to Wyoming, the ‘Bows have forced seven turnovers while having just three giveaways over the past three weeks. 

With the loss, Hawai’i’s slight odds at being selected for a bowl game at year’s end closed. In a year of growing pains for the program, it’s another season before a return to postseason play for UH football.

Hawai’i returns home for Senior Night on Saturday, November 25 against Colorado State. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. HT.

Hawai’i looks to take back Paniolo Trophy against Wyoming

Hawai’i looks to take back Paniolo Trophy against Wyoming

Hawai’i looks to take back Paniolo Trophy against Wyoming 

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED NOV 17, 2023

HONOLULU — Giddy up, Cowboy… er, Paniolo. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (4-7, 2-4 MWC) hit the road Saturday, looking to steal back the “Paniolo Trophy” from the Wyoming Cowboys (6-4, 3-3 MWC) and keep their long-shot bowl chances alive another week.  

The ‘Bows, coming off of a 27-13 home upset over conference-leading Air Force, cannot clinch an automatic bid into a bowl but would potentially be among the first selected if there are not enough FBS auto-qualifying programs at the end of the season, should Hawai’i win out. After looking dead in the water three weeks ago, Hawai’i has caught a second wind in the back half of the schedule to help cause chaos among the top of the Mountain West after last week’s win. 

Can UH enter a new player into the ‘Bowl Game’ rodeo against a Wyoming squad yet to lose a game at home? 

Tale of the Tape — Paniolo Trophy Showdown 

The last of the rivalry trophy games on Hawai’i’s 2023 slate, the ‘Bows and Pokes first duked it out for an actual trophy in 1979 and met annually until 1997 as both programs enjoyed membership in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) before reigniting the rivalry in 2013 within the Mountain West. 

Since the teams joined the MWC, Wyoming holds a slim 4-3 advantage in seven meetings. Neither program has been able to string together consecutive wins in the series since the move of conferences, trading possession of the hardware each contest. The Cowboys took last year’s meeting in Honolulu, 27-20, avenging a loss in Laramie the year before to the ‘Bows. 

The meeting in Laramie is the third time since 2020 that Hawai’i has had to travel to visit Wyoming, splitting the previous two games with a 31-7 loss in 2020 before getting revenge in a big way with a 38-14 win in 2021 to help secure a miracle bowl game berth at 6-7. 

It has been a trying season for both programs in separate ways as the Cowboys of Wyoming opened the year hot, looking like a true contender in the Mountain West before cooling off and fading into the middle of the pack. Hawai’i sits just one game back of UW in conference play after picking up consecutive wins in the past two weeks to vault themselves out of the basement of the Mountain West. Faced with a similar scene as ’21, the Rainbow Warriors go to higher elevation looking to avenge last year’s loss to the Cowboys while keeping potential bowl chances alive. 

Should Hawai’i continue trending in the same direction of the rest of this November, the holiday season could get even more fun to tie the series in MWC-play at four wins apiece between the programs and set up an exciting regular season-finale against Colorado State. 

Players to Watch, Extra StorylinesHawai’i @ Wyoming 

“Home, sweet home” holds a true meaning for Wyoming, standing with an unblemished 6-0 record in Laramie this year. Much like the ‘Bows, the road has been a place of struggles for the Pokes. Wyoming fell last week at UNLV, 34-14, continuing the winless ways on the road for the Cowboys. Returning home, Wyoming stands much tougher against opponents but provides another opportunity at a “first” for a team consistently racking up new experiences in Hawai’i. 

CB Cam Stone, who transferred into UH’s program this offseason after previously playing at Wyoming. An all-conference selection in the preseason, Stone has dealt with a variety of injuries throughout the year but was able to snag his first pick as a ‘Bow last week to cap off Hawai’i’s victory over Air Force. As part of a new defense that has seen a bevy of injuries force creativity from the staff, Stone and the rest of the Rainbow Warriors’ defense has looked like an improved unit over the eleventh month of the year. Should that trend continue against the nation’s 122nd-ranked offense from Wyoming, Stone may get an opportunity to make another impact play late for an upset against his old team.  

