By Bobby Curran.
On paper this may appear to be a matchup between 1-win teams at the BCS level. A closer look shows a contest between a New Mexico State team that is lacking in resources, depth and speed pitted against a Hawaii team that in the view of many has failed to live up to its ability level thus far.
Last week, the Aggies got their first win against South Carolina State despite having to start a walk-on QB who showed up at fall camp due to injuries to the first- and second-string signal callers. In fairness to Dino Maldonado, he moved the team in the first half and got a lead that the Aggies held on to, despite managing only 20 yards of offense in the second half. In two games, Maldonado has gone 37-62 for 513 yards with 4 TDsand 2 INTs completing 56% of his passes. That compares favorably with regular starter Jonah Johnson who in three games is 46-90 for 444 yards, with a TD and 3 INTs.
The top 2 RBs are Juwaun Price who has gained 156 yards for 3.8 ypc and 2 TDs, and O’maury Samuels who has rushed for 115 yards for 3.5 ypc and a TD. The leading receivers are Terrell Warner, who 12 receptions for an 8.3 ypc, Jared Wyatt is with 11 grabs for 12.9 and a TD, Dominic Gicinto with 9 catches for a 10.6 avg. and a TD, and Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda with 8 grabs for an avg 23.9 yards and 2 scores. The Aggies have been outscored by 11.5 pts per game.
Defensively, the team leader in tackles is LB Josh Ferguson with 30. Fellow LB Chris Ojoh has 21 T, 4.5 TFL and 2 sacks. They play a four-man front and have managed 6 sacks and 6 INTs while giving up 31 pts per game.
Hawaii continues to try to establish an offensive identity. They scored just 13 points against SJSU despite gaining 369 yards. They were only 4-18 on 3rd down conversions and seemed too often to waste second down plays with weak runs up the middle to small effect. Some good catches were made by Calvin Turner (4-56), Nick Mardner (5-97) and freshly back Jonah Panoke (3-27) but there were still too many drops.
Many of the of us are hoping that offensive coordinator Bo Graham will open up the playbook and leave the conservative aspects of the offense behind. The bright spots were mostly on the defensive side, where UH was aggressive, sacked Spartan QB Nick Starkel for the only two times he’s been dropped this season, and held the Spartans to 56 yards rushing and 269 yards total offense. Khoury Bethley, D’juan Matthews, Jonah Laulu, and Darius Muasau all looked good and give the unit something to build on. Special teams surrendered another blocked punt, making that 2 in 4 games, after going 154 games without allowing one.
This team is a work in progress, and needs to do considerable work before Fresno State arrives with an attitude. Go Bows!