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

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

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

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED FEB 29, 2024

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

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

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

WEEK 0 – vs Delaware State (August 24) 

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

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

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

WEEK 1 – vs UCLA (August 31) 

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

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

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

WEEK 2 – BYE (September 7) 

WEEK 3 – at Sam Houston State (September 14) 

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

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

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

WEEK 4 – vs Northern Iowa (September 21)

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

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

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

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

WEEK 5 – BYE (September 28) 

WEEK 6 – at San Diego State (October 5) 

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

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

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

WEEK 7 – vs Boise State (October 12) 

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

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

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

WEEK 8 – at Washington State (October 19) 

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

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

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

WEEK 9 – vs Nevada (October 26) 

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

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

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

WEEK 10 – at Fresno State (November 2) 

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

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

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

WEEK 11 – vs UNLV (November 9) 

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

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

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

WEEK 12 – at Utah State (November 16) 

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

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

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

WEEK 13 – BYE (November 23) 

WEEK 14 – vs New Mexico (November 30) 

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

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

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

Hawai’i welcomes Cordeiro, San Jose State to town for “Homecoming”

Hawai’i welcomes Cordeiro, San Jose State to town for “Homecoming”

Hawai’i welcomes Cordeiro, San Jose State to town for “Homecoming”

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED OCT 26, 2023

HONOLULU – Last week did not go according to plan for the Rainbow Warriors, with Hawai’i serving as a sacrificial lamb for New Mexico’s homecoming game that saw the Lobos break a 20-game home conference losing streak. 

Hawai’i gave up over 400 total yards of offense for the fourth time this season, allowing over 200 yards through the air and on the ground while failing to win the turnover battle for the eighth consecutive contest. It continued a concerning trend of defensive struggles on the road for UH this season and was only magnified by the offense sputtering in the second half outside of a garbage-time final drive touchdown. Hawai’i starting QB Brayden Schager was credited with four turnovers (3 INT, 1 fumble) while trying to lead the comeback train, tossing three more TDs to give him an even 20 touchdown passes for the year. 

After the initial shock of the 21-point loss for the ‘Bows, it was back to work at Clarence T.C. Ching Complex to solve the issues exposed deeper this past Saturday. With former starting quarterback, local boy, and preseason conference offensive player of the year selection in QB Chevan Cordeiro returning to town with his San Jose State squad, Hawai’i looks to copy the New Mexico homecoming game playbook and start quickly and stay strong throughout action on Saturday night. 

The Spartans visit the islands on a two-game win streak, dominant road victories over the Lobos two weeks ago before a convincing win over the Utah State Aggies this past weekend. San Jose State’s performance in the series against Hawai’i has also been something of a hot streak with wins in the last three meetings, though the overall series is tied. 


Tale of the Tape – Fight for the Dick Tomey Trophy

The two programs enter the weekend intertwined in multiple ways, perhaps none bigger than former legendary football coach Dick Tomey. The old ball coach spent 10 seasons manning the ship for the Rainbow Warriors’ football program from 1977-86, compiling a record of 63-46-3 and returned for one season in 2011 to play the role of special teams’ coordinator for one of the greatest coaching staffs in UH program history. He is a member of the school’s Sports Circle of Honor. Tomey spent five seasons coaching SJSU, including a 9-win season in 2006 for the Spartans. 

In his honor, the programs began to play for the “Dick Tomey Trophy” after his passing in 2019. San Jose State has been in possession of the trophy since 2020 with three consecutive wins in the series and two in a row in Honolulu. The Spartans actually lead the series in the islands all-time, 15-13, while the ‘Bows hold the historical advantage in San José, 9-7-1. Overall, a perfectly even 22-22-1 since the first meeting in 1936 between the two schools. 

The connections continue to the most critical position on the field, as the signal caller for SJSU has a history with UH as well. In fact, Cordeiro, the former Saint Louis School (HI) quarterback, is experiencing a homecoming of his own as the local boy that starred as the Rainbow Warriors’ QB in 23 games from 2018-21 comes back to the island as the “enemy” for the first time. 

He will surely be welcomed home with open arms before and after the game despite leaving the program in a flurry with 18 other players as former UH HC Todd Graham faced misconduct and player mistreatment allegations, but the senior QB knows that fans may not be as friendly when the game clock rolls. 

