Hawaii vs. Colorado State: Three Keys to a Warriors Win
The Warriors travel to Fort Collins for Mountain West football’s first interdivision matchup of the season.
Can Hawaii secure a rare win in the Mountain time zone?
WEEK 0: Hawaii Warriors vs. Colorado State Rams
WHEN: Saturday, August 25 — 5:30 PM MT/1:30 PM HT
WHERE: Canvas Stadium; Fort Collins, Colorado (41,000)
TV: CBS Sports Network
RADIO: The Hawaii broadcast can can be found in and around Honolulu on the local ESPN affiliate, 1420 AM, and on KNUI (Maui), KPUA (the Big Island), KTOH (Kaua’i) and KNWJ (American Samoa). There will also be a national broadcast via Westwood One, so check local listings.
SERIES RECORD: Colorado State leads the overall series 15-9. In their last meeting on September 30, 2017, the Rams defeated Hawaii 51-21 at Aloha Stadium.
It’s become a recent tradition to welcome back college football season with the Hawaii Warriors, who begin with a Week Zero matchup in a farflung location, for the third straight season.
Thankfully, they don’t have to travel quite so far this time to meet their first foe, and they’re set unveil the fruits of an intriguing offensive pivot for the first time. The run-and-shoot is back thanks to head coach Nick Rolovich and the Colorado State Rams, who hope to quell last year’s disappointing campaign with a victory, present an interesting contrast. They, too, are replacing some key weapons on offense and have overhauled their defense to a 4-3 unit.
Here’s what Hawaii can do to shock the college football world with an upset over Colorado State.
Three Keys for Hawaii
Hope to find a hot hand at quarterback early, then ride it.
Unlike the Rams, head coach Nick Rolovich was a little slower to unveil his team’s plans for who will be under center. We know, at a minimum, that there will be two signal callers, sophomore Cole McDonald and true freshman Chevan Cordeiro, and that the best-case scenario involves one or the other finding a rhythm quickly to keep Hawaii in the game.
The passing game’s sluggish starts in 2017 were an underrated reason for the offense’s struggles: Dru Brown had a passer rating of 107.37 in the first quarter of games last fall, nearly 20 points lower than any other Mountain West QB who had at least 60 first-quarter attempts.
Remember how to finish drives.
There may not have been one single metric that reversed course more drastically than Hawaii’s ability to put points on the board when they threatened to score. In 2016, the Warriors ranked 11th nationally with 5.26 points per trip inside the 40-yard line; in 2017, that number dropped to 3.73, which ranked 122nd.
Brown, perhaps unsurprisingly, was a huge reason for that drop-off, as he was lethal inside the 40 in 2016 and not so much last fall. In addition, losing kicker Rigoberto Sanchez proved to be a massive loss because the duo of Alex Trifonovitch and Ryan Meskell ended up among the nation’s worst kickers, a combined 4-of-9 on field goals. Meskell, who sits atop the depth chart ahead of Saturday’s game, may have more to prove than anyone on the field.
Reproduce Diocemy Saint Juste’s production on the ground (or at least produce a decent facsimile).
While the aerial attack will get most of the attention, the run-and-shoot’s recent successes were built, in part, on successful running games. For instance, in the four years that June Jones’s SMU teams went bowling, from 2009 to 2012, the Mustangs’ yards-per-carry average ranked at the national average or better three times. (And that, by the way, began one year after ranking next-to-last with 2.29 YPC.)
This is not to say that the tandem of Freddie Holly and Dayton Furuta, listed at running back on the linked two-deep above, need to be exactly as good as Saint Juste was last fall. If they can hang onto the football and help the passing game remain on schedule with solid gains on early downs, the Warriors should have a fighting chance.