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 

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED SEP 16, 2023

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 looking to “bring back Aloha Stadium feeling” ahead of home-opener

‘Bows looking to “bring back Aloha Stadium feeling” ahead of home-opener

‘Bows looking to “bring back Aloha Stadium feeling” ahead of home-opener 

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED AUG 30, 2023

HONOLULU — The Run-N-Shoot is back, baby. 

Week 0 for the Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors showed many things as year two of the Timmy Chang era got underway, but none were more prevalent than the effectiveness of the famous University of Hawai’i football offensive scheme. 

The best example of that? 

‘Bows junior QB Brayden Schager enjoyed a dynamic 2023 debut against Vanderbilt, throwing for career-best 351 yards to go along with three touchdowns (matching his performance against someone in ’22). Entering his first season without a quarterback competition at the start of it, the signal-caller looked in command of the offense as he tore up a Vanderbilt secondary that continues to look for answers after a tough showing last season.

The emergence of redshirt freshman Pofele Ashlock — who earned Mountain West Freshman of the Week honors for going for 7-127-1 on Saturday against the Commodores — coupled with new senior WR Steven McBride, who came to the program this offseason after being underused in the Kansas offense, gave a pair of go-to targets for the Hawai’i gunslinger to almost lead the ‘Bows to an SEC Week 0 road upset. 

Instead, UH enters Week 1 at 0-1 as they prepare to take on a rebuilding Stanford program under new leadership in former Sacramento State head coach Troy Taylor. The 2019 Eddie Robinson Award winner, also known as the Coach of the Year award for the FCS, takes over for a Cardinal program coming off a 3-9 season while also losing starting QB Tanner McKee to the NFL Draft.

Luckily for Cardinal fans, Taylor has experienced nothing but success as a head coach. In three seasons for Sacramento State Hornets, the offensive guru went 30-8, winning three straight Big Sky conference titles during his time for the FCS program. He also piloted Sacramento State to being one of the nation’s best offenses, finishing his three-year stop with averages of over 430 yards per game to go along with 43 points each night during a 12-1 finale season at the school.

Taylor has seen the game at all levels, playing quarterback for Cal Berkeley from 1986-89 before being drafted by the New York Jets in the fourth round of the 1990 NFL Draft. While his pro journey wasn’t long (he was released by the Jets following the 1991 season and signed by the Miami Dolphins in 1993 before ending his professional career), he has enjoyed plenty of success as a coach.

Heading into Week 1 of the college football season, the ‘Bows are looking to get back to the .500 mark for the first time since October of 2021 following a victory over New Mexico State. Without further ado, let’s take a deeper look into the names, numbers and matchups to keep an eye out for ahead of this Friday’s Hawai’i home-opener.  


 

History Lesson – Hawai’i versus Stanford (and the Pac-12, kind of) 

With just three total meetings before 2023, it’s tough to say there is any type of rivalry between the ‘Bows and Cardinal. In fact, with the last meeting coming over 50 years ago (they last played on Dec. 2, 1972), many fans in attendance Friday won’t have any memory of the last time Hawai’i and Stanford matched up on the gridiron. For Rainbow Warrior fans, creating new memories would be a good thing, seeing as Stanford leads the all-time series, 3-0.

While the history between Stanford and Hawai’i may not have an update to it in this century until now, recent results for the ‘Bows against Pac-12 compared with all other Power 5 conferences has been an area of success. Of UH’s last 12 wins over Power 5 programs, eight of them have been against the Pac-12.

In fact, Hawai’i’s last Power 5 win came in the 2019 season when the ‘Bows took down a pair of Pac-12 members in Arizona and Oregon State. Both of those wins came at home in the old Aloha Stadium, which has since been shut down and seen UH football games be moved to the Clarence T.C. Ching Complex. Last season, it was a much smaller venue than FBS teams typically have in terms of fan capacity (9,000 total fans could be accommodated).

After an offseason facelift and re-work, T.C. Ching Complex will be able to welcome 15,000 fans with open arms this season for Hawai’i home games. With the extra seating available, the ‘Bows are hoping to see 15,000 fans in white for a home-opening “White-Out” game against Stanford. 

With more space, ‘Bows players and coaches alike hope to get it feeling like the old days at Aloha Stadium, both on and off the field.

“It’s time,” ‘Bows WR Pofele Ashlock said Monday night. “I feel like this year is going to be a way better representation of how Hawai’i football is supposed to be played, so I definitely expect a whole bunch of footballs in the air and a whole bunch of touchdowns scored.”

“Something similar back to the Aloha Stadium-type of vibes,” Ashlock continued and smiled. 


 

Players to Watch Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors

Brayden Schager – QB (Jr.) 

What will the Texas gunslinger do for his next act?

