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 | SCHEDULE UPDATED MAY 30, 2024

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

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

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

WEEK 0 – vs Delaware State (August 24) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEEK 2 – BYE (September 7) 

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

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

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

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

WEEK 4 – vs Northern Iowa (September 21)

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

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

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

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

WEEK 5 – BYE (September 28) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEEK 9 – vs Nevada (October 26) 

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

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

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

WEEK 10 – at Fresno State (November 2) 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEEK 12 – at Utah State (November 16) 

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

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

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

WEEK 13 – BYE (November 23) 

WEEK 14 – vs New Mexico (November 30) 

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

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

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

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. 

New Mexico hammers Hawai’i, hand Rainbow Warriors 10th straight road loss

New Mexico hammers Hawai’i, hand Rainbow Warriors 10th straight road loss

Sep 16, 2023; Eugene, Oregon, USA; Hawaii Warriors head coach Timmy Chang on the field during warmups before the game between the Oregon Ducks and the Hawaii Warriors at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Craig Strobeck-USA TODAY Sports

New Mexico hammers Hawai’i, hand Rainbow Warriors 10th straight road loss

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED OCT 22, 2023

The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (2-6, 0-3 MWC) became the first conference opponent to fall in Albuquerque since 2017 on Saturday as the New Mexico Lobos (3-4, 1-2 MWC) dismantled the ‘Bows, 42-21, to pick up the program’s first Mountain West victory of the season. The Lobos scored on each of their first five drives (not including the single play drive by UNM to run the remainder of the 1st half clock), punting for the first time late in the 3rd quarter. 

Hawai’i committed four turnovers while producing zero takeaways, losing the turnover battle for the sixth time in eight games while tying it in the other two contests. New Mexico entered the week having not produced a takeaway in four games and without an interception recorded before finishing Saturday with a trio of picks and a forced fumble recovery.  

The ‘Bows received the opening kickoff on Saturday and promptly went three-and-out for the second consecutive game. It’s the seventh time in eight games UH has punted on its opening drive of the game this season.  

After spending the beginning of the week discussing how the team wanted to start faster, Saturday was the exact opposite of those desires. After another fruitless opening drive for Hawai’i, New Mexico quickly marched 70 yards down the field for a touchdown on their first possession of the afternoon. Lobos’ transfer QB Dylan Hopkins connected with his favorite target and UNM’s leading receiver Jeremiah Hixon for a 28-yard TD strike for the game’s first score before the New Mexico defense got the ball right back to the offense at the New Mexico 45-yard line, intercepting Hawai’i QB Brayden Schager for the team’s first pick of the season. 

UNM capitalized on the team’s first takeaway in over a month, utilizing the legs of RB Andrew Henry to wear down the ‘Bows defense before Hopkins tossed his 2nd TD of the day, a 3-yard completion to Ryan Davis with 2:14 left in the 1st quarter to put the Lobos ahead, 14-0. 

Similar to previous weeks, Hawai’i’s offense would wake up and work quickly down the field on the drive following the Davis TD with a healthy dosage of passing the ball to Steven McBride. The senior wideout had three receptions for 67 yards in the scoring drive, including a tip-drill 12-yard TD reception with 18 seconds left in the opening frame to cut the deficit to seven. 

New Mexico’s offense responded again, dicing up the defense through the air before handing the ball off to running back Jacory Croskey-Merritt for a 1-yard TD run to extend the lead back to two scores. It was Croskey-Merritt’s 10th rushing touchdown of the season. 

It looked as though Hawai’i’s offense would respond once again, driving inside the New Mexico 30-yard line before the Lobos’ defense was able to tighten the leaks to hold Hawai’i to no points on the drive after a sack of Schager on 4th-and-three. 

