Hawaii vs. Wyoming: Keys To A Rainbow Warrior Victory
The Rainbow Warriors look to avenge their overtime loss last year to the Cowboys in the 24th Paniolo Trophy game.
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Can Hawaii continue their run by downing Wyoming at Aloha Stadium?
It was just last year where Hawaii and Wyoming met up last to reignite the flames of their long rivalry for the Paniolo trophy. The game last year was in Laramie, which resulted in the Cowboys overcoming a late-game push from the Rainbow Warriors that resulted in extra football.
An errant pass from Dru Brown was intercepted and on the ensuing drive, Josh Allen hit James Price for a touchdown to win the game.
This meeting marked an important point in each team’s season. After which, Hawaii would lose eight of their last nine games while Wyoming would win five of eight, which eventually led to a bowl victory. There was early promise for UH in the 2017 season but after their loss in Laramie, they never quite recovered.
This time, the game is in Honolulu and Hawaii will be looking to use this matchup to propel them into a bowl game. If the Rainbow Warriors are able to win this game, they will be just one game away from becoming bowl eligible. While their lead in the West division is also on the line, there is no doubt that returning players from the 2017 season want revenge for the disappointing loss they experienced last year against the Cowboys. Let’s take a look at what they need to do to make that come to fruition:
Contain Evans: Not unlike San Jose, Wyoming has struggled to pass the ball this year. Tyler Vander Waal has led an anemic air attack, averaging just 144.5 yards per game. The Cowboys’ saving grace comes in the form of their running game, led by Nico Evans. Evans has absolutely shredded defenses this year averaging over 7 yards per carry.
That includes a 141 yard game against perennial MWC powerhouse, Boise State and an absurd 190 yard game against New Mexico State. In fact, against the Aggies and Washington State Evans more rushing yards than any other individual on the Wyoming offense. Yes, that includes Vander Waal, the quarterback.
The point probably doesn’t need to be driven further but at the risk of earning a promotion to Captain Obvious, Hawaii has to stop Nico Evans. He excels at pushing forward for more yards and is extremely hard to take down one on one. Once he gets his momentum going, it will take multiple defenders to pull him down.
If the Rainbow Warriors’ front seven can plug up the running lanes and prevent Evans from getting his momentum going north and south, they will be able to hinder the whole Wyoming offense.
Air it Out: The Cowboys’ defense has been much better against the run than the pass. They have allowed just 3.3 yard per carry which is the 30th best in the nation amongst FBS competition. By comparison, they allow opposing quarterbacks to have an average passer rating of 140.6 (80th), have only sacked quarterbacks 2.73% (119th) of the time and forced interceptions just 0.56% (125th).
In each game that Wyoming won, they have managed to hold their opponents to less than 300 yards passing. In fact, their two wins come against teams they held to less than 200 yards passing.
In their game against Washington State, a team whose offense is the most analogous to that of Hawaii’s, Wyoming holding the lead at the end of the first half. It wasn’t until the latter part of the third quarter than the Cougars’ offense started to ignite and scored touchdowns on four of their remaining five drives.
It should concern Nick Rolovich that the Cowboys held the Cougars to their worst passing game by yardage, QBR and passer rating. It will require the Rainbow Warriors to find the rhythm in their air attack that put Colorado State, Navy and Rice on their heels. If they hit Wyoming in the mouth with that offense, then you can rest assured that Hawaii will be on their way to a victory.
Return to Form: Hawaii’s offense has to return to their early season form. That offense put Cole McDonald and the Rainbow Warrior offense back on the college football scene in a hurry. That offense made people forget about the struggles this program has experienced since the Norm Chow era.
That was the offense that had been perfect in scoring on their first drive and lighting up the scoreboard in the first half. That is the offense that can force Wyoming to be one dimensional and essentially take out their best offensive weapon, Nico Evans. Tyler Vander Waal has yet to prove that he can carry the Cowboy offense to win. You can bet Hawaii is looking to exploit that and force the young freshman to prove himself in this rivalry game.
Stay tuned for more Hawaii Football coverage on MWWire. Don’t forget to follow along on Twitter (@DontWarriorBoutIt) for play by play commentary along with my prediction for the game.