QB Brayden Schager sits less than 100 passing yards away from 6,000 career passing yards, which would make him just the seventh Hawai’i QB in program history to eclipse the 6,000-yard threshold. With just 53 yards in the air, Schager will move past 3,000 passing yards for the season and become the 13th entry of a 3,000-yard season from a UH QB as he continues his ascent into the Rainbow Warriors’ record books. Despite the team’s struggles, Schager leads the Mountain West in passing yards and passing touchdowns. 

Part of Schager’s development has been the emergence of WR Pofele Ashlock, who has racked up consecutive weeks with two TD receptions and has three multi-score games on the year as a redshirt freshman. In fact, he leads all FBS freshmen receivers with 726 receiving yards, 72 receptions and nine touchdowns. Week in and week out, the 6-foot-1 wideout finds space to break free and spark UH’s offense and will only improve as time goes on. The ‘Bows will need him to continue his elite play against a strong Wyoming secondary that ranks top 50 among FBS defenses in passing yards allowed per game. 

As the young Rainbow Warriors continue growing and learning how to win together, another tough test in Wyoming awaits. In a “Jekyll and Hyde” year for the UH football program, who will show up in Laramie? Have the ‘Bows finally turned the corner by “pushing the sled?” 

The game will be broadcast on Spectrum Sports PPV with kickoff scheduled for 9:00 a.m. HT on Saturday, November 18. 

Hawai’i plays complimentary football to upset Air Force on Veterans Day, 27-13

Hawai’i plays complimentary football to upset Air Force on Veterans Day, 27-13

Hawai’i plays complimentary football to upset Air Force on Veterans Day, 27-13

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED NOV 11, 2023

HONOLULU — The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (4-7, 2-4 MWC) secured the biggest win of the Timmy Chang era Saturday, trouncing Air Force (8-2, 5-1 MWC) to take back the Kuter Trophy with a 27-13 win at Clarence T.C. Ching Complex. UH was able to start quick and end strong, handing the Falcons the first conference loss in 2023 and setting up an explosive final two weeks atop the Mountain West standings. 

Below, you can find the quick hitters of all the action from UH’s 27-13 upset win over Air Force, the second win in as many weeks for the ‘Bows. 

1ST HALF: 

  • Hawai’i receives the opening kickoff, goes through the back of the end zone for a touchback. Reserve QB Dalen Morris, an active member of the Navy and short-yardage specialist, picks up the game’s first 1st down on a QB draw up the middle. 
  • ‘Bows quickly move down the field with a balanced offensive attack, alternating pass and run. WR Koali Nishigaya shakes off a couple of defenders to set UH up at the Air Force 5-yard line and Pofele Ashlock takes it in on the next play to give Hawai’i the lead, 7-0, with 7:58 left in the 1st quarter. 
        • Ashlock’s TD reception was his fifth TD catch in the last 5 games and also marked the first time that UH had scored on its first offensive possession of a game all year.
  • Air Force picks up one 1st down on its opening drive before UH’s defense buckled down to force the Falcons to punt. 
  • The Rainbow Warriors’ offense continues cooking, smoothly moving down the field into field goal range before being stopped on 3rd-&-short. K Matthew Shipley’s 48-yard FG try is no good, going wide-left to end the 1st quarter of play. 
        • The miss by Shipley was the senior’s first FG attempt to go awry since September 23 at New Mexico State. 
  • The Falcons’ offense moves methodically down the field, facing (and converting) multiple 3rd & 4th downs and short to work into the red zone. Hawai’i’s defense makes a stand, holding AFA to a 25-yard FG to keep the lead, 7-3. 
        • Air Force’s 2nd offensive drive spanned 11 minutes and 49 seconds. 
  • Hawai’i quickly marches down the field, using a Brayden Schager 40-yard scramble to move into Falcons’ territory before an incredible Steven McBride toe-tap catch set the ‘Bows up at the Air Force 1-yard line. 
        • The 40-yard rush by Schager was a career-long for the QB and marked UH’s longest running play of the year. 
  • After a few tries come up short, Hawai’i uses the “Braddahly Shove” to push Schager into the end zone for a TD with two seconds left in the 2nd quarter of play. Shipley missed the ensuing point-after-attempt wide-left as the ‘Bows took the 13-3 lead into the halftime break. 
        • The wide-left PAT is just the second miss in 121 career attempts for Shipley.

