9th Island Nightmare: 3 Takeaways from ‘Bows loss at UNLV heading into bye week

9th Island Nightmare: 3 Takeaways from ‘Bows loss at UNLV heading into bye week

Hawai’i QB Brayden Schager hit as he throws via UNLV Athletics

9th Island Nightmare: 3 Takeaways from ‘Bows loss at UNLV heading into bye week


HONOLULU — The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors saw known flaws anchor the team down in the 44-20 conference-opening loss at UNLV on Saturday as the Rebels dominated in the trenches and ran for over 300 yards in the latest installment of the “9th Island Showdown” between the programs. 

It’s a sour taste to the end the first half of the season for the ‘Bows, losing the “Island Showdown” trophy (shaped as a large, golden pineapple) to a rival and failing to reach .500 and grab the program’s first road win under Timmy Chang… again. Toss in the numerous injuries that UH continues to deal with and it’s been a rough go of it for the ‘Bows lately. 

Luckily for Chang and the program, they return home with a bye week before getting back in action at T.C. Ching Complex against San Diego State on October 14. With nearly two weeks before the next time they suit up, Hawai’i should get a chance to not only get healthier on both sides of the ball but also make adjustments and develop the young talent even more as they enter the meat of Mountain West Conference-play. 

That time to make adjustments, changes and develop younger talent proved to be a boon for the ‘Bows in ’22, seeing jumps in offensive efficiency and production in their commitment to Run-N-Shoot concepts. For Chang and staff, they hope to make similar use of the time this season as they continue to work towards bigger goals. 

With all of that said, here are three takeaways following the ‘Bows road loss at UNLV, 44-20, and some things to think about heading into the bye-week and beyond. 


1. It continues to be the same problems plaguing UH in each loss. 

It feels fair to have a negative tenor to start the takeaways. Hawai’i gave up over 300 yards on the ground, struggled to get off the field on 3rd down and lost 44-20. They also surrendered six sacks, one of which forced a critical fumble in the first half to set up points for the Rebels, while failing to register any sacks of their own. That’s… not good. 

What makes it sting worse for ‘Bows fans is the familiarity of the problems. It’s the fourth time in the past two seasons that a UH opponent has run for 300 or more yards and the fifth time this season that Hawai’i’s defense has given up more than 100 yards on the ground. UNLV was 8-of-15 on 3rd down conversions on Saturday, marking the fourth time this season that Hawai’i has allowed a 3rd down conversion rate of 50% or higher. Both of those issues can somewhat be attributed to the ‘Bows head-scratching tackling problem, one that has aided extending opposing offensive drives and seen otherwise bottled-up plays go for extra firsts and scores. 

It can be tough to get off the field on 3rd down as it is, but when it consistently seems like offenses are in manageable situations that aren’t as easily predictable on the play calls, the job gets even tougher. Even more, the ‘Bows have struggled to create turnovers at the rate they expected coming out of training camp. Hawai’i has lost the turnover battle in four of their six outings this season, tying in the other two contests. 

We’ll get into it more, but injuries certainly haven’t helped UH through six games and have forced some players to see more action early in the season than originally accounted for. A lot of that has been youth and lack of experience working the way to the forefront while experiencing growing pains. 

Obviously, issues are alongside the other side of the ball as well. The running game continues to be spotty at best as they’ve dealt with numerous injuries of their own. Sophomore RB Tylan Hines has seen a dip in production in his second year while playing through injuries and Nasjzaé Bryant-Lelei continues to get his sea legs under him after missing the start of the season from a training camp injury. While they struggled against a good UNLV defensive line, the ‘Bows offensive line has been playing through pain all season long. That’s part of the deal of an O-lineman role, but the bye-week will be good for continuing to get better as a unit while healing up some of the bumps and bruises. 

Lastly, two more turnovers for Brayden Schager hurt Hawai’i in the end (though the interception to close the game didn’t carry TOO much value) while he continued to show off all the positives that helped him earn the QB1 job for the team. He threw for over 300 yards for the third time this season and tossed a TD for the 15th consecutive game, but even he will continue to say that he could’ve (and should’ve) been better for his guys. 