That’s when the Lobos’ offense flexed their muscles with a 62-yard scoring drive that took less than four minutes and put the home team ahead three touchdowns, 28-7, with 3:25 left in the opening half of play. It was the ground game for New Mexico buoying the drive as Henry dashed 33 yards past the defense for his first touchdown of the day. The 28 points scored by New Mexico is the 2nd-most that UH’s defense has given up in a 1st half, trailing only the 34 points scored by nationally-ranked Oregon. 

Starting their “two-minute offense” a little early, Hawai’i’s attack quickly worked its way down the field (aided by a roughing-the-passer flag on UNM) and into the red zone with just under 40 seconds left in the half. Schager uncorked a beautiful throw on 3rd-and-10 to put it only where his receiver could catch it, which Pofele Ashlock did to cut the deficit to 28-14 heading into the locker rooms. It’s the second straight week Ashlock has found the end zone and fifth time total this season for the redshirt freshman.

New Mexico’s struggles this season had nothing to do with getting out of the gate to start the game but everything to do with not being ready in the second half to play. Those issues seemed to be far in the past on Saturday for the Lobos, who marched down the field on the first drive following the halftime break and started the second half the same as the first — a Hopkins TD pass to Hixon, this time for 18 yards to cap a near-seven-minute drive for New Mexico to take a 21-point lead, 35-14. 

Forced to play for touchdowns and not field goals with the defensive struggles, the ‘Bows moved the ball into Lobos’ territory before being stonewalled on third and fourth down and one yard to gain to turn the ball over on downs with 5:33 left in the 3rd quarter. Hawai’i’s defense responded for the first time all afternoon, forcing a three-and-out and the first punt of the day for the Lobos on the next drive to get the ball back with 18 minutes left to mount a comeback. 

The Rainbow Warriors would work down the field again, finally giving the ball to big back Solo Vaipulu to compliment the passing attack to get inside the New Mexico 20-yard line. Once again, the Lobos’ defense stood strong to force a turnover-on-downs after getting home for a strip sack of Schager on fourth down that the defense was able to recover to close out the 3rd quarter. 

The ‘Bows defense would force another punt on the ensuing possession, one the UNM punter Aaron Rodriguez bombed 60 yards to pin UH inside the 10-yard line. With time as the enemy, Hawai’i fully abandoned the running game and looked to the right arm of Schager to push the ball down the field quickly. Hawai’i worked by midfield before a Hail Mary attempt from Schager was picked off by Jer’Marius Lewis in the end zone for a touchback. 

New Mexico put the final nail in the coffin on the next drive as Croskey-Merritt danced into the end zone for a 14-yard TD and his 2nd rushing touchdown of the day, making it 42-14 in favor of the Lobos with under seven minutes remaining. 

Schager was intercepted again on the next drive before helping lead the ‘Bows down the field for one last touchdown, a two-yard catch from McBride for the Kansas transfer’s 2nd TD reception of the day and 8th of the season to make the over hit while the Lobos’ picked up their first home conference victory since 2017, 42-21. 

UNM’s Hopkins finished the day an efficient 20-for-25 passing for 202 yards and three TDs while being sacked just once in the victory for the Lobos. RB Andrew Henry became the first player to rush for over 100 yards this season against the ‘Bows, going for 112 yards rushing and a touchdown. Hixon led the way receiving for the Lobos, bringing in three passes for 62 yards and 2 TDs. 

Hawai’i’s Schager ended the day with 345 yards passing to go with three TDs and INTs each in the loss. The junior QB is the first ‘Bows QB to throw for 300 or more yards in 3 straight games since Cole McDonald in the first four games of 2018. Landon Sims led the rushing attack with 34 yards on six carries while Steven McBride paced all receivers with 75 yards across five catches and two TDs. 

Hawai’i’s defense allowed over 400 yards of total offense for the fourth time this season and allowed over 200 yards rushing for the third time this year. The ‘Bows now return home to celebrate homecoming, hosting former ‘Bows QB Chevan Cordeiro and San Jose State. The Spartans were 42-21 victors against Utah State this past weekend and open as 10-point favorites in Hawai’i. Kickoff is scheduled for 6 p.m. HT and will be broadcast on Spectrum Sports PPV. 