2ND HALF: 

  • Air Force receives the opening kickoff and calls for a fair catch, bringing the ball out to their own 25. The Falcons quickly work down the field and score on a 35-yard run by Dylan Carson, going 75 yards in five plays to cut the Hawai’i lead down, 13-10.  
  • The Rainbow Warriors answer back with a touchdown of their own as Pofele Ashlock’s 2nd TD catch of the night puts UH back up by 10. 
        • It’s the 2nd straight week Ashlock has had multiple scores and his third multi-TD game of the season. 
  • Air Force’s 1st official pass attempt of the day goes for a 65-yard gain to Cade Harris, who was chased down by UH CB Cam Stone to save Hawai’i from a would-be Falcons’ TD. A holding penalty would kill momentum for AFA, who would settle for a 27-yard FG try from K Matthew Dapore that missed to the left. 
  • Hawai’i’s offense moves past midfield to close out the 3rd quarter of action. The ‘Bows would punt just a minute into the final quarter after David Cordeiro’s run on 3rd down was stopped short of the line-to-gain. 
  • Air Force coughs up a fumble after LB Jalen Smith demolishes AFA backup QB Jensen Jones in the backfield and Meki Pei returns it for the 1st defensive TD of the season for Hawai’i, giving the ‘Bows a 27-10 lead with 11:02 left in regulation. 
        • The fumble return TD from Pei was the first fumble returned for a touchdown by a Hawai’i defense since 2021 at Utah State. 
  • AFA responds with a 21-yard FG after a four minute, forty-two second drive to make it a two-score game with 6:20 left in the 4th quarter. 
  • After being forced to punt, Hawai’i comes up with the first of three 4th quarter interceptions as Jensen Jones’ arm is hit while he throws, and Noah Kema secures the pick. 
        • The INT was the first of Kema’s career. 
  • After wasting a minute of game-clock and punting it away, Hawai’i’s defense comes away with another interception as Peter Manuma picked off 3rd-string AFA QB Ben Brittain to spoil another Falcons’ scoring chance. 
  • UH’s Stone comes up with his 1st INT of the season, the 3rd pick of the quarter and fourth takeaway total, to seal the win for the Rainbow Warriors and hand Air Force a conference loss for the first time in 2023. 

The Hawai’i defense forced a season-best four turnovers as the Rainbow Warriors strung together two wins for the first time under head coach Timmy Chang. The evening was filled with season-best performances as the ‘Bows committed no turnovers of their own for the second time all year and eclipsed the 100-yard rushing mark for just the third time in 2023. 

The 13 points by Air Force marked a season-low by a Hawai’i opponent as the Rainbow Warriors’ defense buckled down. Peter Manuma led the way with a new career-high 12 tackles, matching a season-high for the ‘Bows, set by Isaiah Tufaga earlier in the season at New Mexico. 

Brayden Schager finished an efficient 22-of-29 passing for 176 yards and three total TDs (2 pass, 1 rush) while setting a new career best with 57 rush yards to lead the Rainbow Warriors. 

Pofele Ashlock hauled in a career-high 12 catches, the most by a Hawai’i receiver since the 2019 season-opener against Arizona. It marked the second straight game the redshirt freshman was able to find the end zone multiple times for UH. 

Hawai’i looks to make it three-in-a-row next weekend as the ‘Bows hit the road to take on Wyoming in the final road contest of the 2023 season for UH. 

