Western Kentucky vs. Hawaii: Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Warriors look to rebound after a season-opening loss.
The defense better be ready.
WEEK 1: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (1-0) vs. Hawaii Warriors (0-1)
WHEN: Saturday, September 3 — 6:00 PM HT/9:00 PM PT/10:00 PM MT
WHERE: Clarence T.C. Ching Complex; Honolulu, HI
WEATHER: Scattered showers and breezy, high of 90 degrees
TV: Spectrum Pay-Per-View
STREAMING: For fans on the mainland, the game can only be streamed using the Team1Sports application, which is available for download on Android and Apple devices and over-the-top platforms like Roku and Amazon Fire. Please note that the game will not be available on desktops or laptops.
Alternatively, you can try this stream, courtesy of lsufootball.net:
— lsufootball.net (@lsufootballnet) September 4, 2022
SERIES RECORD: This is the first meeting between Western Kentucky and Hawaii.
LAST WEEK: Western Kentucky defeated Austin Peay at home, 38-27, Hawaii lost at home to Vanderbilt, 63-10.
ODDS: Western Kentucky -16
SP+ PROJECTION: Western Kentucky by 18.9
FEI PROJECTION: Western Kentucky by 18.0
PARKER FLEMING PROJECTION: Western Kentucky 94.84% win probability (51.25-28.60)
— Hawaii Football (@HawaiiFootball) August 30, 2022
Debut of the Braddahhood…
The 2022 season got off to an exciting start when Dedrick Parson capped off an efficient eight-play, 75-yard drive with a 37-yard touchdown run. The drive was a glimpse at what could be in the Timmy Chang era, but the rest of the game was a reminder of how much work needs to be done to rebuild the program.
Besides a couple of unfortunate bounces, the Warriors held their own in the first half and it felt like the game was closer than the 21-10 score showed. The third quarter was a different story as the Commodores came out of the half strong and used a dominant running game to wear down the Warriors in the second half. The Commodores finished with 404 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, led by quarterback Mike Wright who ran for 163 yards and two scores on 13 carries.
With the exception of the opening drive, the Warriors struggled to move the ball. Brayden Schager and Joey Yellen combined to throw for 250 yards while completing 28 out of 55 attempts. The struggles through the air were not all on the quarterbacks as the receivers did not often create much separation to help the new signal callers. While they didn’t throw any interceptions, offensive coordinator Ian Shoemaker is definitely looking for more production out of the position, especially as it was reported this week that Cammon Cooper has re-entered the ongoing quarterback competition.
Parson scored Hawaii’s only touchdown on Saturday, but based on his post-game press conference, he is more concerned about the two fumbles that went the other way for touchdowns. As a fan, I appreciate his maturity, taking accountability and making no excuses about the matter. Look for him to have a bounce back game against Western Kentucky.
One bright spot for the Warriors offense was the play of senior wide receiver Jonah Panoke. Panoke snagged seven balls for 101 yards and showed that he can be a reliable target on the outside. The Bows will need Panoke to continue to step up, especially if Zion Bowens is sidelined with his injury for an extended amount of time.
Western Kentucky Game Preview
This Saturday, the Warriors will host the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers out of the Conference USA. WKU opened their 2022 season by beating Austin Peay in a tightly contested game and although a score like that against a FCS opponent may not be impressive, the Hilltoppers should not be overlooked. Last season, led by quarterback Bailey Zappe, the Hilltoppers had the number two offense in the nation. Zappe just made the Patriots 53-man roster and offensive coordinator Zach Kittley is now at Texas Tech, but by promoting wide receivers coach Josh Crawford and quarterbacks coach Ben Arbuckle to co-coordinator duties, they will keep a similar scheme and play style.
Replacing Zappe at quarterback is West Florida transfer Austin Reed. Reed led West Florida to a NCAA Division II championship in 2021, throwing for 4,089 yards and 40 touchdowns. Last week against Austin Peay, Reed went 20-of-34 for 279 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He showed great touch on his throws with the ability to layer the ball into open space and also demonstrated some pretty good arm strength driving the ball on passes outside the numbers. Reed is a much better passer than Vanderbilt’s Mike Wright and though he’s a decent runner, he’s not the same caliber athlete as Wright.
