2019 UH Football Countdown


The University of Hawaii football team kicks off its 2019 campaign on Saturday, Aug. 24 with a home game against Arizona. To help you prepare for the season, we’ll provide daily factoids about this year’s Rainbow Warriors as well as their opponents. Together, let’s count down the days till the opening kickoff!

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May 16 – Day 100: In 2018, QB Cole McDonald threw for 3,875 yards. That’s the most passing yards in a season since Bryant Moniz threw for more than 5,000 yards in 2010. McDonald, now a redshirt junior, also posted 36 passing TDs – again, that was the most TDs in a season since Moniz threw for 39 scores in 2010.

May 17 – Day 99: The Rainbow Warriors will open the 2019 season with a home game against Arizona on August 24. The last time Hawaii hosted the Wildcats in the season opener was 1998. That game marked the return of former UH head coach Dick Tomey. Another former UH head coach, Bob Wagner, was Arizona’s linebackers coach. The visitors from Tucson prevailed, 27-6. For Arizona, future NFL Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion Chris McAlister scored on a 100-yard kickoff return to open the game.

May 18 – Day 98: Central Arkansas head coach Nathan Brown has something in common with Hawaii’s Nick Rolovich: Both are former QBs who hold passing records at the schools they now coach. Brown was a three-time All-American for the Bears, passing for 10,558 yards and 100 TDs in his four-year playing career (2005-08). The Rainbow Warriors host the Bears on Sept. 21 (Homecoming).

Hawaii and New Mexico will have their “silver anniversary” meeting on Oct. 26 in Albuquerque.

May 19 – Day 97: Hawaii and New Mexico will meet for the 25th time in 2019. Hawaii leads the all-time series, 14-10, but it was the Lobos who prevailed in the schools’ most recent meeting (28-21 on Oct. 29 in 2016).

May 20 – Day 96: Hawaii’s offensive line looks to have more depth in 2019, and they’ll need it. Last season, Hawaii QBs were sacked 46 times by opposing defenses – placing them dead last in the Mountain West Conference. The other 11 MWC schools averaged 23 sacks allowed last season.

May 21 – Day 95: Wide receiver Melquise Stovall is new to the program, but he’s familiar with the Rainbow Warriors. In the 2016 season opener, Stovall made his college football debut with Cal Berkeley against Hawaii in Sydney, Australia. The freshman snared four receptions for 61 yards and a TD, helping the Bears beat UH, 51-21. Stovall later transferred from Cal and last season played at Riverside City College. He is expected to contribute immediately to the UH offense.

Fred Holly III is back for his junior season and expects to again lead Hawaii’s running game.

May 22 – Day 94: Fred Holly III returns to lead the UH ground game. The redshirt junior led the team in rushing in 2018 with 468 yards on 108 carries (4.3 yards per carry) and 4 TDs. His best game came against Rice on Sept. 8, when he gashed the Owls for 100 yards and 2 TDs, including a 46-yard score. Holly played in all 14 games for UH last season, starting 6.

May 23 – Day 93: Hawaii travels to Seattle to take on the Washington Huskies on Sept. 14. The Huskies’ running backs coach and recruiting coordinator is Keith Bhonapha, a former Rainbow Warrior defensive back who played at UH for four seasons (1999-2002) under June Jones. Before joining Washington, Bhonapha served on the Boise State coaching staff, mentoring future NFL running backs Doug Martin and Jay Ajayi.

May 24 – Day 92: For the first time in school history, Hawaii will open the season with three consecutive games against Pac-12 opponents (Arizona, Washington and Oregon State). It wasn’t until 2011 that UH started scheduling consecutive Pac-12 opponents to open their year (2011: Colorado, Washington; 2013: USC, Oregon State; 2014: Washington, Oregon State).

May 25 – Day 91: The Rainbow Warriors played two overtime games in 2018, going 2-0 in those contests. Since overtime was instituted in 1996, Hawaii has gone 10-5 in games that go beyond regulation. Interestingly, Hawaii has had more success in OT games on the road, going 8-2. By contrast, Hawaii is 2-3 in OT games at Aloha Stadium.