Hawai’i looks to make it two straight, steal Kuter Trophy from Air Force

Hawai’i looks to make it two straight, steal Kuter Trophy from Air Force

Hawai’i looks to make it two straight, steal Kuter Trophy from Air Force

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED NOV 9, 2023

HONOLULU — Finally. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (3-7, 1-4 MWC) snapped a 10-game road losing streak last weekend when they took down the Nevada Wolfpack, 27-14, for the program’s 1st conference win of the season. The ‘Bows now return home to the islands to host an Air Force program (8-1, 5-0 MWC) that fell from the undefeated ranks with a 23-3 loss to Army last Saturday. 

For the first time all season, Hawai’i won the turnover battle and the war in the trenches, racking up a season-high six sacks in the win over the ‘Pack. 

While a feel-good win over Nevada to get back on track was exactly what the doctor ordered for Hawai’i, the task to do it again against a more-proven opponent will be a far greater task. 


Tale of the Tape – Battle for the Kuter Trophy 

The history of the ‘Bows and the Falcons dates back nearly 60 years, first meeting one another back in 1966 and becoming regular foes from 1980-1997 when both Hawai’i and Air Force were members of the Western Athletic Conference, or WAC. 

The trophy, named for the late General Laurence S. Kuter who became the 1st head of the Pacific Air Forces Command in 1957, didn’t come into play until the 1980 matchup when UH conceived the trophy that had been sponsored by the Pacific Air Command for the then-annual matchup between the Falcons and the ‘Bows. 

It’s been a series that AFA has held steadily in hand, winning 14 of the 22 all-time matchups, including three of the four meetings from time in the Mountain West. The ‘Bows have lost two straight to the Falcons in Honolulu by a combined 81 points over the two meetings, struggling to keep the triple-option attack that Air Force employs at bay. 

It’s a scheme that has continued to work to great lengths of success. Air Force enters the upcoming weekend with the top rushing attack in the nation with an average of 284 yards on the ground per game, an area of concern for the Hawai’i defense for most of the season. On the other side of the aisle, UH has struggled along to the worst rushing attack in the FBS to the tune of just 65 yards per game, though the ‘Bows are coming off of a season-best 136 rushing yards in the win at Nevada. 

While running may not be the Rainbow Warriors’ game, airing out the pigskin sure is. Hawai’i QB Brayden Schager leads the Mountain West with 2,768 passing yards this season — also good for 7th in FBS overall — and a conference-best 22 TDs in the switch to the Run-N-Shoot this season. He’s continued uncorking “Schager Bombs” as well, tied with USC’s Caleb Williams for the most 50+ yard passes for FBS QBs this season with eight such plays. 

He’s been airing those deep passes out to a pair of reliable targets as well in Pofele Ashlock and Steven McBride, as the redshirt freshman and senior have each made national noise for their contributions this season. Ashlock leads all freshman FBS receivers with 60 receptions and 659 receiving yards while McBride ranks inside the top-20 nationally for receiving yards, totaling 785 yards through 10 games. 

Like it has been through much of the matchup’s history, Saturday will likely come down to the run versus the pass and who can remain the most disciplined on defense. A tough task awaits the ‘Bows, although Army showed last week it is not an impossible one. 


 

Players to Watch – Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors 

Brayden Schager – QB (Jr.) 

As previously mentioned, Schager has enjoyed the switch to the Run-N-Shoot offense this season as he has seen his production skyrocket in his first full season as a starter. In addition to ranking inside of the top-20 in multiple categories nationally, the junior has five 300+ yard performances while climbing into historical UH company with the seventh-most passing yards in program history. With 269 yards on Saturday, Schager would become the seventh ‘Bows QB to throw for 6,000 yards in a career. 

The arm has never been the question for Schager, but there have been plenty of worries regarding his mobility. The 6-foot-3 gunslinger resembles a “pro-style” passer rather than the usual dual-threat QB fans have become accustomed to in the RNS scheme. Last Saturday, the QB showed off the wheels more than he had for most of the season, using a few designed runs and a few scrambles to rack up 49 more yards on the ground along with his 203 passing yards. If that version of Schager, one who keeps defenses honest with his legs while striking fear into others with his arm, is the new development here to stay, Schager should get a chance to move up further into the all-time ranks of ‘Bows and start adding wins to his resume as well. 