“I just hope there’s a lot of fans there. I don’t really know if they’re going to boo me or whatever,” Cordeiro said of his expectations of T.C. Ching earlier in the week. “At the end of the day I’m just going to block it out, be focused on my game and what I need to do.” 

Between the painted lines, Hawai’i hopes to make it a long day for Cordeiro and their brothers from the 808 on the other sideline. UH captain Eliki Tanuvasa spoke about the pride the team continues to feel despite a tough slide of recent results, referencing “never quitting” being something instilled deep inside his soul while representing his home state. 

Emotions promise to be high for both programs when the whistle blows for the opening kickoff this weekend and the winner will leave with bragging rights until next season along with the all-time series lead in hand. 


 

Players to Watch – Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors

Brayden Schager – QB (Jr.) 

The junior continues to be the most important player in any given week for the Rainbow Warriors as the UH offensive player with the most on his plate. The job of starting quarterback for the University of Hawai’i is a prestigious one that comes with additional scrutiny and a constant magnifying glass upon each game’s performance.  

Last week’s outing against New Mexico was a mixed bag of good and bad plays as the signal caller tried to help will the ‘Bows back into the game in the second half after falling behind by 21 points early on in the third quarter. There should be no questions about Schager’s toughness after last week’s physical beating from the UNM defense, absorbing big hit after big hit and delivering strong throws to give receivers a chance to make a play on. 

He continues to put up big numbers; his 345 yards versus New Mexico was his third consecutive game with 300+ yards passing and his fifth overall this season, good for second-most in the country behind Washington QB Michael Penix Jr.’s six games of 300 or more air yards. In fact, Schager enters Week 9 of the college football season with the third-most passing yards among FBS QBs with a whopping 2,433 yards. 

As mentioned at the start, he’s thrown 20 TDs so far this year, which is five more than he had coming into the year for his career-total (15 TDs in first two seasons with Hawai’i). The switch to the Run-N-Shoot has been beneficial for the kid from Texas despite his frame not being that of a typical quarterback playing in the in scheme. 

He hasn’t come without his own warts, struggling with turnover problems that have been more prevalent over the past few games. While interceptions happen within the scheme due to the reliance on wide outs and quarterbacks being on the same page, it’s the recent slippery ball trend that is concerning for UH and Schager specifically. The ‘Bows have lost six fumbles in the last four games after not fumbling for the opening four games of the season, Schager losing three of them himself over that span. 

For a Hawai’i defense that has struggled slowing down opponents after dealing with a variety of injuries, limiting the possession disadvantage the ‘Bows face with the nation’s 126th-ranked defense in takeaways. To come out of Saturday with UH’s 6th straight win on “Homecoming”, the Rainbow Warriors need Schager to continue his productive ways while limiting the giveaways better than he has over the past four contests. 

Jalen Smith – LB (Soph.) 

The linebacker transferred to UH a year ago after spending his freshman campaign at Bakersfield College, redshirting during the 2022 season before starting camp as a reserve linebacker this year.  

While the Hawai’i coaches may not have foreseen Smith having to step into a much more prominent role this season with two veteran ‘backers manning the middle of the defense in front of him, an ACL tear to senior captain Logan Taylor early in the year changed the plans quickly. 

Up stepped Smith, starting for the first time on the road against UNLV and immediately recording 10 total tackles for the ‘Bows before the bye week. He has been productive with 17 tackles in the two games since the bye, stepping into the void left by Taylor’s season-ending knee injury. 

Going against a San Jose State offense that has produced over 250 yards rushing in back-to-back games and three times this season. Checking in outside the top 100 FBS programs, Hawai’i is allowing almost five yards per carry this season on defense. To build on losing in the trenches, the ‘Bows have struggled wrapping up and finishing tackles this season to allow opponents to break plays for longer gains. 

Those tackling problems have been exemplified in the middle by linebackers and safeties (sensible, considering those positions are often involved in most plays). If Smith continues to produce at the level he has, the opportunities to be on the field will continue for the redshirt sophomore. His production can soar to greater heights if Smith is able to shore up the broken tackles and would go a long way in calming down a dynamic rushing attack that helps boost an already strong passing game buoyed by Cordeiro. 