May 26 – Day 90: The UH defense had 5 interceptions against opposing quarterbacks last season. Returning cornerback Zach Wilson led the team with 2 picks (1 each against Duquesne and Rice). The school record for most INTs in a season is 20, which happened in 1970. That UH secondary was led by future NFL star Jeris White.

Senior placekicker Ryan Meskell had a solid season in 2018.

May 27 – Day 89: Ryan Meskell returns as the UH placekicker. Last season, Meskell made 15 of 18 field goal attempts, placing him second in the Mountain West in field goal accuracy (.833). For his efforts, Meskell was named the team’s “Most Improved Player” in 2018. The Australia native – he played soccer and rugby in high school – is an Athlon Sports Preseason Third-Team All-MWC selection.

May 28 – Day 88: Hawaii benefitted from penalties more than any other Mountain West school last season. Rainbow Warrior opponents averaged 70.2 yards in penalties in 2018; by contrast, UH surrendered an average of 52.6 yards in penalties. That’s a solid improvement from 2017, when Hawaii gave up 66.5 yards in penalty per game (ranking last in the conference).

May 29 – Day 87: No Mountain West players were selected in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. (Selected in the second round – 43rd overall – Hawaii’s Jahlani Tavai was the first MW player drafted.) That could change next year, as Boise State’s Curtis Weaver has pro scouts salivating over his defensive play. The redshirt junior plays the STUD position (a hybrid of defensive end and linebacker) for the Broncos and is already viewed as a likely first-round pick in 2020. In his first two seasons, Weaver has 20.5 sacks and 28 tackles for loss. Hawaii will play Boise State on Oct. 12 in Boise.

Senior lineman Kaimana Padello is expected to lead the defensive front for UH in 2019.

May 30 – Day 86: Big things are expected from Kaimana Padello this season. The senior defensive lineman blossomed in 2018, leading the team in sacks (8.5) and tackles-for-loss (13.5). For his efforts, Padello was selected to the All-Mountain West Second Team at the end of the campaign. He also received the team’s “Most Inspirational Player Award.” This season, he is a nominee for the Bulsworth Trophy, which is awarded to the country’s top player who began his career as a walk-on.

May 31 – Day 85: Fans are advised to savor Hawaii’s home game against Central Arkansas on Sept. 21. After that, the Rainbow Warriors won’t return to Halawa for nearly a month, as they will face two road opponents (Boise State and Nevada) and have a bye within that time span. The last time Hawaii was away from the friendly confines of Aloha Stadium for that long was in 2017, when they played Western Carolina in the home opener and didn’t have another home date until Sept. 30 against Colorado State.

June 1 – Day 84: With John Ursua taking his talents to the NFL, look for senior receivers Cedric Byrd II and Jojo Ward to be frequent targets of UH QBs. Last season, Byrd finished second on the team in receiving (970 yards, 9 TDs), and Ward was third (865, 9). If they both net 1,000 or more receiving yards this year, they’ll become the first receiver tandem to accomplish this feat since 2010, when Greg Salas (1,889) and Kealoha Pilares (1,306) each surpassed the 1,000-yard mark.

June 2 – Day 83: The Rainbow Warriors will make five road trips totaling 28,102 miles in 2019. That’s actually down than last season, when Hawaii took six road trips totaling 36,860 miles. Their longest journey this season will be to Albuquerque, New Mexico (6,442 miles round-trip), when UH takes on the Lobos on Oct. 26.

June 3 – Day 82: The Hawaii defense returns five of their six leading tacklers from 2018: linebacker Solomon Matautia (92 total tackles), defensive back Ikem Okeke (87), linebacker Penei Pavihi (87), defensive back Kalen Hicks (76) and defensive back Rojesterman Farris (45). Linebacker Jahlani Tavai, who was fourth on the team with 82 total tackles, is now with the NFL’s Detroit Lions.

June 4 – Day 81: Last season, the UH offense scored an average of 30.8 points per game. That’s up from 2017’s 23.7 points per game. As you’d expect, Hawaii’s passing game increased from 239.4 yards per game in 2017 to 310.3 yards per game in 2018. The Rainbow Warriors’ air attack was tops in the Mountain West Conference.