Lastly, it’s vital that he takes care of the football this weekend against a team that is 3-0 this season when forcing two or more turnovers in a game. Schager has struggled with ball security at times, tossing interceptions in bunches and recently struggling through some fumble issues (along with the rest of the offense). To have a chance at an upset this weekend, Hawai’i cannot afford to give away opportunities. 

Steven McBride – WR (Sr.) 

One of the most dynamic playmakers in the nation through Week 10, McBride’s dominance since moving from Kansas to Hawai’i has been remarkable. The senior wideout has continued to produce week-in and week-out, leading the team in TD receptions (8) and yards (785) while ranking second nationally with five catches of 50+ yards this year. 

After fellow stud receiver Pofele Ashlock got free for a pair of scores last week, look for McBride to get back in on the fun after being held out of the end zone for two consecutive games. The 6-foot-1 pass catcher has long been one of Schager’s favorite and most-reliable targets, dating back to spring practices in noticeable on-field chemistry. 

In a game that almost guarantees a loss in the time-of-possession category for the ‘Bows, quick scores can combat the long drives that Air Force will attempt to put together to chew up clock. McBride’s specialty has been flying past defenders down the field to haul in the “Schager Bombs” while also showing off some speed after the catch to blaze by opponents on short-yardage plays and turn them into explosives. He continues to get involved when opponents focus on shutting down the deep ball for Hawai’i with solid route running and quality hands that usually bring in anything within his catch radius. McBride has eclipsed 40 yards in eight of 10 outings for UH this year. 

Isaiah Tufaga – LB (Sr.) 

One of the captains of the defense, Tufaga has been a bright spot in the takeaways department recently. The senior can be seen involved in every play all over the field and has forced a fumble in two straight games, manning the middle of the defense at an exceptionally high level since running mate Logan Taylor went down with an ACL tear early in the season. 

Sophomore Jalen Smith could also have gone here, stepping into the role of the aforementioned Taylor and running away with it to take a majority of snaps recently next to Tufaga. It’s going to be important for both linebackers to be constantly communicating with the rest of the Hawai’i defense as they face off against the triple-option offensive scheme that the Falcons run. Tufaga is tied for the team lead in tackles with 65 total tackles this season (S Peter Manuma has also recorded 65 total tackles) while Smith has quickly shot up the ranks with more playing time, coming in with the 3rd-most tackles at 47 through 10 games. 

Facing off against a team that doesn’t want to throw the ball but will keep you guessing in the run game, it’ll be vital that both are on their A-games in communication, tackling and attempting to create some takeaways for a ‘Bows upset bid. 


 

Players to Watch – Air Force Academy Falcons 

Zac Larrier – QB (Sr.) 

Coming off a week where he set career-highs in passing attempts and completions, the senior QB hopes to get back to what he’s become accustomed to in the Falcons’ attack. Before AFA’s 23-3 loss to Army, Larrier hadn’t thrown the ball more than nine times in a single game while rushing less than 10 times in a game just once all year. 

The Falcons’ offense runs most efficiently when Larrier can keep the defense guessing on if he’s the one taking off or if it will be one of his multiple options in the backfield. Like much of the Academy, the QB shows elite discipline in most outings. In his 22 passing attempts last week, he threw his first two career interceptions as he was asked to try and lead a comeback effort with time as the enemy. 

One of the most direct ways for Hawai’i to pull off an upset on Saturday and put a dent in AFA’s Mountain West title hopes is for the ‘Bows to force Larrier to become a passer rather than a distributor, where he is far more inclined to make a mistake. To do so, the rushing attack for the Falcons needs to be shut down. 

Emmanuel Michel – FB (Sr.) 

The triple-option typically offers exactly that — multiple options on a single play — and can be tough to prepare for singular players within the system because it can be anyone in any week. Michel leads the Falcons with 163 carries for 733 yards and nine touchdowns this season, going through a six-game stretch where he received no fewer than 18 carries and topped out at 33 rushes for 148 yards and three scores in a win against San Jose State during the stretch. 

