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A Hawai’i football blog by the voice of Rainbow Warrior Football.

13 November 2018

The Rainbow Warriors take another crack at bowl eligibility this Saturday at Aloha Stadium against the Rebels of UNLV. Let’s hope timing isn’t everything as last week the Rebels got their first conference win on the road at San Diego State in a huge upset. With star QB Armani Rogers out the last six weeks with a foot injury, fellow sophomore Max Gilliam has stepped in and had his best outing to date in San Diego. While Rogers is easily the better runner, Gilliam is the more accomplished passer. He has now thrown 13 TD passes and 1356 yards, while completing 55%. As his playing time increases, so do his numbers. Last week he he completed 67% of his throws. His main targets include Darren Woods (22 rec. 5 TD’s), Tyleek Collins (29 rec. 6 TD’s) and Brandon Presley (29 rec. 3TD’s). But UNLV loves to run the football and why not with veteran tailback Lexington Thomas who needs 61 yards on Saturday to get 1,000 for the season.

The Rebel D is led by FS Dalton Baker who has a team leading 100 tackles and 2 INT’s. The LB’s are active with Javin White (64 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2 sacks and 2 INT’s) and Roger Mann (6.5 TFL, 4 sacks) along with Bailey Laolagi (62 tackles, 4.5 TFL and 1.5 sacks).

The Rainbow Warriors finally got their bye week after 11 straight games, and it was much needed. A number of players suffered from nagging injuries and should benefit from the extra rest. A key to handling the Rebels will be a fast start, combined with va rejuvenated running game. That would open up the passing game for Cole McDonald (3163 yards, 32 TD’s, 6 INT’s, and 60% completions) and the leading TD producer at receiver in the country in John Ursua (15 TD’s). A bigger concern might be the D, where UH has been torched for 106 points over the last 2 games, and will finish the season without Jahlani Tavai. There is some good, young talent on that side of the ball, but it’s  time to step up. This is senior night. So bring the leis and a couple of friends to the stadium!


31 October 2018

The Rainbow Warriors will host their highest rated opponent on Saturday night when 18th ranked Utah State comes to Aloha Stadium. Last week Hawaii was outclassed by 20th ranked Fresno State 50-20 in Fresno. UH is again a huge underdog with the Aggies currently an 18-point favorite. The teams have had 2 common opponents, BYU )who beat UH 49-23 and lost to Utah State 45-20) and Wyoming (who lost to UH 17-13 and also lost to Utah State 24-16). The Aggies are ruthlessly efficient on offense, averaging 49.4 points per game and scoring 60 or more 3 times. They are led by sophomore QB Jordan Love, who has thrown for 2,058 yards with 18 TD’s and 4 INT’s. He completes 65% of his passes. On the ground, Gerald Bright and Darwin Thompson have combined for over 1000 yards behind an O-line that features 4 seniors and a junior. As head coach Matt Wells told us this week, “We love to run the ball, but if the defense loads the box, we are confident we can spread it around in the passing game”.

Defensively, the Aggies are aggressive and cohesive led by inside LB David Woodward (79 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 4 sacks). They play out of a base 3-4, but you’ll see plenty of 4 man fronts. In short, they mix it up. It has led to 12 INT’s and 9 recovered fumbles. The linebackers are sure tacklers, and everyone in the secondary can run.

The task for UH will be to start fast and make the Aggies play from behind. It will be interesting to see if the Aggies play soft coverage in zone as recent UH opponents have done, hoping to keep everything in front of them and banking on UH making a mistake before they get to the end zone. They may be confident enough in their secondary to play some man, and that might work to the Warriors advantage. Protecting Cole McDonald is another priority, and the QB has to do his part in getting the ball out quickly. Additionally, UH needs to get back to running the ball effectively; they have struggled with that recently. With a quick start, UH may have more than a punchers chance to win, but if they fall behind early, it could be a long night in Halawa.

24 October 2018

The toughest road game of the year will take place this Saturday in Fresno. The Bulldogs have been playing complete football, meaning all 3 phases have operated at a high level. Offensively, they are led by senior QB Marcus McMaryion who has completed 70% of his passes for 1858 yards with 14 TD’s and only 2 INT’s. His targets include KeeSean Johnson, who has 46 catches for 659 yards and 6 TD’s, along with Jared Rice, Jordan Mims, and Jamie Jordan who have combined for another 59 grabs and 777 yards. The Bulldogs have rushed for 949 yards, mostly by committee but have tallied 18 TD’s on the ground.

Defensively, the back 7 are excellent, led by MLB Jeff Allison, and the secondary likely has a couple of future NFL players.