Daniel “Sauce” Williams – DL (Sr.) 

As mentioned, the rushing attack of the Spartans has played a key role in the two-game win streak SJSU comes to Hawai’i riding. That’s bad news for a UH defense that has been gashed repeatedly by opponents on the ground in 2023, especially for the chances of a homecoming win for the Rainbow Warriors. 

Enter Sauce Williams. 

The big man in the middle of the defensive line might have had the defensive highlight of the season when he forced a fumble and rumbled down the field for a 40+ yard fumble return. He consistently grades out from PFF as one of the best run defenders on the roster and has become more consistent over the past four contests. An uptick in playing time for the bowling ball-like defensive tackle is due as he plays about 40% of the defensive snaps currently for the ‘Bows despite scoring as the highest-rated defensive player on the entire roster. 

Williams experienced an increase in role after his heroic New Mexico State performance with more snaps against UNLV but has seen a steady decline down to just 20 defensive snaps last weekend. The ‘Bows coaching staff needs to rely on the big man on campus to help them shut down the strong Spartans’ rushing attack and turn the focus to the passing game. 


 

Players to Watch – San Jose State Spartans

Chevan Cordeiro – QB (Sr.)

Hawai’i’s own, Cordeiro transferred to San Jose State ahead of the 2022 season and has enjoyed enormous success since. In his first season with the Spartans’ program, the quarterback threw for career highs in passing yards (3,251) and TDs (23) on the way to a 2022 Mountain West 2nd Team selection, rushing for nine more touchdowns on the ground to set a new program record at SJSU for good measure. 

Expectations for his second season in the program have been high from the beginning of the 2023 slate after the Hawai’i-native was selected as the preseason Mountain West offensive player of the year. While he’s taken a slight step back from last season’s numbers so far with “just” 1,738 passing yards and 11 TDs with three picks through eight games so far, part of it can be attributed to SJSU’s productive running game allowing for Cordeiro to not have to put on a “Superman” cape for San Jose State this season. 

As he returns to his home state to face many familiar faces on the other sideline that once were teammates, Cordeiro’s biggest weapon against UH’s defense will be his legs. He’s had five or more carries in seven of the eight games that he’s played in and more than 20 yards rushing in all but two games. Hawai’i has struggled against the run this season and mobile QBs have given more problems to the unit’s ability to get off the field on third down. 

If Cordeiro goes nuts in his return to Hawai’i, it’ll be a long evening for Hawai’i fans. If he is mediocre or worse and the rushing attack takes a step back for the Spartans, Saturday becomes shaky for SJSU. 

Kairee Robinson – RB (Sr.) 

Continuing to beat the “run game will be important” drum, enter the Mountain West’s leader in yards per rush in Robinson with 6.1 yards an attempt. He’s been a top-20 running back in the nation on a per touch-basis with that average and the 5-foot-7 back ranks seventh in SJSU program history with 2,092 rushing yards in his career. 

Short but strong, Robinson has dominated week in and week out for the Spartans with a career-high 11 rushing TDs, finding the end zone at least once in every game this season for SJSU. With three games of 100+ yards this season and two consecutive, Robinson will challenge to be the second running back to eclipse triple-digits in a single game against Hawai’i. He has started to produce in the passing game as well, serving as a security blanket for Cordeiro to check it down to and just watch work. 

A turnaround on defense for the Rainbow Warriors includes a shift in results against the run, first and foremost. If Hawai’i wants to win on Saturday, keying in and shutting down Robinson should be near the top of the priority list. 

Bryun Parham – LB (Jr.) 

One of the most productive linebackers in the entire Mountain West, Parham has put excellent tape on film once again this season. Look no further than his October 7 performance against Boise State when the linebacker forced a fumble and recovered two more to go along with 12 tackles in the Spartans’ 35-27 road loss. 

The junior promises to be involved all over the field, totaling the third-most tackles in the conference with 67 and ranking 43rd nationally for his production thus far. He also ranks fifth in the country with two fumble recoveries as he has consistently shown a nose for the ball. A surehanded tackler, Parham mans the middle for the SJSU defense and promises to be involved with anything happening in the middle of the field. 