 

 

Three Takeaways from Hawai’i’s 41-34 home loss to San Diego State

Three Takeaways from Hawai’i’s 41-34 home loss to San Diego State

Three Takeaways from Hawai’i’s 41-34 home loss to San Diego State 

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED OCT 16, 2023

HONOLULU — The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors fell behind by three scores early in the 2nd quarter and fought tooth and nail the rest of the way to get back into Saturday’s matchup with San Diego State, even taking the lead into the final 15 minutes of play after a Nick Cenacle 52-yard catch-and-run went for six as time expired in the 3rd quarter. 

Despite the fight, the ‘Bows ultimately fell to the Aztecs, 41-34. Turnovers and dynamic plays for SDSU proved to be the difference, scoring 21 points off four Hawai’i turnovers (3 fumbles, 1 INT) and using a blocked punt on the first drive of the game to set the stage for the fight waiting ahead for UH. 

That said, there were so many positives to take away from the game. It’s almost more frustrating to have lost than be able to learn from a win because of that. Without further ado, here are three takeaways from Hawai’i’s 41-34 home loss to San Diego State. 


 

1. The final score will fool you on UH’s defensive performance. 

Loyal followers of the Hawai’i football takeaway articles that drop each Monday may recall a harsh reality check of where the ‘Bows defense was after allowing 44 points on the road to UNLV right before the bye week. Among the things referenced in the piece were the struggles to finish tackles and awarding free yards via penalties to opponents. 

We’ll start there to uncover how the UH defense, despite “giving up” 41 points, looked far better in their first showing after the bye. 

While using the raw defensive grade given out by PFF for each game would be enough to show you the point (it was the ‘Bows highest-graded defensive performance of the season), the underlying numbers are what should pique interest of fans moving forward. It was the 2nd-highest tackling grade of the 2023 season for the Rainbow Warriors (62.8, behind 77.9 grade vs UAlbany), showing strides in finishing tackles and not allowing opponents to bounce off contact and burn the ‘Bows for bigger gains. There will be “missed tackles” in every game for defenses, but Hawai’i entered the evening averaging 13 allowed missed tackles per game (according to PFF). They improved that number to 10 missed tackles on Saturday night, a marginal improvement but an important one at that. Linebacker Jalen Smith had a pair of missed tackles in his second career start but also provided four “stops” for the ‘Bows defense, good for second among UH defenders. Safety Peter Manuma, who left the game with injuries a few times throughout the night, also was credited with two missed tackles but led the team with six “stops” and recorded his first interception of the season. It was the first pick for the ‘Bows since Week 2 against UAlbany when true freshman Elijah Palmer snagged his first collegiate pick. 

The turnover was a pretty welcome sight as well after not forcing a turnover at UNLV. Hawai’i’s defense was expected to be a strength coming into the season and have added ability to take the ball away but have yet to win the turnover battle against an opponent this season. That does need to change going forward but shouldn’t be an impossible task as the Rainbow Warriors try to get healed up increasingly as the weeks roll on. Manuma did finish the game despite a couple scary moments for the stud sophomore safety. 

UH also posted a season-low for penalties, getting flagged twice for just 11 total yards in the loss. While it’s a little thing for now, Hawai’i can only win games by winning on the margins and that includes disciplined play leading to no free yardage. Saturday was a monster step towards being the fully-working machine that the ‘Bows know they can be. 

It is important to note the position that the defense was put in against the Aztecs this past weekend as well, as a blocked punt on the first possession of the game saw Hawai’i’s defense already have heels on the goal line for the first snap. A similar situation happened late in the contest as well after a Landon Sims fumble inside Hawai’i territory allowed SDSU to punch in a second TD forty-nine seconds after re-taking the lead in the 4th quarter. A 70-yard pick-six also goes on the final score by no fault of the defense, which held San Diego State to just 5-of-14 on 3rd down conversion attempts and forced the Aztecs to settle for FG tries three times. 