The FBS leader in passing yards after Week 0, Schager diced up the Vandy secondary to the tune of a new-career high 351 yards through the air as he showed off his new collection of weapons thriving in their new roles in the Run-N-Shoot offense. He spread the ball around well, targeting (and throwing completions to) eight different players in the 35-28 loss to the Commodores. 

While he did have a career-best day (27 completions set new mark for single-game for Schager), the junior signal-caller also tossed a pair of costly interceptions in the one-possession loss. In fairness, the first interception was an impressive play by Vanderbilt CB De’Rickey Wright on an attempted throwaway by the QB that floated in play too long and the second came during a point that he had to try and make something happen with time running out. He also only accounted for one true “turnover-worthy” play, according to PFF. 

(PFF defines “Big Time Throws” as following – “a pass with excellent ball location and timing, generally thrown further down the field and/or into a tighter window”)

Looking back, Schager tossed 10 interceptions in 12 games last season and had 17 total “turnover-worthy” plays (via PFF). That put him tied for 26th-most turnover-worthy plays among FBS quarterbacks in 2022 and 2nd-most among QBs in the Mountain West. He did record 19 “Big-Time Throws” in his 12 games (10 starts) as well, good enough for a spot among the top-40 QBs in the FBS and tied with the 2023 NFL Draft’s #4 overall pick, Anthony Richardson.

To this point, Schager has been a sliding scale of excitement and head-scratching plays. If he can continue his mastery of the scheme while taking care of the football in 2023, he’s primed for a big year. He will get another good opportunity to show off his growth in Week 1 against a younger Stanford squad that is still figuring out who they are. 

Alex Perry – WR (RS-Fr.) 

The 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman quietly had a nice performance in the team’s season opener, totaling four catches for 51 yards against the Commodores. Just his second career game for the ‘Bows, the former 5A-Florida High School Basketball Player of the Year showed off some intriguing traits and presented another option for the offense to go to all around the field.

A former three-star recruit, he came into camp 20 lbs. heavier than last season, another testament to ‘Bows head strength and conditioning coach Kody Cooke’s offseason training program for the team. With added muscle, the lanky Perry still moves well and showed signs of ability for yards after the catch.

After Pofele Ashlock and Steven McBride combined for over 200 receiving yards and three touchdowns in Week 0, teams won’t be surprised by the dynamic wide receiver duo anymore. Luckily for the ‘Bows, the wide receiver room is far deeper than two names. Perry was the first one to show signs of chemistry with Schager in-game, but flew under-the-radar enough that he could sneak his way into being this week’s 100-yard receiver in this offense. 

Virdel Edwards II – CB (Sr.) 

The 6-foot-2 defensive back was the team-leader in interceptions last season, totaling three picks in 13 games (11 starts) in ‘22. He also finished second on the ‘Bows with five passes broken up in ‘22 for a secondary that got reinforcements this offseason in the form of preseason All-Mountain West selection Cam Stone, who came over from conference-rival Wyoming.

Edwards was tested in Week 0, as Vanderbilt threw at him eight times and completed four passes successfully against his coverage. One of those four completions was a touchdown to All-SEC selection WR Will Sheppard, a 6-foot-2 monster in his own right.

Things don’t get easier this week for the ‘Bows as they get to face another big-bodied wideout in 6-foot-5 senior John Humphreys. If the ‘Bows can shut down the Cardinal running game, this will be one of the next most-important matchups. 


 

Players to Watch – Stanford Cardinal 

E.J. Smith – RB (Sr.) 

Expected to be one of the two featured backs for Stanford this season, Smith is coming off injury that forced him to miss the final 10 games of the 2022 season. In his two games of action, he totaled 206 yards across 30 carries and three scores. He was also good for eight catches for 63 yards and another TD before he went down for the season.

The son of Pro Football Hall of Famer and Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith, he was a four-star recruit coming out of high school in Texas. Ranked as high as 48th by ESPN in the class of 2019, he appeared in just 10 total games across his first two seasons at Stanford. Getting a few more opportunities as a sophomore, Smith flashed before looking primed for a breakout in his junior season. 

Stanford HC Troy Taylor ran an offense that saw a 1,000-yard rusher in 2022 at Sacramento State, running the ball over 100 times more than they threw it. For a back who is looking to make up for lost time and doesn’t have much run on the metaphorical tires yet, Smith looks ready to finally take that step into being a premier back. It helps that he should also have a solid running mate to give him a spell when he needs as he comes back from the injury. 

For the ‘Bows, the defense had an impressive showing against Vanderbilt (minus Patrick Smith’s 21-yard TD rush in the opening quarter), allowing under two yards per carry over 26 attempts. That’s a good thing, considering it was one of the weaknesses of the ‘Bows defense last season. Among the 131 FBS programs, Hawai’i ranked 124th with a 56.2 PFF grade against the run. 