If Hawai’i continues to struggle running the ball, Parham’s life will be much easier. If the ‘Bows can finally figure out the ground game, that’s when Parham’s job becomes more difficult on a play-to-play basis.  


 

What-2-Watch-4 & Final Thoughts – Hawai’i vs San Jose State 

Homecoming brings special energy to the air in the week leading up to the football game. As Cordeiro leads the Spartans to Hawai’i, the ‘Bows look to pick up the pieces and solidify their foundation for next season with a strong win against San Jose State. As SJSU works towards a strong finish with a bowl game in sight, the Rainbow Warriors will be fighting for their bowl eligibility lives. Here’s more storylines and keys to look for and keep track of on Saturday night. 

  • Can Hawai’i limit the turnovers or force San Jose State into an uncharacteristic offensive performance? The ‘Bows takeaway struggles have been well documented but the Spartans have lost just six turnovers all year, good for 14th in the nation. Can UH force a weird day for San Jose? 
  • Who guards Steven McBride? The beauty of having multiple number one receivers like Hawai’i does in McBride and Pofele Ashlock is that teams must make decisions on who they are most worried about. If SJSU standout CB Jay’Vion Cole travels with McBride, look for an Ashlock breakout. If Ashlock is Cole’s assignment, who steps across the speedy senior wideout for the Rainbow Warriors for SJSU? 
  • Special teams could come into play more than usual on Saturday. San Jose State boasts the second-ranked specials unit in the nation, blocking two punts (one for a TD), have recovered three onside kicks and have a punt return TD so far in 2023. Can the ‘Bows limit the Spartans’ special teams unit? 
  • How important does San Jose State treat this game? The Spartans are flirting with bowl eligibility at a 3-5 record with four games to play. Three wins are needed to get SJSU into that pool of eligible teams and games against two of the current top three teams in the Mountain West after this week. The journey to a bowl game for San Jose State becomes that much murkier if the ‘Bows successfully play spoiler on Saturday. 

Both sides look at Saturday’s contest as an important matchup from an end-of-season playoff stakes standpoint. Brayden Schager versus Chevan Cordeiro, one more time at the college level for an important homecoming contest for two programs.

The game will be broadcast on Spectrum Sports PPV with kickoff scheduled for 6:00 p.m. HT on Saturday, October 28. Fans are encouraged to wear retro gear to the game, supporting all former Rainbow Warriors who represented the state and program in the past. The Letterwinners Club will welcome members of the 1973 Rainbow Warriors football team to celebrate their 50th anniversary of a 9-2 season under Dave Holmes that included an upset of Washington in the season opener. 

UH football alums are welcomed to join the team for the pregame tunnel run at the Ewa Endzone during the pregame. Rainbow Wahine swim and dive will be recognized for their 2023 conference championship and the start of their 2023-24 campaign. 

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. 

3 takeaways from Hawai’i football’s 42-21 road loss to New Mexico

3 takeaways from Hawai’i football’s 42-21 road loss to New Mexico

3 takeaways from Hawai’i football’s 42-21 road loss to New Mexico 

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED OCT 23, 2023

HONOLULU — Saturday’s game between Hawai’i and New Mexico pitted two programs with long situational losing streaks against one another, ultimately seeing the Lobos win a home conference game for the first time since 2017 while the Rainbow Warriors remained winless on the road during the Timmy Chang era. 

Hawai’i turned the ball over four times, created no takeaways and saw a pressing offense sputter in the second half as the ‘Bows gave up over 400 yards of total offense against a New Mexico program that had just come off of a 52-24 home loss to San Jose State the week prior.  

Ahead of their own “Homecoming” game where Hawai’i will host former friend and current foe in Chevan Cordeiro and San Jose State, here are three takeaways of our own regarding the Rainbow Warriors following the team’s Week 8 loss. 

1. The Hawai’i defense has some sort of mental block on the road. 

This won’t be an article spent trying to solve the issues that have arisen during this season for Hawai’i. There are far more qualified people to figure that out, already on the case inside the building. 

Instead, it’ll be spent pointing out the noticeable difference between the ‘Bows and their defensive performance between home and away games this season. Save for an opening performance against a Vanderbilt team that ranks 128th out of 130 FBS teams in rushing yards per game, the Rainbow Warriors have not held a single opponent to under 100 rushing yards in a game this year. Looking at the three road games since Vanderbilt, Hawai’i has given up an average 253.6 yards on the ground and nine rushing touchdowns while continuing to lose the line of scrimmage.  