The issues that hurt the ‘Bows aren’t anything new. Those things will need to be cleaned up and consistently polished if Hawai’i wants to compete with the top of the crop in the Mountain West. 

2. Hawai’i needs to get healthy / get next-man-up, up-to-speed. 

It was just mentioned a bit to end the last blurb, but Hawai’i has been decimated with crucial injuries at multiple points this season with one coming as a full knock-out blow to defensive captain and senior LB Logan Taylor. After the defensive stalwart was knocked out for the rest of the year with an ACL tear against UAlbany, it has taken some time for UH to replace both the production and vocal leadership that Taylor provided on the field. 

His running mate, LB Isaiah Tufaga, has upped his level of play since Taylor’s injury. UH finds itself in a mirror situation from last season when Tufaga went down for the season to injury and Taylor emerged as one of the key Hawai’i defenders. With the shoe figuratively on the other foot, Tufaga has slowly worked his way back towards being the heat-seeking missile he can be all over the field for the ‘Bows. He finished Saturday afternoon with a career-high 10 tackles for UH and continued to be a pre-game captain for the coin toss. 

Next to Tufaga, however, has been a mixture of next-man-up and consistent rotation to try and replace what Taylor brought to the field. Seeing more time since Taylor’s injury has been any combination of Nalu Emerson, Noah Kema and Jalen Smith (who started for the first time in his college career and tallied 10 total tackles). The trio has had many good moments in their opportunity to step in, but nobody has clearly taken a hold of the role that Taylor filled. As the team heads into the bye week, it’s a perfect time for someone to separate and take hold of the opposite starting job. 

One route to get there? Cleaning up missed tackling problems. 

According to PFF, Hawai’i’s defense has 75 missed tackles this season with a concerning trend of defensive backbone positions not finishing the play. Of those 75 missed tackles, the safeties and linebackers for UH have accounted for 36 of them. On Saturday, Hawai’i had 18 missed tackles from the defense with those two position groups tallying nine of them. Whoever can help solve the ‘Bows tackling issues at the next levels of the defense is in for a big-time role for the rest of the season. 

Speaking of big-time roles, plenty of important Rainbow Warriors have spent time on the training table this season. Starters such as CB Cam Stone, RB Tylan Hines and CB Virdel Edwards II have all missed games this season due to injury while key depth pieces like Bryant-Lelei, RB Landon Sims and WR Jonah Panoke (among many others) have been banged up along the way. Standout nickel cornerback and true freshman Elijah Palmer had to be helped off the field in UH’s loss as well, though it’s unknown if the injury will keep the defensive back out currently. 

All those words to say — the bye week came at a perfect time for Hawai’i. 

3. The offense continues to be a work in progress; that should scare the rest of the Mountain West.

It’s always nice to end off on a positive note and that’s what’s happening here. 

Hawai’i’s offense has struggled to keep Brayden Schager upright at times, has yet to unlock the run game and Tylan Hines has been hit with a killer second-year slump to go with his injury-filled start to 2023. Despite that, Schager has continued to produce each week to the point where his numbers rank among the top 10 nationally in multiple categories such as TD passes, yards, attempts and completions among all QBs. Redshirt freshman receiver Pofele Ashlock continues to look like a bright, emerging star for the coming games (and years) in the Run-N-Shoot offense. 

You could even argue that Ashlock hasn’t been the team’s most productive receiver this season, as Kansas transfer WR Steven McBride continues to tear it up on the field with his first true opportunity to shine in college. The senior pass catcher set a new career high with 180 receiving yards while hauling in his sixth touchdown of the season. 

We would be here all day if the job was to list off the multiple contributors in the Rainbow Warriors’ WR room, which has shown that it may be the deepest position group on the team. The best part about it is that so many of the WRs are underclassmen with a chance to continue development in both the short and long term.  