While there are things to improve still (the lack of sacks and ability to generate pressure on opposing QBs in general jumps to mind), Saturday was an encouraging leap forward for a talented Hawai’i defense that has struggled to fully put it together to this point. 

2. Steven McBride deserves national attention, even if it’s just a little bit. 

Few people knew what to expect from McBride entering this season. The senior had just transferred in from Kansas, where he had accumulated 21 receptions across parts of three seasons for the Jayhawks and was entering into an offense that relied greatly on the rushing attack the season prior. 

The coaching staff had an idea of what the 6-foot-1 speedster could do in the new Run-N-Shoot offense while pitching him to join the program and McBride quickly developed an on-field rapport with starting quarterback Brayden Schager in the offseason. That chemistry has translated into game action for the senior and the ‘Bows offense as he’s racked up 626 yards receiving on just 35 catches, good for an average of 18.2 yards per catch for McBride. 

He’s turned up the production even more recently as well, leading all pass catchers in the nation over the past two weeks in receiving yards after performances of 180 and 157 yards against UNLV and SDSU, respectively. It’s also the first time that the senior has gone over 100 yards receiving in back-to-back games in his career. McBride is a big-play machine, holding the ‘Bows top three plays from scrimmage in terms of total yards gained with catches of 65, 62 and 55 yards and leading the team with six TD receptions. 

The senior bet on himself by transferring out of a Power 5 program to go to a Group of 5 school and it has paid dividends for McBride. He started the year hot, cooled off for a few weeks and immediately sprinted past the competition again. He ranks 14th in the nation (among FBS schools) in receiving yards, below names like LSU’s Malik Nabers and Washington’s Rome Odunze who are expected to be selected in this year’s NFL draft. 

This isn’t to say McBride should generate 1st-round or even Day 2 draft buzz, but it is time that the ‘Bows big-play threat gets the true respect he deserves. 

3. Hawai’i won’t be going to a bowl game this year. 

Okay. It was positive to begin for a reason. It’s time to deliver the blow now that it’s been softened a bit. 

The ‘Bows aren’t going to be a bowl team this season. It’s been a stated goal of players and coaches alike to get Hawai’i back to bowl eligibility this season, but Saturday’s loss made an already-difficult climb nearly impossible with just six games left on the schedule and five wins required for a guaranteed bowl berth. 

A quick look at the remainder of the year for Hawai’i goes as follows: at New Mexico, home for San Jose State, away for Nevada, home for Mountain West-leading Air Force, in Laramie, Wyoming for a date with a strong Wyoming team and a season finale at home against a spunky Colorado State program that just upset Boise State. 

Now, this is not to say that it’s impossible for the ‘Bows to run the table (or close to it) on the way to end the season. The path is there with just two of those opponents currently above .500 on the season in Wyoming and Air Force. If Hawai’i were to beat the other four teams currently at .500 or worse in their meetings, an upset in only one of those two games would be needed for bowl eligibility. 

Hey, on any given weekend. 

Realistically speaking, this young ‘Bows team will continue to see highs and lows in year two of Timmy Chang and staff and will experience growing pains in winnable games that could potentially lead to losing outcomes. Any combination of two losses pretty much ends the ‘Bows hopes at a bowl game and young players are bound to make some errors. Young coaches, too. 

The outing against SDSU was encouraging in so many ways but also displayed how UH still doesn’t have enough talent/skill level hasn’t yet developed to the level where they can survive critical errors in key moments of games and still win. The ‘Bows took steps forward on defense, Schager threw for a new career-high in yardage again and UH put up a season-high in points, yet still lost. 

A bowl game isn’t in the cards for the 2023 season, but the pieces here and experiences to come this season will build the foundation for next year’s team to re-join the end-of-season festivities. 

