Game Day Preview – Hawaii


Introduction: It’s easy for Husky fans to get worried after last week. UW barely hung on to beat an FCS school at home (even if it was the defending national champions) and Hawaii took care of business against Colorado. UW struggled mightily against EWU’s pass attack and Hawaii comes in as another passing team. But, there are some nice things to be positive and optimistic about. First of all, UW will be more healthy this week with Chris Polk fully recovered and having more time in practice, Keith Price being fully recovered from the knee injury he suffered early in the EWU game, and perhaps most importantly having Quinton Richardson back in the secondary.

In addition, Hawaii was playing Colorado at home. Remember, Colorado was predicted to finish near the very bottom of the Pac-12 this year. Beating them at home should be expected of almost any major college football team. Will UW have its hands full, especially with Bryant Moniz running and passing? Sure, but you can’t read into last weeks results and know how it’ll turn out this week.

University of Hawaii at Manoa (Public – Research Institution)
Mascot: Warriors
Location: Honolulu, HI
Enrollment: 14,000

Line: UW by 6

Prediction: UW 41 Hawaii 27

2010 Record: 10-4 (7-1 in Western Athletic Conference)
Coach: Greg McMackin (4th year)

Best Win in 2010: 45-7 @ Utah State
Worst Loss 2010: 42-7 loss to Boise State
Last Game: 34-17 win at home against Colorado

Hawaii is one of those programs that occilates wildly from year to year. There are years, such as 2007 when they went 12-0 behind Colt Brennan and went to the Sugar Bowl (where they lost to Georgia). And that followed an 11-2 season in 2006. Then in 2008 they went 7-7 and in 2009 went 6-7. One of the reasons for these unpredictable years and inconsistency is simply location. Hawaii is a state rich in football talent, but it is a small state population wise and in order to supplement their talent they need to recruit on the mainland.

Now I know what you are thinking…sunshine and warm temperatures year-round, beaches, surfing, bikinis, everything a kid could want right? Well yeah, except there are a few major drawbacks that hurt them in drawing them in. First of all there is the distance. A lot of kids do not want to go quite so far from home. Secondly, there is exposure. Hawaii is 6 time zones from the East Coast and their games are virtually never shown on national TV during prime viewing hours. So, for Hawaii to recruit on the mainland, they need to go into the homes of kids who are looking for something different. They have to identify the players who either want to get away from home or who basically fell through the cracks and are missed by the major programs. If it is between Utah State and Hawaii, yeah maybe they will take the sunshine. But, between UCLA and Hawaii? Not a competition.

One method they have used successfully over the years (and across several coaches) to attract top-notch athletes interested in having fun is using a high-powered air attack. They love to throw the ball, use many 5 WR sets, and spread the field. Teams with suspect secondaries are ripped apart. So, it is absolutely critical that all corners, safeties, DB’s, and LB are prepared for various crossing routes, slants, and sprints straight down the field.

Because of their focus on high scoring games, Hawaii does bring in some really great talent and they can become a dangerous team. We all remember Colt Brennan and Timmy Chang. Today they were lead by another such talent, senior QB Bryant Moniz. Moniz threw for 5040 yards (10th all-time in college football) and 39 TDs in 2010. Against San Jose State he threw for 560 yards (a school record). He is a now being promoted as a Heisman candidate by Hawaii.

While Hawaii’s offense is not as deep or experienced as last year, they do have some promising new talent. While Hawaii has five new starters on the offensive line, Moniz compensated for that by showing an incredible ability to run the ball against Colorado (125 yards) that he did not show much of last year.

That being said, Hawaii returns only three starters from last year. One of the biggest question marks is at running back, with the loss of Alex Green and his 1,199 yards and 18 TD’s. While people may think Hawaii only uses the passing game, the fact is their spread offense creates quite a few holes for their under appreciated running game. This was clearly on evidence against Colorado when Moniz ran all over the field.

Defense is never the primary focus for Hawaii, but senior LB Corey Parades is on the Butkus Award watch-list. The defense relies on players flying around and disrupting offenses, but they do have a propensity to be beat on big plays, which is why teams can still score a lot of points against Hawaii, even in losses.

Many are predicting Hawaii will still win the WAC (ahead of Fresno State and Nevada), but that is mostly because of how weak the WAC will be without Boise State anymore. While it seems Hawaii shouldn’t be as strong as they were last year, with their weak schedule, it still seems like Hawaii is going to be an above .500 team next year with 9-4 or 8-5 a distinct possibility.

All that said, they are coming to Seattle. Hawaii traditionally does very well at home (6-1 last year with loss to USC). However, they traditionally struggle on the mainland.  This game will also be an opportunity for the secondary to get their bearings. I think UW is more balanced on both sides of the ball and definitely more experienced, so they should be able to pick Hawaii apart on offense, especially is Sark “opens up the playbook” as they suggested this week.

Hawaii is no pushover and a surprise loss is not completely out of the question. But, it seems that UW’s overall talent advantage should allow them to prevail if they can hold Hawaii under 30 points. That may be easier said than done, given the struggles of UW’s defense to hold opponents under 30 the last few years. But, if they are going to win, they will need to put up some points of their own. Chris Polk needs to break through that defense for a big game and the receivers need to hold onto the ball to keep Keith Price’s confidence high. Either way, it could end up being a real shoot-out in Seattle!

Random Thought: This is the final season in the WAC for Hawaii before it moves to the Mountain West Conference. They will move to the Big West in all other sports other than football.