Couple that with the talent that a full-health Tylan Hines brings to the table alongside an offensive line that continues to work to get more cohesive as the weeks progress and the potential for Hawai’i to be a top-tier offense in the conference exists. Without any semblance of a consistent running attack, Hawai’i checks in at fifth for total offensive yards among Mountain West programs with 2026 total yards with a solid non-conference schedule of defenses faced. That could spell for a scary combination if the run game finds its legs for the ‘Bows and Schager and his WRs continue taking steps as the weeks progress. 

UNLV runs wild to beat Hawai’i, 44-20, takes back Island Showdown Trophy

UNLV runs wild to beat Hawai’i, 44-20, takes back Island Showdown Trophy

UNLV runs wild to beat Hawai’i, 44-20, takes back Island Showdown Trophy


The wait for the first road win in the Timmy Chang era continues a bit longer. 

The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (2-4, 0-1 MWC) fell to the UNLV Rebels (4-1, 1-0 MWC) on Saturday, 44-20, seeing this season’s trend of slow starts in games continue in the program’s conference opener at Allegiant Stadium. 

The ‘Bows defense struggled to get off the field on third down and saw the Rebels’ run game gash the unit for 307 yards on the ground, the highest single-game rushing total for a ‘Bows opponent since last season’s October 29th home loss to Wyoming when the Cowboys rushed for 365 yards. It’s the fourth time in the last two seasons that the ‘Bows have given up 300 or more yards on the ground. 

Hawai’i’s defense started strong, forcing a three-and-out on the game’s opening possession in just 46 seconds. UH’s offense responded with a fruitless first drive of their own before UNLV began the scoring with a quick 5-play, 66-yard drive on the next possession. The Rebels ran four times for 50 yards before redshirt freshman Jayden Maiava completed his first pass of the day, a 16-yard score to RB Vincent Davis Jr, putting UNLV ahead 7-0 with 9:04 left in the first quarter. 

UNLV extended the lead to 10-0 with a 52-yard FG from K Jose Pizano at the start of the second quarter, capitalizing on a failed 4th-and-3 try from the UNLV 38 by Hawai’i with three points. UH would get on the board with the next drive, airing it out to senior WR Steven McBride twice for completions of 24 and 35 yards respectively to put the ‘Bows in field goal range and make it 10-3 with 12 minutes left in the first half.

The Rebels would answer back with a long, methodical 13-play drive that killed off over seven minutes in the second quarter but ended with UNLV settling for a 27-yard FG to push the lead back to 10 with under five minutes left in the quarter. Hawai’i looked to respond with points of their own, but two more sacks (including a strip sack to end the drive) from UNLV gave the home squad a chance to bury the visitors in the first half. The fumble by Schager was just the second lost fumble of the season for Hawai’i, the other coming in the Week 4 win over New Mexico State. The Rebs’ defense totaled five sacks in the opening 30 minutes on Saturday as they continuously had the ‘Bows offensive line off-balance. 

UNLV punched in the 2nd TD of the afternoon quickly following the turnover, using a pair of Hawai’i personal foul penalties to push inside the red zone. That allowed RB Courtney Reese to rush it in from four yards out and extend a 20-3 halftime lead for the home team. 

The slow start to the game has become the norm for the ‘Bows so far through six games. Hawai’i has been outscored 130-50 in the first half this season and 66-17 in the opening quarter, something that has been on the minds of the coaching staff for weeks. It was a familiar spot for UH, who went into last week’s halftime down two touchdowns before coming back to beat the Aggies on a last-second field goal.  

The ‘Bows looked to get the momentum going on their end once again in the second half with a one-play scoring drive, as Schager connected with McBride on a 51-yard TD pass after some trickery left the UNLV defense fooled, making it 20-10 with less than four minutes off the third quarter clock. 

Hawai’i’s defense was unable to come up with the complimentary stop on the ensuing drive, as tackling issues continued to pop up for the defense. The ‘Bows allowed three runs of 10+ yards on the possession, including the 21-yard touchdown scamper by Reese that saw three missed UH tackles help push the Rebs’ lead back to 17 with 8:11 remaining in the third. 