For UH, this is a chance to correct a few problems that have haunted them in the last 2 losses. Poor tackling, dropped passes, ineffective pass protection and hesitancy at QB are all fixable, and the sooner the better. The Bulldogs score 38 per game, and give up only 12.6. That’s by far the best scoring margin in the Mountain West Conference, and is largely the reason UH is a 24-point underdog. But games aren’t played on paper, and a fast start could change the complexion of this one pretty quickly. Mostly, the Rainbow Warriors need to play better, because they need a win for bowl eligibility, and the last 2 games appear more winnable than the next 2. Hawai’i has a couple of upset wins at Fresno St., and would love to do something special this Saturday.


17 October 2018

For the 6-2 Rainbow Warriors, this Saturday’s date with the Nevada Wolfpack is a matchup with a new look football team. Under head coach Jay Norvell, this is not your father’s Wolfpack. Gone are the days of pound the ball on the ground under previous head coaches Chris Ault and Brian Polian. This is an innovative, high flying offense willing to take risks and seize opportunities. Led by senior QB Ty Gangi, Nevada puts up nearly 32 points per game, and 9 players have scored TD’s. Aside from Gangi, players to watch on offense include true freshman RB Toa Taua, and big back Kelton Moore, receivers Kaleb Fossum, McLane Mannix, Elijah Cooks, and another freshman in Romeo Doubs. All can run, and Gangi seems willing to target all of them at any time.

On D, Nevada presents a 3-3-5 look that seems set up to battle high functioning passing attacks. LB’s Gabe Sewell and Malik Reed, along with veteran safeties Asauni Rufus and Dameon Baber are players to watch as the defense flies around and are generally disruptive.

Hawaii looks to rebound from a 49-23 spanking at BYU, and have to find a way to get back to the fast starts they enjoyed at the beginning of the season. Expect Cole McDonald to return to form, and for UH RB’s to have more success in the ground game. It may take at least 40 points to win this game, and if that ends with Hawaii on top, it will mean that UH goes bowling in December!

#GoBows #HawaiiFB

11 October 2018

This Saturday UH has a chance to make history. The Rainbow Warriors have never won a football game in Provo against BYU. They are 0-9 in the House that Lavell Edwards built. Sure, there is altitude and distance, but there have also been very strong Cougar teams. And while the 2018 edition of BYU football is 3-3, they are once again big and deep.

Coaches love to talk about balance, but rarely is it achieved. Thus far, the Cougars have run the ball 190 times, and thrown it 189. The two best runners are Squally Canada with 334 yards but who is fighting through injuries, and Lopini Katoa who has rushed for 180 yards. QB Tanner Mangum has tossed for 1042 yards with 5 TD’s and 3 INT’s. 16 different receivers have caught passes, but none of them has more than 1TD. Consistency on offense has proven elusive.

Defensively, the Cougars performance has depended on the competition to some extent, but they have generally been stingy. They surrendered 35 to Washington in Seattle, and 45 to Utah State when 3 BYU turnovers resulted in 21 points. Nobody else has scored more than 23. Big up front, they are smaller and quicker than previous Cougar teams at LB, and play a lot of nickel and dime.

The Rainbow Warriors come in 6-1, although against lesser competition. They have scored 40 or more points in 5 of 6 wins this year. They also will have Cole McDonald back at QB. He has thrown for 2100 yards, 24 TD’s with 2 INT’s. Slot receiver John Ursua leads the nation with 12 TD catches, 5 more than BYU receivers combined. The surprise has been that UH has ru shed for over 1000 yards, the bulk of those coming from the duo of Fred Holly III and Dayton Furuta.

Defensively UH continues to be led by senior LB Jahlani Tavai, but he has plenty of help. 16 Rainbow Warrior defenders have double digit tackles, and they are showing a knack for big plays.

This looks like the coldest and latest game UH will play this year. They will kick off at 8:15 MST (4:15 p.m. HT), and game time temperatures are expected to be in the mid 40’s. If UH can get the historic win, they will go bowling for only the 2nd time in 8 years!


3 October 2018

The Wyoming Cowboys are coming to Aloha Stadium this Saturday to battle for the Paniolo Trophy. The Cowboys lead the series 14-9, and 2-1 in the MWC. Currently, Wyoming is 2-3, 0-1. With Josh Allen having moved on to the NFL, there has been an adjustment period for R-Fr. QB Tyler Vander Waal. He is completing 54% of his passes for 802 yards, with 3 TD’s and 2 Int’s, but the preferred attack for fifth year HC Craig Bohl is a bruising ground game led by Nico Evans who has rushed for 420 yards and 4 TD’s.

As always under Coach Bohl, the Pokes feature a physical, aggressive defense led by 6’5 255 lb DE Carl Granderson, and 2 time All MWC S Andrew Wingard. Both are regarded as NFL prospects. They also have a downhill middle LB in 6’2 250 lb Logan Wilson, who gets in the gaps and lays serious hat. When he collides with UH’s big back Dayton Furuta, it oughta be something to behold.

