Hawaii vs. Louisiana Tech, Hawaii Bowl: Keys to Victory
Hawaii faces off against former WAC foe Louisiana Tech in the second Hawaii Bowl game of the Nick Rolovich era
Will Santa deliver an early Christmas present for the Rainbow Warriors with a Hawaii Bowl win?
BOWL WEEK: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (8-5, 5-2 home) vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (7-5, 4-3 away)
WHEN: Saturday, December 22 — 5:30 PM HST
WHERE: Aloha Stadium; Honolulu, Hawaii (15,411)
RADIO: ESPN 1420 AM
SERIES RECORD: Hawaii leads 8-2
For the first time since 2011, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will face off. This time the former WAC foes will be facing off for the eleventh time in the Hawaii Bowl. Although Hawaii has dominated the all-time series between the two teams, the Louisana Tech team that has come to town is a formidable team. They are a team that has won four bowl games in a row that has clearly elevated the program’s level of success to a new level. For a UH victory, the team will have to win three key battles:
Strength vs. Strength: Hawaii’s offensive strength is their explosive pass attack. Louisiana Tech’s strength on defense is their suffocating pass defense. The Rainbow Warriors will force their opponent to defend the whole field, using every inch to stretch the defense thin with their talented receiving corps. The Bulldogs will look to combat that by combining pressure with tight coverage to decrease the efficiency of their opponent’s quarterback. It’s hard to say which team will prevail on this key battle but it is safe to say that this will be the number one factor into deciding who wins the Hawaii Bowl.
Don’t allow the run to beat you: While the La Tech offense favors the pass, they are far more effective when they are handing the ball off.
It isn’t only their three-headed monster of Jaqwis Dancy, Israel Tucker and Kam McKnight that the defense has to worry about. Their starting quarterback, J’Mar Smith, will also tuck the ball and run. In fact, Smith is tied with Dancy for the lead in yards per carry and leads the team in highlight yards per opportunity. Focusing on containing the run and forcing Smith to throw to win the game with just a 57% completion rate will give UH an excellent chance to win.
In the Red Zone: Despite sporting an overall defensive S&P+ ranking of 47th in the nation, Louisiana Tech has serious troubles defending in the red zone. They are dead last in the nation against FBS competition, allowing a score 96.55% of the time.
For comparison, Hawaii sits at 73rd allowing a score 83.93% of the time and the number one team in the nation allows a score just 62.86% of red zone chances. Taking advantage of one of the few weaknesses in the Bulldogs’ defense will be critical towards the Rainbow Warrior efforts to win.
If UH conquers each of these key areas they will end the 2018 campaign by hoisting their second Hawaii Bowl trophy in three years. Stay tuned for my game prediction and play-by-play coverage on Twitter.