The ‘Bows looked to be in business again after a 55-yard completion to McBride set them up deep in UNLV territory, but two incompletions and a run for a loss forced UH to settle for a 34-yard field goal to cut it to 27-13 with five minutes remaining in the third. The 55-yard pass was the ‘Bows longest play from scrimmage this season. 

In need of a stop with time as the enemy, Hawai’i struggled to get off the field on third down and allowed the Rebels to move the chains to drain the remainder of the quarter. After a false start pushed UNLV back for a 3rd-and-18 at the start of the fourth, the ‘Bows were able to force a field goal try from 48 yards by the Rebs’ – one that skipped off the bottom of the uprights and through to make it 30-13 with 14:22 left for Hawai’i to mount a comeback. 

Once again, UH’s offense worked quickly (with the assistance of a couple UNLV penalties) to keep the visitors’ hopes alive. This time, it was redshirt freshman Alex Perry breaking free for a wide-open 38-yard touchdown catch to cut the Rebs’ lead back to 10 with 12:47 left. Once again, the defense could not get the stop the team needed. 

The Rebels went 80 yards in 10 plays, cutting off another four and a half minutes from the clock and pushing ahead, 37-20, on Maiava’s second TD pass of the day. The former Kaimuki QB found Jacob De Jesus for an easy 3-yard score to put Hawai’i’s comeback hopes on life support in his showcase against his hometown team. 

Hawai’i saw a Pofele Ashlock catch-and-run of over 50 yards on 4th-and-5 called back for an illegal pick play, forcing the ‘Bows to punt from deep in their own territory instead and UNLV put the cherry on top two plays later (with the help of a face mask penalty) with a Donavyn Lester 22-yard TD run to open the biggest deficit of the day for the ‘Bows, 44-20. 

One last-ditch effort for UH saw a drive deep into Rebels’ territory, but the opportunity ended with an INT in the end zone ripped from the hands of WR Karsyn Pupunu and may or may not have hit turf. UNLV would kneel on the next possession to take back the Island Showdown Trophy and avenge last season’s loss in the islands. 

UNLV’s Maiava finished the day 11-for-21 passing the ball for 142 yards and 2 TDs, adding in four rushes for another 32 yards in what may be his final start before the return of injured starter Doug Brumfield. Six different Rebels finished with 30 or more rushing yards as the team averaged 6.5 yards per carry. Donavyn Lester led the way for the Rebs’ with 12 carries 98 yards and a TD. 

Hawai’i’s Schager posted his third 300-yard performance of the season, throwing for 313 yards and two TDs to go along with two turnovers (1 fumble, 1 INT) on 22-of-35 passing in the loss. It’s the 15th consecutive game the gunslinger has thrown a touchdown pass for the ‘Bows. He was also sacked six times, five coming in the first half. McBride finished with a mind-boggling new career-high of 180 yards on six receptions and added his sixth TD catch of the year. The Kansas transfer finished with 205 all-purpose yards in the game. 

The ‘Bows went 1-for-11 on 3rd-down conversion attempts, continuing another season-long problem. Hawai’i is converting at just a 32% clip on third down this season while seeing struggles getting off the field defensively, allowing opponents to convert at a 47% rate on the money down. 

Hawai’i heads home to the benefit of a bye week, which couldn’t come soon enough for a banged-up ‘Bows team that saw Elijah Palmer need to be helped off late. 

Timmy Chang called the conference-opener a “must-win” for the Rainbow Warriors but now must lead his squad past the loss and use the game as a “must-learn” going forward. With penalties, missed tackles and slow starts continuing to creep up in the worst moments, Hawai’i now has a chance to self-scout and correct ahead of the meat of the conference slate. 

The ‘Bows return to action on October 14 when they host San Diego State with kickoff scheduled for 5 p.m. HT at T.C. Ching Complex. 

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


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.



  • ‘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. 


  • 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. 

‘Bows head to “9th Island” for crucial conference showdown with UNLV

‘Bows head to “9th Island” for crucial conference showdown with UNLV

‘Bows head to “9th Island” for crucial conference showdown with UNLV


HONOLULU – Everything else was just a warm-up. The real season starts now. 