June 5 – Day 80: In his three seasons as UH head coach, Nick Rolovich has guided the Rainbow Warriors to two Hawaii Bowl berths. The Hawaii Bowl was founded in 2002. Since that time, June Junes led Hawaii to five bowl berths (four Hawaii Bowl appearances and the 2007 Sugar Bowl) in six seasons. Greg McMackin led UH to two Hawaii Bowl appearances in four years. And Norm Chow did not take Hawaii to any bowl game in four seasons.

Returning starting QB Cole McDonald hopes to improve his successful 2018 debut this season.

June 6 – Day 79: Cole McDonald’s first game as the UH starting QB was the most successful QB debut in Rainbow Warrior history. In the 2018 season opener at Colorado State, McDonald threw for 418 yards and 3 TDs, leading Hawaii to a 43-34 victory. His numbers surpassed that of Nick Rolovich (367, 2), Jason Whieldon (359, 3), John Hao (344, 1), Gregg Tipton (337, 3) and Timmy Chang (313, 1). Colt Brennan made his starting debut in 2005, passing for 219 yards and 2 scores.

June 7: Day 78: Can the 2019 Rainbow Warriors get a lengthy winning streak going? Last season, UH won had three-game win streaks on two separate occasions. The last time Hawaii won four or more straight games was in 2010, when Greg McMackin’s Rainbow Warriors had a six-game win streak from late September until early November.

June 8, Day 77: Look for big things from receiver Kumoku Noa, who returns to the line-up in 2019 after spending last season with the scout team. The 5-11, 175-lb. redshirt junior out of Kamehameha-Kapalama played six games as a freshman in 2017, starting one. He tallied 11 receptions for 140 yards and a pair of TDs. Earlier this year, before the start of spring practice, UH head coach Nick Rolovich told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Stephen Tsai: “[Kumoku is] at a pretty high level of the offense and understanding it. He could be a backup quarterback. He understands [the offense] that well.”

June 9, Day 76: The last time Hawaii beat UNLV on the road was during the program’s historic 2007 Sugar Bowl season, which the Rainbow Warriors pasted the Rebels, 49-14. Since then, UH has lost five consecutive contests in Sin City. The Rainbow Warriors will get an opportunity to end this streak on Nov. 16.

June 10, Day 75: Once again, Hawaii will face two of college football’s most prolific rushing offenses in Air Force and Army. Last season, Army’s ground attack ranked second in the country, averaging 312.4 rushing yards a game. Air Force was third (283.5 yards). (In case you’re wondering, the nation’s top rushing team in 2018 was Georgia Tech, with 325 rushing yards per game.)

The UH offense scored on nearly 85 percent of their red zone opportunities in 2018.

June 11, Day 74: Last season, the Hawaii offense scored on 84.2 percent of their red zone opportunities, ranking them sixth the Mountain West. (Air Force led the conference, scoring 91.3 percent of the time.) Out of 57 red zone opportunities, the Rainbow Warriors scored 48 times – 36 TDs and 12 FGs.

June 12, Day 73: Look for redshirt freshman Kai Kaneshiro to have a bigger role in the UH secondary in 2019. The gifted defensive back out of Saint Louis School played in four games last season – the maximum number of games he could play without losing his redshirt status – and compiled 6 total tackles (all against Utah).

June 13, Day 72: QB Cole McDonald and receiver Cedric Byrd ranked No. 7 in 247Sports’ “Top-10 QB-WR Duos” for the coming college football season. Although John Ursua has taken his receiving talents to the NFL, Byrd will be a top candidate to replace his impressive numbers. Last season, Byrd caught 79 receptions for 970 yards and 9 TDs.

June 14, Day 71: San Diego State expects to have a bounce-back season in 2019, and Juwan Washington will play a key role. The senior running back continues the Aztecs tradition of outstanding rushers (Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny, etc.). Washington rushed for 999 yard and 10 TDs last season, and he missed four games due to injury. Hawaii will host SDSU on Nov. 23.

June 15, Day 70: Redshirt junior punter Stan Gaudion has yet to have a kick blocked in his UH career. He played in all 14 games for the Rainbow Warriors, averaging 40.8 yards per punt. More importantly, he placed 11 kicks inside the opponent’s 20-yard line, including 3 in a big win against Wyoming.

The 2019 premiere of “Call the Coach presented by Coors Light” will take place on Aug. 13.