Slow start, rough finish dooms ‘Bows in offensive slugfest versus SDSU

Slow start, rough finish dooms ‘Bows in offensive slugfest versus SDSU

Slow start, rough finish dooms ‘Bows in offensive slugfest versus SDSU

BY PAUL BRECHT | HONOLULU
PUBLISHED OCT 15, 2023

HONOLULU — The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (2-5, 0-2 MWC) fell to the San Diego State Aztecs (3-4, 1-2 MWC) on Saturday night, 41-34. Another slow start came back to bite the ‘Bows late, as they allowed the first 17 points of the contest before getting on the board. 

Hawai’i lost four turnovers and had a punt blocked deep in their own territory, neutralizing a career-game from QB Brayden Schager as the ‘Bows ran out of time and fell at home to conference-foe San Diego State for the 10th time in 12 meetings since UH joined the Mountain West. 

The Rainbow Warriors received the opening kickoff after SDSU won the coin toss and deferred, quickly going 3-and-out and setting up to punt the ball away when the Aztecs came crashing through the protection and blocked Matthew Shipley’s punt to set San Diego State up inside the Hawai’i 20-yard line for their first possession of the day. 

The ‘Bows defense, tasked with a tough challenge from the outset, held strong to keep the Aztecs’ offense to just three plays and three points — settling for a 22-yard field goal from SDSU senior kicker Jack Browning to make it 3-0 after three minutes of game action. Hawai’i’s beginning-of-game offensive struggles continued with three-and-outs on the next two drives (though they were not helped by field position on the 2nd drive, starting at their own 8-yard line). 

San Diego State extended the lead to 10-0 on the next possession, starting inside Hawai’i territory and working their way down the field in six plays to score on a Lucky Sutton 1-yard run up the gut with 4:16 left in the first quarter. The ‘Bows finally grabbed a first down on the next drive, though the offense couldn’t get much more working. 

UH’s defense attempted to give the offense a spark as safety Peter Manuma produced his first interception of the season to open the second quarter, but SDSU’s defense answered with an interception of their own — a 70-yard pick-six of Schager — to open up a 17-0 lead with 12:19 left in the 2nd quarter. 

Things continued to look bad for the ‘Bows to start the next drive began from their own 9-yard line following a penalty on the kickoff, but the offense began to find legs as the run found life to boost the aerial attack. Nasjzaé Bryant-Lelei scampered for an 11-yard gain on the first play and for 24 yards on the drive to add some extra space for Schager to work with. Aided with extra time, Schager dropped a pass in the bucket for a 17-yard TD to Pofele Ashlock and cutting the Aztecs’ lead to 10. It was the first time Ashlock got in the end zone since September 1 against Stanford. 

The ‘Bows defense forced a three-and-out following the touchdown, but a muffed punt allowed the Aztecs to recover inside Hawai’i territory without sending their own defense back onto the field. Once again, the Rainbow Warriors’ defense bent but did not break AND were rewarded for their efforts this time. After forcing the SDSU drive to stall at the 33-yard line, Aztecs’ kicker Jack Browning’s 51-yard FG attempt went wide-left and kept the score at 17-7. 

Hawai’i played complementary football quickly after as Schager connected with Steven McBride for 62 yards to set the ‘Bows up at the SDSU 5 and hit 6-foot-5 receiver Alex Perry with a jump ball for a TD two plays later to make it a one-score game with 90 seconds left in the first half. 

The ‘Bows defense got one more stop on the next drive, allowing Timmy Chang to dial up some deep ball attempts that ended up falling to the turf to close the opening 30 minutes of play as Hawai’i entered the locker room down by three, 17-14. 

SDSU was stonewalled by the Hawai’i defense once again to kick things off in the second half, forcing a punt after four plays and only one first down before Browning pinned the ‘Bows back at their own 7 for their first drive of the third quarter. UH’s offense would go 64 yards in 10 plays on the drive, knotting the score at 17 apiece at the 8:34 mark of the third period. 

The Aztecs responded with points of their own after a long drive, going 68 yards across 13 plays before getting stopped inside the Hawai’i 10 and settling for a 24-yard field goal to re-take the lead, 20-17, with less than a minute to play in the quarter. 