To build off the original point of making Larrier play quarterback and beat you as a passer, it’s key for UH to shut down the run game and Michel headlines it. He’s coming off his second-worst game of the season, going for just 37 yards on eight carries in the loss against Army. Otherwise, the strong 5-foot-10 runner has burnt teams over and over. He has eclipsed 100 yards in three games, just missing a fourth by three yards, but typically will not impress with game-breaking speed. A consistent force, his game-long rushes (apart from one 57-yard run) haven’t gone over 22 yards. Many of his touches come from misdirection and confusion so communication will be key for Hawai’i. 

Trey Taylor – FS (Sr.) 

The 2nd-team Mountain West selection from 2022 has enjoyed another nice season for the Falcons, tied for the second-most tackles on the team with 60 total in nine games while racking up a team-best two interceptions. The free safety is used as a chess piece in the AFA defense often, floating in coverage but getting his nose dirty in the backfield on passing downs as well with half-a-sack recorded. 

Taylor’s impact is felt on special teams as well. The senior recorded a blocked PAT earlier this season against Wyoming, the first blocked kick for Air Force since 2021. A clear playmaker on a strong Falcons roster, the less Taylor’s name is mentioned on Saturday, the better fortune for the ‘Bows. 


 

What-2-Watch-4 & Final Thoughts – Hawai’i vs Air Force 

It’ll be a tall order for the Rainbow Warriors to fill come Saturday when they host Air Force, trying to hand the Falcons the program’s second consecutive loss while attempting to put together a winning streak for the first time all year. The last appearance in front of home fans for Hawai’i was among the roughest outings in recent UH memory, how do the ‘Bows erase that from the minds of the faithful fans? Here are a few more storylines and keys to keep an eye on come Saturday evening in Mānoa. 

  • Can Hawai’i return to the promising trend of being less penalized than opponents? It’s been an up-and-down year for the discipline in the UH program, facing problems with the officiating laundry at times this season. They cleaned it up following the bye week but saw some penalties start to fly last weekend. That can’t happen against one of the least penalized programs in the FBS in Air Force. 
  • Do we continue to see the upward trend of the Hawai’i defensive line? All season, questions in the trenches for UH have existed. Coming off a week where the ‘Bows dominated against the pass with a season-high six sacks, can Hawai’i finally figure out their run-defense woes versus the nation’s best? 
  • Air Force’s defense once again ranks among the nation’s elite, forcing turnovers and shutting down the run consistently. The Falcons’ defense also keeps games within reach, holding the nation’s longest streak of holding opponents to 30 points or less in 16 consecutive contests. Hawai’i has the pieces on offense to explode, now will the ‘Bows ruin the streak? 
  • Does Dalen Morris get a little extra action for Hawai’i on Saturday? The active-duty Naval officer moonlights as one of UH’s QBs in one of the more impressive multi-tasking lives you’ll see, playing an important role in the ‘Jumbo’ packages and down near the goal line. Maybe he gets to let one rip on Military Appreciation Night at Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex? 

The ‘Bows have a chance to put together the first winning streak of the year in a development year for the program while trying to hand the first losing streak of the season for Air Force. Conversely, expect the Falcons to come out with an additional fire after an embarrassing loss for an otherwise elite team. 

The game will be broadcast on Spectrum Sports PPV with kickoff scheduled for 6:00 p.m. HT on Saturday on Saturday, November 11. It’ll be “Military Day” at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex, where the first 750 fans will receive rally towels at Gate B from game sponsor First Hawaiian Bank.  

There will be an F-22 flyover during the pre-game and the Letterwinners Club will welcome 2004 graduate Britton Komine to be this week’s legend. Komine currently serves as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Hawai’i Air National Guard. Air Force General Kenneth S. Wilsbach, the commander of the United States Pacific Air Forces, will also be recognized during the game along with Superintendent Lieutenant General Richard M. Clark and Director of Admissions Colonel Candice Pipes of the USAFA. 

Gates will open at 3:00 p.m. for “Kickoff at the Les” and parking will be open to the public one hour before gates open at 2:00 p.m.