Hawaii Bowl: A BYU Q&A with Mitch Harper
We get to know the Hawaii Warriors’ bowl opponent, the BYU Cougars, with Mitch Harper of KSL.
An old rivalry renewed on Christmas Eve.
College football’s bowl season is now well underway and the Mountain West’s seven-game slate reaches its midway point today when the Hawaii Warriors and BYU Cougars face off in the SoFi Hawaii Bowl, Christmas Eve’s lone bowl game.
The Cougars, who finished the regular season 2-1 against Mountain West opponents, had about as unpredictable a season as one could imagine but have reached this point with the help of some surprises. Hawaii, in search of its first bowl victory since 2016, can’t take BYU lightly.
Mountain West Wire: More than any other bowl opponent this year, Mountain West fans have seen quite a bit of the BYU Cougars in 2019. For those who need to get up to speed, though, how would you briefly characterize the season overall?
Mitch Harper: A wild and crazy ride. Wins over Boise State, Tennessee, and USC were some of the best wins BYU has produced in the past decade, but losses to Toledo and USF were head-scratching.
The Cougars have lacked consistency this season. You never truly know what you’ll get from this team.
MWwire: BYU’s quarterback situation has been a real rollercoaster but, with time to get healthy before the bowl game, who should we expect to see under center? What will they bring to the table?
Harper: Zach Wilson, no question. He’s still the best quarterback on BYU’s roster. Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich has familiarity with Baylor Romney. Rolovich offered Romney while Rolo was on Nevada’s coaching staff. Romney was a verbal commit to Rolovich and Nevada.
MWwire: The Cougars defense hasn’t been quite as disruptive as we’ve seen in years past, which could spell trouble against a Hawaii offense that can do damage with time to throw and has run the ball far better than expected. Who do you believe could step up to break that trend and why?
Harper: BYU’s linebackers have had a knack for forcing takeaways. Isaiah Kaufusi, Payton Wilgar, Max Tooley, Kavika Fonua, and Keenan Pili are young, talented players who have came up big in BYU’s wins this season.
MWwire: Aside from star tight end Matt Bushman, what other skill position player do you think must have a strong performance for BYU to win the game? What should we look for when keeping an eye on that player?
Harper: Wide receiver Micah Simon is one of the leaders of this BYU team and he’s headed into his final game as a Cougar. Simon has a strong relationship with QB Zach Wilson, so look for those two to try and stretch the field.
MWwire: Winning three out of four against their old conference wouldn’t be too bad at all for BYU, so how do you think the game needs to unfold for that to happen?
Harper: Turnover margin is going to decide the game. If BYU coughs up the football, Hawaii will win this going away. If the Cougars find a way to rattle quarterback Cole McDonald and force him into mistakes and coughing up the football, BYU will win this one.