The ‘Bows, even including the previously mentioned Vandy game, have yet to hold an opponent under 35 points while going on the road this season. For a team averaging 23.5 points per contest across all eight games, Hawai’i needs the defense to get off the plane ready to play. 

The frustrating part of it all for UH fans is that the defense has proven to be a capable unit at times this year. Just a week ago in this same article for the SDSU game, the first takeaway was about the score being misleading for how the unit played. That is the furthest thing from the case this week as they continued to show the issues that plagued them from the jump, posing the question of coaching or personnel being the issues. 

2. The coaching staff needs to focus their efforts on adding some real beef to the trenches. 

To build off of the last takeaway, Hawai’i’s struggles don’t exist only against the run. While UH’s secondary has plenty of talent in the room, they’re being asked to cover for longer periods of time when the ‘Bows are unable to generate any pressure. Hawai’i registered one or less sacks — they had just one this past week — in six of eight games this season while opposing defenses get home against Schager and UH far more often with multiple sacks given up in seven of eight contests. 

This isn’t just beating on the big boys for the ‘Bows right now, they’re outgunned up front with other programs employing bigger guys up front. Hawai’i tries teaching the mean streak needed on defense to dominate in the trenches, but opponents continually win the battle up front. It’s arguably worse on the offensive side of the ball, demonstrated by Hawai’i’s nation-worst run game and the aforementioned sacks given up each game. 

It’s an issue that is hard to fix at this point in the season, but a big offseason lies ahead for the players making names for themselves in the trenches and for the coaching staff’s recruiting journey. Depending on development from returners this offseason, Chang’s coaches may need to hit the transfer portal hard to grab experienced linemen to add up front.  

3. The situation that Timmy Chang took over was worse than expected, meaning the solution takes longer, too. 

With old friend Chevan Cordeiro coming back to town to put his own special spin on Hawai’i’s “Homecoming” game, it feels like a good time to remind fans how brutal of a spot the program was in when Timmy Chang took over. 

The current San Jose State QB was selected as the preseason Mountain West offensive player of the year and has helped lead the Spartans to a 4-5 record and a big win last weekend against Utah State. Cordeiro was one of 19 players to hit the transfer portal from former Hawai’i head coach Todd Graham’s final season before the Texas-native resigned from the position amid allegations of mistreatment of players in 2022. 

In came Chang, the former Rainbow Warriors’ star QB turned offensive coach that paid his dues elsewhere in the Mountain West before returning home to try and rebuild the heap of rubble that Graham left behind him. 

From that heap, a diamond in the rough in Brayden Schager has emerged despite not being the traditional archetype of a Run-N-Shoot quarterback. The junior QB has taken steps in each of the previous two seasons under Chang and company to becoming one of the more productive quarterbacks for all FBS programs. Schager moved over 5,000 career passing yards in the loss at New Mexico and into 8th-place all-time for Hawai’i QBs, passing Dru Brown’s 5,273 yards. 

Hawai’i leaned on a veteran run-game last season with upperclassmen manning many of the starting roles along the offensive line. All of those key contributors have since graduated, leaving holes for players to enter and gain experience in their wake. With that experience typically comes growing pains, many of which are coming in waves across the entire team while UH deals with a bevy of injuries on top of the new starters already working into place. 

This has almost been like Year 1.5 for a very young team — including the coaching staff. In some ways, one is left to wonder how much a veteran addition to the coaches on each side of the ball would assist in the development of players and Chang’s key coordinators alike. Dan Morrison, “the QB Whisperer” in the Run-N-Shoot, has been around practices since the summer to help Schager and Chang both get more comfortable in their bigger roles this season. Could an addition to the defensive coaching staff see an uptick in performance there next season or even before this year ends? 

No matter what, Hawai’i is steps away from being back to the point where fans and coaches would like it to be. The players in place have shown dynamic flashes throughout the season but haven’t been able to get any type of real consistency yet from this group. To make a full culture shift and create a sustainable winning program in Hawai’i, it’ll be important that the development of players like Pofele Ashlock and Peter Manuma continue as this season progresses and for the staff to keep finding success stories in the transfer portal like WR Steven McBride while recruiting at levels closer to their 2024 class than prior groups in national recognition. 