“It’s a different mindset, the conference,” Hawai’i football head coach Timmy Chang told the media earlier in the week. “All these games are really important now.” 

Obviously, the non-conference schedule games count similarly in terms of overall record, but the energy, preparation and stakes added from entering the conference portion of the schedule are just bigger. 

Add in a battle for the “Island Showdown Trophy” – in the possession of the visitors coming to the “9th Island” – and the game being played at Allegiant Stadium, home of the Las Vegas Raiders of the NFL, and you’ve got an excellent closing act to the month of September for Mountain West foes UNLV and Hawai’i. 

The ‘Bows went through a challenging preliminary battle in the final week of non-conference play, an appetizer game against New Mexico State that turned into a full-course meal as Hawai’i completed a second-half double-digit comeback to take down the Aggies for win number two of 2023. 

Rainbow Warriors’ QB Brayden Schager did have a fumble against NMSU but did an excellent job in decision-making otherwise, not throwing an interception in the entire game for just the second time this year. The UH running game has continued to heat up as the weeks progress, even without star back Tylan Hines able to go at full strength and various other injuries plaguing the room. 

Those two things are bonuses to the real strength of the ‘Bows offense this season: the receiver room. 

Led by a senior and redshirt freshman, Hawai’i has two “go-to” pass catchers in Steven McBride and Pofele Ashlock with a combined eight TDs. Add in the emergence of former walk-on Koali Nishigaya in the slot and the continued development of 6-foot-5 redshirt freshman Alex Perry and you’ve got a room that UNLV head coach Barry Odom referred to as “explosive, great receivers” on Monday. 

While the offense will need to be working from the first whistle on Saturday against a high-scoring Rebels team, the onus is on the Hawai’i defense to answer the call. A unit that centers a mindset around “The Lion’s Den” and being aggressive, the ‘Bows will need to be on their A-game against a UNLV offense that averages 34 points per contest and has put up 40+ on all opponents other than #2 Michigan. 

That dynamic Rebels’ offense is led by a familiar face for Hawai’i football fans. Former UH wide receivers’ coach Brennan Marion, now the OC for UNLV, has helped the Rebels develop a balanced attack between the air and ground on their way to wins in three of their first four outings. Last week against UTEP, UNLV turned into the Runnin’ Rebels with over 300 yards on the ground to complement three defensive takeaways and a blocked punt in the 45-28 win. 

Both coming off wins, both programs look to open up Mountain West Conference play with a bang.  


Tale of the Tape – Battle for the Island Showdown Trophy 

The ‘Bows are currently in possession of the Island Showdown Trophy, an actual physical representation of the bragging rights that each program so eagerly desires each year that came into existence just in 2017. The rivalry between the Rainbow Warriors and the Rebels dates back decades though, as UH is one of the two oldest reoccurring opponents of UNLV football history. 

This season will be the 33rd installment of the football feud between UH and UNLV and the 15th consecutive season that the two will meet. The first matchup came all the way back in 1969, just the second season of Rebels’ football, with a ‘Bows victory, 57-19. 

The series remains in favor of the Rainbow Warriors all-time (19-13, UH leads) with the help of wins in four of the last five meetings, including last season’s win in Mānoa, 31-25. Fans are almost guaranteed a high-scoring game to watch for as well if history holds true for the newest rendition of the rivalry. Just three times has one of the teams been held to one or less scores and both squads have holds on to some notable national slots in statistics for 2023. 

It’s another “Island Showdown” but at the “9th Island” this time, where UNLV leads 10-6 for the series and has won six of the last seven Las Vegas meetings. Hawai’i has struggled on the road under head coach Timmy Chang as well, not yet winning a road game during his tenure. 