Austin Reed unleashes a BOMB to extend Western Kentucky’s lead 💣💥 pic.twitter.com/GeIdGBMCgG
— The Draft Network (@TheDraftNetwork) August 27, 2022
The Hilltoppers lost their top two receivers from last season, however that doesn’t mean that they aren’t returning production and talent. Malachi Corley had 73 catches for 691 yards and seven touchdowns and is a threat with the ball in his hands after the catch and picked up right where he left off last Saturday, scoring three times in the victory. Daewood Davis scored eight touchdowns in 2021 and led the team in the opener with six catches for 124 yards and one touchdown.
Defensively, keep an eye on linebacker JaQues Evans. Last week, Evans accounted for 13 tackles (9 solo) and 2.5 sacks. Up front, the Hilltoppers are led by defensive end Juwuan Jones, who totaled 10 tackles a week ago, and defensive tackle Lorenzo Hernandez who accounted for half a sack and two quarterback hurries.
The secondary last season was opportunistic, coming up with 21 interceptions. This season they are off to a good start as cornerback Upton Stout and safety AJ Brathwaite both had interceptions against Austin Peay. Brathwaite returns after totaling 64 tackles last season. Wyoming transfer Rome Weber was named to the PFF preseason All-CUSA second team defense, too, and looks to finish his career strong.
QB1 needs to step up…
I know Chang and Shoemaker wanted to be secretive about naming a Week 0 starter and maybe even wanted to wait and see who would emerge and become the guy, but here we are going into Week 1 and now it is back to a three-man quarterback competition. Schager and Yellen each had their moments, but neither were consistent enough to win the job.
Shoemaker has talked about wanting a dual threat quarterback in the past and Cammon Cooper offers a little more mobility at the position. The Warriors need to find their guy as soon as possible so whoever it ends up being can get reps and develop some timing with the receivers.
Parson had two costly fumbles against Vanderbilt and, for a lot of guys, that could lead to the dog house, but it’s obvious that he is one of the best playmakers on the team. Besides the two fumbles, Parson had a good game in averaging 6.3 yards on 13 carries. I think he needs to see close to 20 carries per game this season and a few touches in the passing game on top of that. This week, it will be especially important to get the ground game going as it will not only relieve some pressure from the quarterback, but also keep the explosive Hilltoppers offense off the field.
Communicate on Defense…
Have you ever watched a game on TV and one team’s offense makes the field seem so much bigger with so much open space on it? That’s the feeling I get when I watch Western Kentucky.
They spread you out both horizontally and vertically and make you defend every inch of grass. Obviously, that is a tough task for any defense, and for a defense breaking in this many new starters it could be trouble.
Communication in the secondary will be vital in trying to defend the speedy Hilltoppers pass catchers. They use pre-snap motion, drag routes across the field, and threaten the seams with the tight ends or slots. Reed will challenge this secondary with his arm and it will be important for the defensive front to help the secondary by creating pressure. Last week, the Warriors recorded no sacks or quarterback hurries. We’ve talked highly about the edge rushers all off-season and I’m hoping we start to see some production from that group.
Western Kentucky will present a different set of problems for the Hawaii defense to solve. This week, it should be the secondary that gets tested. The Hilltoppers have a lot of speed on the outside and a scheme that utilizes it well. I think the secondary may struggle if the defensive front isn’t able to create pressure and gives Reed too much time to throw.
On the other side of the ball, it will be important for Hawaii to establish the run game. Vanderbilt had good team speed on defense and swarmed to the ball. I don’t think Western Kentucky will be on that same level and Austin Peay was able to find success on the ground. I think the ‘Bows have a chance to get Parson involved early and often and use play-action to open up the passing game.
The receivers need to create more separation and if they can’t do that, then it might be time to use the physicality of both Jonah Panoke and tight end Jordan Murray to win using their frames on the outside. This is a tough non-conference schedule with a trip to the Big House still looming. The positive is this will help to get the Warriors ready for Mountain West conference play.
As always, let’s go ‘Bows!
Final score prediction, from Matt Kenerly: Western Kentucky 42, Hawaii 27