Most of all, Hawai’i needs its best players to stay healthy. Every game has felt like another key Rainbow Warrior leaves with injury or has been another week without an important player. Between Tylan Hines and Logan Taylor, UH has two players alone that they hope to have for the long-haul next season in efforts to return to bowl eligibility. 

3 takeaways from Hawai’i football’s 42-21 road loss to New Mexico

Quick Hits: Hawai’i falls to New Mexico in Lobos’ Homecoming game, 42-21

Quick Hits: Hawai’i falls to New Mexico in Lobos’ Homecoming game, 42-21

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED OCT 21, 2023

HONOLULU — The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors started steps behind the New Mexico Lobos on Saturday and became the first Mountain West opponent to lose in Albuquerque since 2017, allowing over 400 yards of total offense and six touchdowns as UNM celebrated their “Homecoming Game” against UH. 

Below, you can find quick hitters of the action from Hawai’i’s road loss to New Mexico, 42-21. 

GAME LOG 

1ST HALF: 

  • The ‘Bows go three-and-out to begin the game for the third consecutive week, punt it to the New Mexico 30. 
  • Lobos’ offense goes 70 yards in 7 plays, capping the drive with a 28-yard TD strike from Dylan Hopkins to WR Jeremiah Hixon for an early 7-0 lead. 
  • UH’s Schager is intercepted on a deep corner route, the first interception of the season for UNM and the first takeaway for the Lobos’ defense in five games. 
  • New Mexico parlays the turnover into points, scoring on a 3-yard TD pass to Ryan Davis on 2nd-&-Goal to complete the 11-play, 55-yard touchdown drive. 
  • Hawai’i’s offense finds life with a helping of Steven McBride targets and catches. The senior had a catch-and-run of 52 yards to set the ‘Bows up in red zone before hauling in a deflected pass originally intended for Pofele Ashlock in the back of the end zone for a tip-drill TD just before the end of the 1st quarter. 
  • The Lobos continued rolling, traveling 75 yards in 8 plays to take a 21-7 lead with 11:19 left in the 1st half. The 1-yd TD run was RB Jacory Croskey-Merritt’s 10th of the season. 
  • Hawai’i drives into New Mexico territory before turning the ball over on downs after giving up a sack on 4th-and-3 from the UNM 29. 
  • UNM scores for the fourth time in four drives after Andrew Henry sped past the Hawai’i defense on a 1st-&-25 for a 33-yard touchdown, his first rushing TD of the year. 
  • Hawai’i gets a much-needed answer on their last drive before half as Schager makes tough throws through brutal hits to extend the possession, eventually connecting with fellow-Texan Pofele Ashlock with 24 seconds left in the half to make it a two-score game heading into the locker rooms. It was Ashlock’s 5th TD reception of the season. 

2ND HALF:

  • New Mexico picks up where they left off with a TD drive spanning nearly seven minutes ending with Hixon’s 2nd touchdown reception of the day. 
  • Hawai’i’s offense starts to move through the air and with the assistance of a targeting penalty called against New Mexico. 
  • The Lobos’ defense stood strong, stonewalling the ‘Bows on 3rd and short and stopping Schager short of the line to gain on 4th-&-1 to force a turnover on downs. 
  • The Rainbow Warriors’ defense gets its first stop of the day, forcing a punt after Andrew Choi got home to register UH’s first sack in weeks to get the ball back down by 21 with 18 minutes left in the game. 
  • Hawai’i gets into the red zone once again after a 4th down conversion to Koali Nishigaya but cannot do anything with the new set of downs. Schager gets hit as he tries to throw and New Mexico recovers what was called a fumble. 
  • New Mexico’s offense unable to add on to the 21-point lead but a beautiful 60-yard punt pins Hawai’i inside of their own 10-yard line with under 14 minutes to play. 
  • A long drive for the Rainbow Warriors ends after a nice play by New Mexico CB Jer’Marius Lewis, who caught up with a streaking McBride to pick off an under thrown “Schager Bomb” for the 3rd takeaway of the day by the Lobos. 
  • Croskey-Merritt scampers 14 yards for his 2nd TD run of the day and 11th touchdown of the season, extending the Lobos’ lead to 42-14. 
  • Schager is intercepted for the third time in the game and second time by Lewis on a go-ball-gone-wrong with under five minutes remaining. 
  • The over hits as Hawai’i scores on their final drive, a 2-yard completion to McBride to make it 42-21. It was McBride’s 2nd TD catch of the day and 8th of the season. 