Speaking of firsts of the Chang administration, it’s another opportunity for Hawai’i to reach the .500 mark for the first time under the former UH QB’s two-season watch. It’s part of the reason the former gunslinger-turned-head coach referred to the game as a “must-win” for the second week in a row. Chang and staff continue to show a commitment to changing the narrative and vibe around a Hawai’i program that once captivated the nation annually. A win against a high-quality UNLV team to open conference play and kick down the metaphorical “.500”-door would be an excellent statement way to say “Hawai’i football is back” to the rest of the Mountain West Conference. 


Players to Watch – Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors 

Brayden Schager – QB (Jr.) 

Here we go again. 

Okay, this is the last week I’ll make the joke that I always have Schager in the players to watch. He deserves it and I mean that in the best possible way. 

The gunslinger from Dallas has taken plenty of heat from the outside at times for his decision making and shortcomings as he has continued developing as a collegiate athlete. Despite the outside noise, Schager continued to put his head down and work on the way to winning the starting QB job for the ‘Bows and doubled-down on that commitment to being the next quarterback to benefit from the Hawai’i program by doing an entire offseason deep-dive into the Run-N-Shoot offense in preparation for the 2023 season. 

It has paid off in production numbers through the first third of the season, tossing 11 TDs (and rushing for his 1st career TD last week) while checking in at fourth nationally with 1,348 yards passing through Week 4. He has thrown a touchdown in 14 consecutive games, dating back to last season, and extended that streak when the ‘Bows needed him most last week when he found Nishigaya on a crossing route to tie the game up. 

Most of all, he didn’t compound errors when issues arose. Down two scores in the first half, Schager came out firing to open the second half of play and bring the Rainbow Warriors within seven points of New Mexico State and didn’t allow a back-breaking fumble on a deep offensive drive haunt him any longer than his brief stay on the sideline. No interceptions for just the second game this year. 

He has done a respectable job spreading the ball around to the aforementioned playmakers in Hawai’i’s system and caught the eye of UNLV’s Odom. The head man for the Rebels made it a point to say how they have got their “work cut out for [them]” if they want to snatch back the Showdown trophy.  

It’s certainly a unit with the ability TO snatch it back as well. UNLV forced three turnovers in last week’s win and has forced nine turnovers in four games. Part of that is due to the pass rush that has racked up nine sacks and 33 QB hurries (via PFF) in their games so far, something Hawai’i has been hit-or-miss with in their outings so far.  

It’ll be vital for Schager to be quick with his reads to get the ball out against a solid Rebels’ pass rush, sure. It will be more vital for the QB to take care of the football on the road, especially if this one turns out to be a shootout of two dynamic offenses. 

Pofele Ashlock – WR (RS-Fr.) 

I know he was here last week. I didn’t have a choice but to put him here again. 

Ashlock opened his college career this year with back-to-back Mountain West Freshman of the Week selections and has led Hawai’i in receiving yards for all five games. He has been a consistent chain-mover AND big-play threat each snap he takes for the ‘Bows and has clearly received more attention from opposing defensive coaches and players than a usual freshman would. 

While he isn’t the only Freshman of the Week honoree playing in this one (more on that later), he is UH’s trump card for a lot of situations. His ability to get open against both man and zone coverage is a weapon for the Hawai’i offense and his yards-after-catch (YAC) talent has pushed him towards early stardom. With 439 yards, Ashlock leads UH and is second among all MWC players in receiving yards. Of those 439 yards, 149 have come after the catch for Ashlock. 

While he has seen a scoring hiatus the past few weeks, Ashlock remains as productive as can be and continues to open up opportunities for Schager to distribute elsewhere. With that said, it does feel like the young wideout is due for a big score – a Schager Bomb anyone? – and could help the ‘Bows in a big way this weekend versus a semi-banged-up UNLV secondary. 

Daniel “Sauce” Williams – DL (Sr.) 

The big fella’ “Sauce” himself, Williams had the best defensive grade among all defensive players in the country for Week 4 (via PFF) while turning in an electrifying performance charged up by his 41-yard fumble recovery after ripping the ball loose to stonewall a driving New Mexico State offense. 

While it’s the snatch-and-dash that will get Williams the attention, it would be a disservice to the senior to not mention the rest of his impact on the ‘Bows critical comeback win.  