UH comes off a 44-41 5OT win against SJSU on the road, and really took a full half to get going. John Ursua continues his national bests in receiving yards, receiving TD’s, total TD’s, and total points scored. Not to be outdone, QB Cole McDonald leads the nation in passing yards, passing TD’s, points responsible for, and is No. 2 in total offense. Special teams could be the difference this week, and UH feels good about MWC special teams Player of the week Ryan Meskell who kicked the game winning FG against the Spartans. If this is low scoring, its anybody’s game, but a shootout would seem to favor the Rainbow Warriors.

Fun Fact: HC Craig Bohl has purchased a ranch and is in the process of buying cattle, and plans to stay near Laramie in retirement!


27 September 2018

At first blush it seems great that UH has been designated San Jose St.’s homecoming foe- until you realize that it means that you were considered the easiest win on their home schedule! Not to worry. They had no idea UH would be 4-1 and scoring over 40 points per game.

The Spartans have lost 3 in a row, though 2 of those were to PAC 12 opponents. They are coached by former UH grad asst. Brent Brennan. He has the distinction of having been one of the very few GA’s to coach a position group, receivers,  by himself. Ironically its been the offense that has been the problem for the Spartans. They are back and forth on 2 QB’s, Josh Love and Montel Aaron. Both have had their moments; neither have produced consistently. WR Bailey Gaither and TE Josh Oliver are big play types who bear watching. On D the Spartans are solid and athletic up front, and have 3 special players in the secondary with S Tre Webb and Jonathan Lenard, along with CB Dakari Monroe.

UH has been gaining momentum on offense with QB Cole MacDonald and WR John Ursua leading the nation in key categories. The run game with Fred Holly and Dayton Furuta has been very productive as well, the O line may be the biggest surprise with 2 true freshmen and a JC transfer performing quite well.

On D, senior LB Jahlani Tavai provides sideline to sideline coverage and great leadership. Different players step up each week, and it is reasonable to expect that to continue. A couple of new names to watch are LB’s Sheyenne Sanitoa and Alika’i Picanco. And watch for one UH player who has already made the All-Name team, big DT Blessman Taala, who will win other honors before long. If UH brings its A game, they will come home 5-1!

20 September 2018

Duquesne is undertaking the longest trip in its history and perhaps its most difficult opponent with a Saturday night appointment with the Rainbow Warriors. As an FCS program, it is always an uphill battle with its FBS brethren. Because of conference restrictions that further reduce its resources to 45 scholarships instead of UH’s 85, the Dukes are at a decided disadvantage, particularly in terms of depth.  Currently the Dukes are 3-1, but have yet to beat a foe with even a single scholarship. Yet they have some very good players, many of whom are “bounce backs” from FBS schools.

A couple of offensive players such as former Florida Atlantic QB Daniel Parr, RB  A.J. Hines, and WR Nehari Crawford would be right at home on an FBS roster. They will have balance between run and pass, and will play hard but should be overmatched. On D, LB Brent Zanotto, and S Brandon Stanback lead the way but will be seeing more speed than in their previous 4 games.

For UH, the task is to work on its own game. In the loss to Army, UH showed grit and passion, but the execution left much to be desired. Offensively, the Rainbow Warriors are best when they find some rhythm. Cole McDonald has been brilliant at times but is searching for consistency. The same could be said for most of the offense except John Ursua, who has been breathtakingly productive with national bests of 546 receiving yards and 7 TD’s. Defensively, keep an eye out for Jahlani Tavai, who has played so well he is on the Senior Bowl watch list and headed for All Conference honors. At their best, the Rainbow Warriors are a very good and even more exciting football team. They most certainly will provide points and fireworks for the homecoming crowd on Saturday evening!


13 September 2018

The longest road trip of the 2018 season is this Saturday’s game against Army. It represents the second option team Hawaii will have faced in the last three weeks, and the Rainbow Warriors are hoping for a similar result to their 59-41 win over Navy.

In most ways, the challenges  will be very much the same. Army seems even more committed to the fullback dive than Navy, if that’s possible. Three of Army’s four leading rushers are fullbacks, led by former Kamehameha standout Calen Holt. When that inside running attack is working, as it was against Liberty, the numbers are gaudy, racking up 454 yards rushing. When an opponent manages to stiffen up the interior defense as Duke did in handing the Black Knights a 34-14 loss in the opener, Army was held to 168 rushing yards. Junior QB Kelvin Hopkins Jr. is a solid, though unspectacular player, favoring his legs over his arm. He has thrown only 28 times, completing 12 for 2 TD’s and a 43% completion rate. Slow down the dive, and you slow down Army.

Offensively, UH will see much what they saw against Navy. The Black Knights will be physical and aggressive up front, and will be assignment responsible in the back end.Their liability defensively is a lack of elite speed at both linebacker and in the secondary, and that can be costly against the likes of John Ursua, Cedric Byrd, and JoJo Ward.