 

Hawai’i falls to 2-6 and 0-3 in the Mountain West as the team returns home next week for their own “Homecoming” game, hosting Chevan Cordeiro and San Jose State. The Spartans took on Utah State for their Week 8 matchup. 

Hawai’i struggled from the jump on defense and the offense could not keep up as the Lobos went for 429 yards of total offense and scored on their first five drives to grab a commanding lead early in the 2nd half. Forced to play uber-aggressively, the ‘Bows offense was unable to match TD for TD before the game got to the point where field goals were no longer an option for UH. 

Hawai’i heads back to the drawing board with a long look in the mirror ahead. 

You can follow @12brecht on X (formerly Twitter) for updates on Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors athletics. 

Quick Hits from Hawai’i Football’s 44-20 loss in Mountain West-opener at UNLV

Quick Hits from Hawai’i Football’s 44-20 loss in Mountain West-opener at UNLV

Aug 26, 2023; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Hawaii Warriors head coach Timmy Chang yells to his players during the second half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at FirstBank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Quick Hits from Hawai’i Football’s 44-20 loss in Mountain West-opener at UNLV

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED SEP 30, 2023

The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors fell on the road to UNLV, 44-20, in the Mountain West Conference-opener to fall to 2-4 on the season and drop to 0-1 in conference play. The Rebels rushed for over 300 yards on the ground and registered six sacks, dominating in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

Below, you can find the quick hitters of the action from the ‘Bows loss in the 9th Island and slow start to conference play.

GAME LOG: 

1ST HALF

  • ‘Bows come up empty in first two offensive drives. 
  • UNLV scores first as Maiava finds Davis Jr. for a 16-yard TD pass out of the backfield. 
  • Rebels go up 10-0 after a 52-yard field goal make. 
  • Hawai’i kicks field goal to get on board, down 10-3 with 12:08 left in 1st half. 
  • UNLV answers with FG of their own, 13-3. 
  • ‘Bows fumble late in half in own territory. 
  • Back-to-back Hawai’i personal foul penalties fuel UNLV touchdown drive to close 1st half, 20-3 Rebels’ lead. 

2ND HALF

  • Teams trade three-and-outs to open 2nd half. 
  • Trick play, flea-flicker 51-yd TD Schager Bomb to McBride to spark offense. 
  • UNLV drives field and responds with 21-yard TD run by Courtney Reese. 
  • UH able to chip away with 33-yard field goal to make it a two-score game again, 27-13. 
  • Rebels drain the rest of 3rd quarter clock, kick field goal to open final quarter and push lead back to 30-13. 
  • Hawai’i with a quick drive, capped by 38-yard TD pass down the left sideline to freshman WR Alex Perry to cut lead to 30-20. 
  • 10-play, 80-yard drive over four minutes for UNLV puts Rebels up 17 with 8:18 left to play (37-20).  
  • ‘Bows see 50+ yard gain for Ashlock on 4th-and-1 called back from pick play, forced to punt away with six minutes left and down three scores. 
  • UNLV RB Donavyn Lester breaks tackles for a 22-yard rushing touchdown to give Rebels the biggest lead of the day, 44-20 
  • Hawai’i drives the field before Karsyn Pupunu had the ball ripped from hands in end zone for a Rebels’ INT to close the game with less than 90 seconds left. 

Hawai’i enters the bye week with multiple injuries to continue healing from, penalty problems and need to look back at the trenches and two weeks to progress it all before returning to action at home against San Diego State.

The time off to reset couldn’t have happened sooner for the ‘Bows, down Virdel Edwards II and Elijah Palmer in the secondary. Alex Perry did not return to the game after a collision over the middle led to the freshman being checked for a head injury. 

You can follow @12brecht on X (formerly Twitter) for updates on Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors athletics.