In just 19 total snaps, the JUCO transfer had the forced fumble and recovery and was a demon against the run. While he totaled just one tackle, Williams continuously ate up space and created penetration to slow down the Aggies’ running attack. While being a great run-stopping asset for UH defensive coordinator Jacob Yoro, “Sauce” decided to make his presence known in the passing game as well with a QB hurry and a positive pass-rush grade from PFF. 

It will be the run-game stopping mastery that Hawai’i should be interested in seeing even more of this week. As mentioned before, the Rebels totaled over 300 yards on the ground in their victory over UTEP in Week 4 and enter Saturday averaging 190.8 yards per game. 

The ‘Bows atoned for a previous season’s demons in their comeback win against the Aggies last week, giving up less than 100 yards on the ground after getting gashed for over 350 yards and five TDs on the ground in 2022. Hawai’i teams of the past, the ones who struggled, allow for those trends to continue. Saturday is the first conference chance to prove that the new era of the #BRADDAHHOOD is here and that begins with taking away the comfort of the Rebels’ run game. 

To do that, look for the “Sauce” on the defensive line to grade out highly again in more action if the ‘Bows want to win in Las Vegas for just the second time in the last eight tries. 


Players to Watch – UNLV Rebels

Jayden MaiavaQB (RS-Fr.) 

The name might bring you pause, even sound familiar. 

That would be for good reason when it comes to Maiava. The former Kaimuki QB came to UNLV after completing his senior season at Liberty High School in Nevada as the highest-rated HS quarterback prospect Rebels’ recruiting history and redshirted the 2022 season before finally seeing the field for action this season. 

Now, full disclosure. Maiava might not start on Saturday, as Rebels’ QB1 Doug Brumfield left UNLV’s game two weeks ago with an injury but has been a limited participant in practices leading up to the weekend matchup against the University of Hawai’i. Should he be able to go, this whole section might be old news for Maiava, and we’ll file the information away for at least a year. 

The argument can be made that Maiava has proven himself more-than-capable in the absence of Brumfield, coming into the Vanderbilt game during the 1st quarter and throwing for 190 or more yards in both of his longer appearances of the season over the past two weeks. The Rebels have won both of those outings and could easily look to the redshirt freshman one last time as their starter gets healthy. 

The experience has been a solid one for the young signal caller and UNLV alike. The redshirt freshman led the Rebels to the program’s first victory over an SEC opponent in the Week 3 40-37 home win over Vanderbilt and followed with a strong road outing and win at UTEP, 45-28. 

If Brumfield is unable to go once again, expect to see Maiava under center for the ‘Bows opponents. If that’s the case, Hawai’i needs to keep explosives limited to a minimum while spying the athletic quarterback. Despite being evaluated as a pocket-passer coming out of high school, the 6-foot-4 Maiava has shown extra juice in the legs to extends plays and drives as he progresses. 

Jai’den “Jet” Thomas – RB (Fr.) 

The reigning Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Week, Thomas had over 100 yards on the ground and FOUR rushing touchdowns in last week’s victory at UTEP on just 13 carries. Known as “Jet” by coaches, players and media alike, the true freshman has burst onto the college scene in his first four games.  

Thomas has yet to eclipse 40 total carries and has never had more than 15 total touches in a game through the four weeks of college football the Rebels have played so far. Despite the limited chances as he earns his way onto the field for Odom and staff, Thomas has racked up over 200 yards rushing and seven TDS in his playtime thus far. 

Some might point to last week’s game as the breakout for “Jet”, making reference to doubling his season’s output in just one game. Don’t be shocked if the 5-foot-9, 180-pound back sees another uptick in touches this week after his first 100-yard game as a college student-athlete. Coach Odom was complimentary of the back’s pass-blocking ability and mentioned how it is crucial for running backs in his scheme to be strong pass-blockers along with talented runners. 

If Thomas does see more snaps and plays his way, it’ll be key for the ‘Bows to limit his production. This season has trended towards if Thomas scores, UNLV wins (his only time out of the end zone for a full game was the 35-7 loss to #2 Michigan). He won’t be the only runner to worry about out of the UNLV backfield, as senior speedster Courtney Reese is back for his senior season and graduate transfer from PITT RB Vincent Davis Jr joins the fray. 