June 16, Day 69: The first “Call the Coach presented by Coors Light” is set for Tuesday, Aug. 13 at Ruby Tuesday Moanalua. Stay tuned for additional information this year’s slate of shows, as we have some special surprises in store!

June 17, Day 68: Most odds makers have Hawaii booked for 6 wins this season. Can the Rainbow Warriors surprise the college football world again? In 2018, Las Vegas had Hawaii winning 3.5 games, and UH went on to win 8 contests – making their second Hawaii Bowl appearance in three years.

June 18, Day 67: Hawaii does not play Utah State this year, and that might be for the best. Since joining the Mountain West Conference in 2012, Hawaii has yet to beat Utah State. In fact, none of the games have even been close (10-47 in 2013; 14-35 in 2014; 0-38 in 2017 and 17-56 last season).

June 19, Day 66: The return to the run-and-shoot offense last season meant a lot more passes in the air. In 2017, UH QBs threw the ball 423 times. Last season, Hawaii threw 545 times – a 23 percent increase. The Rainbow Warriors still managed to muster a serviceable ground attack, with 418 rushing playes (just 2 fewer than the previous year).

June 20, Day 65: Hawaii will play six schools who earned postseason bowl game berths last season: Fresno State beat Arizona State in the Las Vegas Bowl; San Diego State got shut out against Ohio in the Frisco Bowl; Army pounded Houston in the Armed Forces Bowl; Nevada outlasted Arkansas State (in OT) in the Arizona Bowl; and Washington fell to Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. The First Responder Bowl between Boise State and Boston College was cancelled due to bad weather.

UH offensive lineman Solo Vaipulu looks to build on a standout freshman season.

June 21, Day 64: Right guard Solo Vaipulu returns to anchor the offensive line after a solid freshman campaign. The 6-2, 310-lb. Vaipulu started all 14 games for UH in 2018; he was one of only four true freshmen nationwide to start every game for their teams. For his efforts, he was named All-Mountain West “Honorable Mention.”

June 22, Day 63: Last season’s leading rusher was Fred Holly III, who ran for 468 yards. It was the first time in 10 years that Hawaii did not have a player who had 500 or more rushing yards. In 2008, the team’s leading rusher was Daniel Libre, who ran for 443 yards.

June 23, Day 62: The Rainbow Warriors are 2-3 all time versus Pac-12 opponent Washington. The two wins, however, are celebrated as two of the biggest victories in program history. In 1973, UH shocked the Huskies, 10-7, in Seattle. Defensive tackle Levi Stanley had 17 tackles, and cornerback Hal Stringert picked off three U-Dub passes. In 2007, of course, Hawaii came back from a 21-0 deficit to beat the Huskies, 35-28, and secure a perfect regular season record and a berth in the Sugar Bowl.

June 24, Day 61: Redshirt freshman Chevan Cordeiro is battling incumbent Cole McDonald for the starting QB spot. Even if McDonald gets the nod, however, expect Cordeiro to see plenty of action. The Saint Louis School product made an impact last season, leading the Rainbow Warriors to come-from-behind win over Wyoming and UNLV. Against the Rebels, Cordeiro came off the bench in the second half to throw 3 TDs to lead Hawaii to victory. Overall, he threw for 384 yards and 6 TDs over four contests.

June 25, Day 60: Hawaii hosts Central Arkansas for its Homecoming Game on Sept. 21. The most famous Bears alum is NBA Hall of Fame player Scottie Pippen. In the college football world, however, another noteworthy Central Arkansas graduate is Charlie Strong, who is currently the head coach at South Florida. He’s also had head coaching stints at Louisville and Texas. Strong was a defensive back for the Bears from 1980 to 1983.

Hawaii’s thrilling 31-30 OT victory over San Diego State last season was UH’s first road win vs the Aztecs since 1988.

June 26, Day 59: When UH beat San Diego State in their final regular season game last season, it marked the Rainbow Warriors first road win over the Aztecs since 1988. Then, UH kicker Jason Elam went 4-for-4 on FGs, helping Hawaii to a narrow 32-30 win at Jack Murphy Stadium. This year, Hawaii hosts SDSU on Nov. 23.