Schager and company worked quickly once again as time in the third quarter wound down. It was Schager delivering another beautiful throw, this time to WR Nick Cenacle who galloped by two SDSU defenders as the quarter clock expired to give the ‘Bows their first lead of the night, 24-20. 

San Diego State answered back with a quick strike of their own three plays later, as Jalen Mayden found a wide-open Mekhi Shaw for a 69-yard TD reception to jump back ahead, 27-24. The Aztecs found pay dirt again 66 seconds later after an Ashlock fumble was recovered by SDSU inside the Hawai’i 25-yard line and Lucky Sutton ran it in from two yards out to extend the lead to 10 with 12:27 left in regulation. 

The ‘Bows would not go quietly though despite the critical mistakes that had happened to that point. Needing just three plays of their own, Hawai’i went 75 yards to bring it within three once again as Schager connected with McBride for UH’s longest play from scrimmage this season (a 65-yard reception) and RB Landon Sims punched it in from two yards out for the sophomore’s first career rushing touchdown. 

Needing a stop, Hawai’i’s defense strapped up the boots once again and got exactly that. The ‘Bows forced a turnover-on-downs after SDSU went for it on a 4th-and-1 from the Hawai’i 21-yard line and came up short with 5:39 remaining in the fourth. The ‘Bows would fumble the chance again though. 

Literally. 

The Aztecs’ defense was able to pry the ball loose from Sims on a second down run and recovered it, bringing UH’s defense right back out onto the field in the same spot it had gotten a much-needed stop just 32 seconds beforehand. San Diego State would soak up nearly three minutes of game action afterwards, all but icing the game with 2:11 left with a Jaylon Armstead rushing touchdown making it 41-31. 

Hawai’i quickly worked to the SDSU 30 and elected to kick a 47-yard field goal with 59 seconds remaining and all three timeouts in hand, understanding that two possessions would be needed no matter what with a score. 

The ensuing onside kick attempt was recovered by the Aztecs and UH was unable to get one last stop, allowing SDSU to pick up a first down and kneel out the remainder of the clock to drop Hawai’i to 2-5 overall on the season and 0-2 in Mountain West play. 

San Diego State’s Mayden finished the day with 221 yards through the air and another 53 yards on the ground to tie for the team rushing lead, tossing one TD and one INT in the win for the Aztecs. RB Cam Davis tallied 53 rushing yards across 10 carries as well for SDSU, who had three of their TDs come from the ground. Mekhi Shaw led the Aztecs pass-catchers with six receptions for 126 yards and a score. 

Brayden Schager had a career-best 427 yards passing, going 29-for-47 with three TD tosses and an interception for Hawai’i. The ‘Bows offensive line had a powerful performance, surrendering just one sack all night and providing time for their junior signal caller to work. Saturday was the 16th consecutive game that Schager had thrown a TD pass, continuing to mesh with the explosive weapons at his disposal. 

Speaking of those weapons, Steven McBride finished with 157 yards receiving on five catches just two weeks after posting a career-best 180 yards at UNLV. Ashlock had the largest target share with 13, hauling in eight catches for 68 yards and a TD. Nick Cenacle posted a career-high 100 yards receiving while scoring his first college TD in the loss for the ‘Bows. 

Hawai’i outgained the SDSU offense, 480 yards to 378 yards, but lost the turnover battle once again with four giveaways and just one takeaway (while allowing a blocked punt deep in their own territory). San Diego State scored 21 of their 41 points off Hawai’i turnovers. The UH offensive line allowed a season-low one sack against SDSU just two weeks after giving up a season-high six sacks at UNLV. 

The ‘Bows now hit the road for a Mountain West bout against New Mexico, who fell 52-24 at home to San Jose State this past weekend. Kickoff is scheduled for noon HT and will be broadcast on Spectrum Sports PPV. New Mexico opens as two-point favorites ahead of next week’s matchup.