November 20, 2019
This Saturday represents a rarity in the MWC. The final conference game of the year for both San Diego State and Hawai’i is a winner take all event for the West division championship. A UH victory would leave the teams tied at 5-3, but Hawai’i would own the tiebreaker against either the Aztecs or Nevada, and if the Aztecs win they would be 6-2 in the conference and would be the champion.
Not that comparative scores tell the whole story, but they bear a glance. Each team has played the other 4 members in the West. Both teams defeated San Jose St. and UNLV. SDSU beat the Spartans 27-17, UH 42-40. SDSU beat the Rebels 20-17, UH by 21-7. SDSU beat Fresno St. 17-7, UH lost 41-38. UH whipped Nevada 54-3, SDSU lost 17-13. Only the Nevada game shows a huge disparity. Not much to draw conclusions from those scores.
There is no question that these teams have gone about their business in very different ways, however. SDSU smothered their opponents with excellent defense, giving up only 13.7 ppg. UH flat outscores teams with 35.8 on offense.
The Aztecs are led by QB Ryan Agnew who is efficient, if unspectacular. He has thrown for 1946 yds with 11 TD’s and 5 INT’s, completing 64%. Only 2 receivers have more than 16 catches. Kobe Smith has 48 receptions for 12.1 ypc and 4 TD’s, and Jesse Matthews has 37 grabs for 11.1 ypc and no scores. The bigger threat is the ground game where Juwan Washington leads the stable that includes Chance Bell, Chase Jasmin, and Jordan Byrd. The quartet have amassed a collective 1200 plus yards and 11 TD’s.
Generally, SDSU grinds out 20 points per game and then lets their defense loose. They have an All conference LB in Kyahva Tezino who leads the team in tackles with 84, has 8.5 TFL, 3 sacks, and a pick. Safety Dwayne Johnson is a hitter with 71 tackles, and CB Luq Barcoo leads the conference with 7 INT’s, and wil play in the NFL. The defense is an unusual 3-3-5, and head coach Rocky Long is a master at running it.
Hawai’i has had a fluid QB situation recently, with Cordeiro replacing McDonald for the San Jose State game where he was brilliant, and then getting replaced by McDonald after the first quarter of the UNLV game, where McDonald excelled. The 2 deeps lists the starter as either, but McDonald is likely after last week’s performance. McDonald has already thrown for over 3,000 yards and 25 TD’s. Miles Reed was outstanding running the ball, the receivers were sharp, but the defense held UNLV to 7 points in of their best outing of the year. They’ll need to replicate that Saturday because points will be tougher than usual to come by.
A reasonable expectation might be a game in the high 20’s with the final outcome being a win by 3 points or less. Both teams are playing well, and both are hungry. Should be a spectator’s delight. UH is marketing the game as “The Battle for the West” and is offering half price tickets in designated sections. It feels like excellent fan support could spell the difference on Saturday.
By Bobby Curran | The Voice of Rainbow Warrior Football