By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
Now the games REALLY matter.
The University of Hawaii football team begins conference play tonight, hosting Mountain West Conference rival San Jose State at the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex. ESPN Honolulu’s coverage of the game starts at 4:30 p.m. with the “New Countdown to Kickoff.” Then, get ready for the 6:30 kickoff with a Bobby Curran and John Veneri bringing you the action.
No doubt, this is a big game for the Warriors, who are currently 6.5-point underdogs. Here are three keys to victory:
- OUT OF THE GATE: First, the obvious: Hawaii has to avoid another anemic start. In their two lopsided losses, UH trailed UCLA 24-3 and Oregon State 21-0 after the opening quarter. The Rainbow Warriors also let SJSU race out to a 21-0 lead last season, eventually falling to the Spartans, 35-24. It will be imperative for the Hawaii offense to avoid three-and-outs or commit early turnovers. The UH defense can’t give up big plays like it did against the Bruins and Beavers.
- TURN DAE DAE LOOSE: In three games, UH running back Dae Dae Hunter has averaged a little more than eight carries. By contrast QB Chevan Cordeiro averages more than 13 carries, most of them on scrambles. Hunter is Hawaii’s most dangerous runner – he averages 6.2 yards per carry – and needs to be a featured weapon tonight against the Spartans.
- STOP STARKEL: Spartan QB Nick Starkel is the guy who makes SJSU’s offense go. In the win over Southern Utah, Starkel completed 16 passes for 394 yards and 4 TDs in just three quarters of action. For that performance, he was named the Mountain West Conference’s “Offensive Player of the Week.” Stopping Starkel might be asking too much, but if the Hawaii D can limit his effectiveness, the Rainbow Warriors should have a chance to pick up the W.