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Just Offensive

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

There are two games remaining on the 2021 schedule, but many University of Hawaii football fans are already looking ahead to 2022. That’s kind of what happens when the team is 4-7 and out of contention for any postseason bowl game. The Rainbow Warrior players and coaches, of course, are focused on Saturday’s home finale against Colorado State. For much of the program’s fan base, however, the most pressing topic of conversation is, “What can be done to improve the team next year?”

And the answer to that question is pretty clear: Fix the offense.

Once upon a time, the Rainbow Warrior offense seemed to rack up points like a crazed pinball machine. Time of possession? Who cares? By the time you blink twice, we’ll have scored again. Third down and 24? No problem. Just watch this. We’re predictable? So what? You still can’t stop us.

This season, the offense has been far from explosive. Sometimes, it seems to be firing blanks.

Hawaii is currently averaging 26 points per game. That’s the worst scoring average since the dreadful 2017 campaign, when UH went 3-9 and put up just 22.8 points a contest. After that season, then-head coach Nick Rolovich changed his offensive scheme, returning to more of the traditional run and shoot. The following season, the Rainbow Warriors went 8-6 and locked up a Hawaii Bowl invite.

Hawaii is ranked 82nd among 130 NCAA FBS schools in scoring average and 80th in total offense (385.5 ypg.). Their scoring average dips to just 18.5 points in Mountain West Conference games. That’s 10th in the league.

The numbers tell just one part of the story. There’s also the matter of aesthetics, or lack thereof. The Hawaii offense this season has largely been stagnant, unimaginative and plodding.

Sure, starting quarterback Chevan Cordeiro hasn’t been healthy for much of the season, missing three games. His backup, true freshman Brayden Schager, simply wasn’t yet ready to be a starting QB. So there’s that.

But ultimately, the team’s offensive woes fall on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Bo Graham. And here’s where it gets kind of sticky.

UH head coach Todd Graham is a smart man and a proven success as an FBS head coach. In his 14 seasons as a head coach, he’s taken his teams to the postseason 11 times. His overall head coaching record is 104-72. Any way you look at it, that’s an impressive résumé.

And because Graham’s a smart man, he had to know the risk involved when he promoted his son to lead the Hawaii offense earlier this year. Bo, the team’s passing game coordinator and running backs coach last season, replaced GJ Kinne, who left in February to become the OC at UCF. This is Bo Graham’s first year as an OC at the college level.

If the team’s offense was flourishing and the Rainbow Warriors were winning, everything would be great. Instead, the offense has sputtered, the team has lost three straight and fans are wondering if Bo Graham is really cut out for the job. Some critics are even throwing the “N” word around. Maybe that’s fair, maybe it isn’t. But you know what they say about perception.

Does a change need to be made at offensive coordinator? If the answer is yes, can Todd Graham really fire or demote his own son? It’s a tough situation, and one that should be treated with understanding and compassion by the Hawaii fans.

But one thing is for sure: The fans are watching.

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