Taylor won’t hesitate to run the ball and test and see if that Week 0 performance was the new ‘Bows standard or just a fluke. 

Casey Filkins – RB (Sr.) 

Taking over in the backfield after Smith went down, Filkins had an admirable season before an injury sidelined him as well. The 5-foot-11 tailback rushed for just under 500 yards across five starts (7 total games) and found his way into the endzone four times.

He also was a factor in the passing game, coming out of the backfield to record 17 catches for 205 yards and another touchdown. At 206 pounds, the senior is also someone who could see blocking assignments on passing downs for the Cardinal. His strength, coupled with versatility, will help him get on the field often for a young team.

He’ll likely fall behind Smith in terms of touches, but Taylor’s offense has been friendly for dual-threat QBs in the past and Filkins’ blocking ability will be leaned on. He posted a pass-blocking grade above 70.0 on PFF in four of his seven appearances for the Cardinal in ‘22. 

John Humphreys – WR (Sr.) 

As previously mentioned, Humphreys stands at 6-foot-5 and 200 lbs. and in five starts had nearly 350 yards receiving last year. Taking a step up in role, he should be one of the main targets for *whoever* Stanford plays at quarterback.

While Sacramento State’s receiving attack was led by a tight end in 2022, it’s fair to think Humphreys could fill a similar role and in turn see production like Pierre Williams had for the Hornets last season. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound Williams finished second on the team with 723 yards and nine touchdown catches for the FCS program. 

Humphreys is about 20 pounds lighter than Williams but makes up for it with his height. He’ll give Taylor a reliable big target to provide his signal-caller with, as the senior had just two drops while being targeted 47 times last season. 


 

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

Before we head out, here are some keys to keep an eye on throughout the night as Hawai’i opens the newly renovated Ching Complex and hosts one of the few remaining teams in the Pac-12.

  • As floated before, run defense wasn’t the strength of Hawai’i a season ago. The ‘Bows passed their first test with redemption against the run during round two with Vandy but will face a more experienced backfield in Week 1. That doesn’t mean Coach Taylor won’t be aggressive too, as he slid into his answer about the aggression UH showed in Week 0 on 4th down and the impact it has on a game plan.
  • Can Hawai’i continue to have the same type of offensive success with similar efficiency in their second game of the year? The opener had a little bit of everything through the air, from “Schager Bombs” to the all-important underneath completions to move the chains. UH’s offense created plenty of opportunities and made a bunch of plays last week and even left some points out there with a couple redzone possessions coming up empty. Cleaning up some procedure penalties along with better efficiency on 3rd down could see the aerial attack become even more deadly in the encore. 
  • Will the UH run game re-appear this week? The offseason was filled with excitement for the second season of RB Tylan Hines, who enjoyed an All-Mountain West honorable mention to cap off the true freshman’s year. Week 0 saw Hines be mostly a non-factor, totaling less than 20 all-purpose yards in 10 total touches. That cannot continue going forward, as the offense will need Hines to build off the end of last season to balance an attack that has multiple weapons in the air. It also likely will not continue, as Chang expressed supreme confidence in the sophomore throughout camp and mentioned expecting him to get a lot of touches this season. Sophomore RB Landon Sims led the way in Week 0 with 38 yards on the ground for the ‘Bows, but it was a tough day on the ground for the Hawai’i offense. They mustered only 1.6 yards per carry, not able to truly play complementary offensive football despite their success in the opener.  
  • Who wins the turnover battle this week? Hawai’i had opportunities to flip possessions but saw interceptions bounce off the hands of ‘Bows defenders multiple times throughout the night. By comparison, Vandy was able to create a pair of turnovers to save both a touchdown and the game. UH was able to win on many of the margins in their first game but learned that turnovers can flip a script quickly in football. 

Hawai’i has a prime opportunity to reach the .500 mark for the first time in two years, taking on a rebuilding Stanford program in their first appearance under a new coaching staff. It’s a situation the ‘Bows are all too familiar with after experiencing it in 2022, but some of the talent on the Stanford roster has a chance to produce at high-levels quickly and Taylor comes in with a winning pedigree.

The ‘Bows are in no position to take opponents lightly and Chang has heaped praise on Stanford’s new head coach for his ability to put together winning teams everywhere he goes. That said, if the UH defense from the second half against Vanderbilt puts together a full game at home, the Cardinal might be one of the teams on the Rainbow Warriors’ schedule “on alert” everyone heard about. 

You can watch the game on CBS Sports Network with kickoff scheduled for 5:00 p.m. HT on Friday, September 1. The University of Hawai’i at Mānoa will welcome back the legendary Satale family for “Family Reunion Weekend” while being honored on the field during the first quarter. Gates for “Kickoff at the Les” will open at 3 p.m. with live music and a DJ, concessions, beer garden, Keiki Zone and much more, but parking passes for lower campus must be purchased in advance for the game.