Hawaii vs. Western Kentucky: Getting To Know The Hilltoppers
Can the Warriors slow down this offense?
WKU making the loooong trip West
Hawaii is off to an 0-1 start after a bad loss to Vanderbilt which saw not much go right for the Warriors. This week they take on Western Kentucky that is known for its high-profile offense and ability to score a lot of points.
1. Are there any lingering questions after the first game of the year?
Offensively, the Hilltoppers are still a work in progress. I understand this probably sounds ridiculous given the four offensive touchdowns that they put up against FCS Austin Peay. However, the Governors gifted them four turnovers, including a pick-six that came on a miscommunication between QB and WR. This isn’t to say that Hawaii is a full-formed team.
As we know, the Warriors are in the midst of a rebuild but Tyson Helton would likely want to see his offense be more efficient on third down (when they’re faced with them) and try to stay out of having to depend on chunk plays in conversion situations. It’s somewhat expected given the change in coordinators and equally as important, all of the new pieces they’re working to fit together. Secondly, while it’s not necessarily fair, we’re judging this Western Kentucky offense against last year’s group – which was a top-five offense in college football.
2. WKU no longer has their offensive coordinators from last year and QB Bailey Zappe is in the NFL, is the offensive plan to be business as usual with a lot of passing and points?
Yes, the Western Kentucky offense is one that’s still going to be loosely based in Air Raid principles and there’s no reason to think that they won’t again be among the top passing teams in FBS football. With that being said, Helton spoke at Conference USA media days about being flexible to follow where the game takes them. It’s not unreasonable to see a lead WKU running back get between 12-15 carries per contest, but keep it in perspective given how many plays the offense tends to run per game.
3. Who are the key players and ones to know this week?
4. What is the one area that Western Kentucky is really good at and can take advantage of against Hawaii?
The default answer is the passing game and that rightfully deserves its share of the credit. But I think the Hilltopper offensive line is a sneaky good unit, led by the aforementioned Leslie and Staats. Especially given the fact that they lost two offensive linemen in the offseason to Power Five programs (Mason Brooks, Cole Spencer) – how the OL would fare was a storyline entering week one and they were more than respectable.
5. How do you see this game playing out?
When looking at last year’s team, they got off to a slow start but then hit their stride once they got into conference play. This year’s group faces some of the same challenges as last year’s team in trying to meld several new players and starters into their roles while learning on the fly.
The major difference is the schedule this year sets up more favorably for them and the Hawaii game is part of that. I’m expecting Tyson Helton to make the most of having live game film to make adjustments with this group and continue the growing process. WKU should start much faster than last week and finish strong, winning this contest by at least two scores.