June 27, Day 58: Nose tackle Blessman Ta’ala made a strong impact last season as a true freshman, registering 32 tackles (17 solo), 2 tackles-for-loss and 2 QB hurries. The 6-1, 300-lb. powerhouse from American Samoa was the only freshman UH defender to start all 14 games. Pro Football Focus listed Ta’ala as one of the top freshman interior defensive lineman in the country in 2018, and he’s expected to only improve in 2019.

June 28, Day 57: While the Rainbow Warriors gear up for their opening game against Arizona, the UH coaching staff is already looking ahead to 2020. The most recent student-athlete to commit to Hawaii is prep placekicker/punter Matthew Shipley, whom one scouting service rates as the No. 5 kicker in the country. He is said to have 55-yard-plus range and “competes well under pressure.” Shipley will be a senior at Liberty Hill High School in Texas.

June 29, Day 56: On paper, the most formidable UH opponent in 2019 will be the Washington Huskies, who have gone 32-9 and captured two Pac-12 championships over the past three seasons. While the Huskies are expected to be retooling this season, with Georgia transfer Jacob Eason taking over QB duties from Jake Browning – many observers feel the incoming talent is just as good, if not better. The Huskies are tabbed to win the Pac-12 again.

June 30, Day 55: Left tackle Ilm Manning returns to solidify the UH offensive line. The 6-4, 280-lb. sophomore started all 14 games as a freshman in 2018 – he was one of only four true freshman nationwide to start every game for his team. (Another was UH guard Solo Vaipulu.)

July 1, Day 54: Senior receiver Cedric Byrd II looks to capitalize on an impressive 2018 season. His 181 receiving yards in the season opener against Colorado State was the most ever by a Rainbow Warrior in his debut.

July 2, Day 53: Hawaii’s Homecoming Game will be against Central Arkansas on Sept. 21. It’s the earliest Homecoming Game in program history, eclipsing last season’s Sept. 22 HC game against Duquesne.

Keep it right here on ESPN Honolulu for live reports from the MWC Football Media Summit.

July 3, Day 52: This year, “The Bobby Curran Show” will provide on-site, live coverage of the Mountain West Conference Football Media Summit (July 23 and 24 from The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas). Bobby will be live at the Summit, with interviews, analysis, updates and more. ESPN Honolulu Digital Media Manager Ku’ulei Agbayani will also there to provide videos, social media updates and more.

July 4, Day 51: Hawaii has lost the four previous meetings with Oregon State. The Rainbow Warriors’ last victory over the Beavers came in the 1999 – June Jones’ first season as UH head coach – when they defeated the Beavers, 23-17, in the Jeep Oahu Bowl.

July 5, Day 50: In 2017, the Rainbow Warrior defense ranked dead last in the MWC in opponent third-down conversions (47.1 percent). Under first-year defensive coordinator Cory Batoon, UH improved slightly in 2018, allowing opponents to convert 42.4 percent of their third downs. That still placed the UH defense 11th out of the 12 conference teams.

July 6, Day 49: Senior defensive back Rojesterman Farris put in a solid campaign in 2018, breaking up 11 passes and snaring an interception for a total of 12 passes defended on the season. That placed him tied for seventh in the MWC.

July 7, Day 48: During an interview with Maui News, UH QB Cole McDonald revealed how injuries plagued much of his breakthrough 2018 season. He strained his MCL in the season opener and, against San Jose State, took a hard hit to side. Tests showed that he was experiencing internal bleeding that wasn’t draining properly. “I played hurt most of the season,” he said. “It was pretty brutal.”

July 8, Day 47: Injuries have curtailed much of Jake Luton’s career at Oregon State, but the redshirt senior QB has impressed when healthy. Last season, he passed for 300-plus yards in back-to-back games against Colorado and USC. This past April, he completed 6 of 9 passes for 94 yards, leading his Orange squad to a 27-7 victory in the Beavers’ spring game. He is expected to get the nod as the team’s starting signal-caller.

July 9, Day 46: After opening and closing the 2018 regular season on the road, this year’s UH football schedule allows the Rainbow Warriors to open and close the season with two straight games at Aloha Stadium. Hawaii opens with Arizona and Oregon State, and concludes the regular season with home dates with SDSU and Army.