Hawai’i has been able to hold some stronger rushing attacks at bay this season while struggling against others. Saturday’s contest will rely greatly on the ‘Bows ability to stop both the old and young legs in the UNLV backfield. If Thomas scores, it’s not over. If Thomas runs wild, it’ll be a long trip home from the “9th Island” for UH fans. 

Jalen Dixon – DE (Sr.) 

Dixon was a player who got decent buzz heading into the season as he won the top spot on the depth chart among defensive ends and is someone who the coaching staff has been able to lean on in their first year overseeing the program. 

The junior edge rusher totaled three sacks last season and was a constant presence in the backfield, racking up 6.5 tackles for loss in 2022. He had been quiet to begin the 2023 slate but showed out last weekend versus UTEP with his first sack of the year and a pair of TFLs in the Rebels’ 45-28 road win. 

Against a team that likes to pass as much as the Rainbow Warriors do, Dixon will get plenty of opportunities to rush the passer. If Hawai’i can limit him (and others along the line) throughout the day on Saturday, Schager should have enough time to distribute the ball around and score consistently. 

The problem arises if Dixon can get free. If Schager is forced out of the pocket or on the run, the ‘Bows offense becomes a bit less dynamic and a bit more survival-mode. Star edge rushers have gone quiet only to show out again against Hawai’i already this season (looking at you, UAlbany), so look for Dixon to try and add his name to that list. Look for Hawai’i to make sure this is the only time you hear his name. 


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

What more fun can regular season football be than a conference opener in a place meaningful for both sides in competition for a trophy? The stakes are there for the Saturday morning matchup for the ‘Bows in the second consecutive “must-win” week of 2023, but here are a few more notes and keys to keep an eye out for this weekend. 

  • This one could be impacted by penalties a lot. It was an issue that Timmy Chang and staff verbally vowed to fix after the first three games of the season after multiple 100+ free-yard offerings to opponents. UNLV’s Barry Odom mentioned penalty woes this week in his press availability and how it will affect them against better programs and in closer games. Hawai’i has averaged 65 penalty yards per game while UNLV has given away 60 free yards on average per contest. This could be a battle of who shoots themselves in the foot less. 
  • UNLV is an elite team at forcing turnovers with nine in just four games (6 INT, 3 FF) but is also susceptible to the big play. Among UNLV defenders who have allowed multiple receptions, six have given up 14 or more yards PER reception this season. That’s good news for lovers of the Schager Bomb. Hawai’i just has to avoid handing UNLV the big play turnovers. 
  • Can Hawai’i finally get the “road win” weight off their back? Since Chang took over, the ‘Bows have yet to win a game on the road and have yet to sit at .500 at any point of the season. Saturday brings a chance for both feats to occur at the same time and would be a different outcome from the expected “norm” between the schools. The home team has won 12 of the last 14 meetings in the series. 
  • Can the ‘Bows blow the lid off early? UH has struggled at the start of games, being outscored 110-47 in the first half this season. Thankfully for Hawai’i, the team thrived in the fourth quarter, winning the final 15 minutes in four of five games this season and outscoring opponents by nearly six points in the last quarter of action each week. To win against UNLV, Hawai’i will need both the defense AND offense ready to go from the first whistle and kickoff. 

Timmy Chang called last week against NMSU critical and a “must-win” ahead of the contest and his team responded with a gritty, last-second win to close out the non-conference schedule. He doubled down and made it seem like this week is even more important than last (to be fair, it is) in his comments to the media this week. 

Will his team respond again and keep the “Island Showdown” trophy with the ‘Bows on the trip back from the “9th Island” or will UNLV have their revenge after UH shocked them late last year? 

Saturday kicks off the “real season” to give us the answer. 

The game will be broadcast on Spectrum Sports – with kickoff scheduled for 10:07 a.m. HT on Saturday, September 30.