UH will need Cole McDonald to bring his A game; if he does, the Rainbow Warriors could overcome being a TD underdog and return home a perfect 4-0!

7 September 2018

 This Saturday the Rice Owls are in town to play what once was a conference rivalry game. This time it’s outside of conference, and the Owls are trying to rebuild from a 1-11 season last year. New head coach Mike Bloomgren has brought a new toughness to the program, and regards the school’s rigid academic requirements to be an opportunity rather than a challenge. “I was at Stanford, and we got the same kinds of extremely bright kids there as we do here”, said the first year head man. “We can do a lot of things because they pick up concepts and schemes so quickly.” He has a grad transfer from Vanderbilt in Shawn Stankavage, a power running back in Emmanuel Esukpa, and a pair of glue fingered receivers with Aaron Cephus and Austin Trammell.

On defense, his group gives multiple looks led by LB Dylan Silcox and NT Zach Abercrumbia. When an opponent puts the ball in the air, CB Justin Beckham and S Houston Robert can be counted on to cause problems. So far the Owls are 1-1.

For UH, they’d like more of the same, with fewer mistakes, not so you’d notice. QB Cole McDonald leads the nation in passing yards and TD’s, and the team is top 5 in offensive production. Cedric Byrd, John Ursua, and JoJo Ward all have multiple TD catches and are brutal to say with in space. Fred Holly is becoming the bell cow at RB, and McDonald can also run the ball.

Defensively, the team gives up some big plays but is proving adept at getting some stops. Jahlani Tavai leads the defense but others, such as Manly Williams, Ikem Okeke, and S Kaylen Hicks are all taking star turns as well. Special teams have been excellent and Ryan Meskell has been perfect on field goals.

 Aloha Stadium is the place to be on Saturday! Kick off is set for 6 p.m. Can UH make it 3 in a row?

28 August 2018

One down, 12 to go! After an explosive opener at CSU, UH will host Navy on Saturday and this will be as different as possible. Navy brings in its triple option attack with mind-blowing rushing numbers. QB Malcolm Perry has been described by head coach Ken Niumatalolo as the most dynamic player he’s ever coached at Navy. But don’t worry about Perry as a passer. He had three starts at QB last year and went 1-2 throwing the football. The Mids averaged 351 rushing yards per game in 2017 and expect to put up similar numbers this season.

Unlike the old juggernaut Oklahoma teams of the 1960s and 70s, Navy does not turn the ball over. They are terrific on 1st and 3rd down and score more than 30 points per game.

UH will attempt more of the same offensively. With Cole McDonald at the helm, UH threw for more than 400 yards and ran for 200 more. Navy is aggressive up front, but are typically average athletically in the back 7,  which should mean another banner day for Cedric Byrd and John Ursua.

The big challenge for UH defensively will be staying disciplined on alignment and assignment, and creating a few stops. Expect lots of points and explosive plays.

Hot Tip – Buy tickets now. Surprisingly, reat seats are still available!

21 August 2018

Finally, it’s here! The long-awaited start to the 2018 season is upon us, with UH getting a “Week Zero” game against conference foe Colorado State. The Rams are coming off a 7-6, 5-3 MWC season and a school record fifth straight bowl game. CSU has lost a lot of star power however, and will need to replace All Conference players such as QB Nick Stevens and WR Michael Gallup as well as two All MWC offensive lineman.

The expected signal caller for the Rams will be Washington grad transfer K.J. Carter-Samuels, and the leading returning receiver is Olabisi Johnson, while Izzy Matthews and Rashad Boddie will handle the bulk of the run game. On defense, the Rams will be led by LB Josh Watson, DL Richard King, and S Jordan Fogel. One uncertainty is the availability of HC Mike Bobo, who is in a Denver hospital being treated for a condition whose primary symptom is numbness in his feet.

For the Rainbow Warriors, there are new beginnings with six new staff members, and brand new schemes on offense, defense, and special teams. Offensively, UH returns to the run and shoot. The receivers are small but fast and will spread out opposing defenses. John Ursua, Cedric Byrd, Joe Ward and Devan Stubblefield are some of the names that will be frequent targets of either Cole MacDonald or Chevan Cordeiro. The big question mark on offense will be the line, where JR Hensley is the lone returnee.

Defensively, new DC Corey Batoon will bring a multiple front, attacking defense which should enchant UH fans. Jalani Tavai will spearhead the D from his LB spot. Some new players up front should help the depth. True freshman Blessman Taala might be one to watch, and the secondary should be better with Ro Farris and Eugene Ford at the corners, and Ikem Okeke and Kalen Hicks at the safeties. Nickel Manu Hudson-Rasmussen will be used heavily.

It’s hard to predict results with so many new pieces, but one thing is certain. There will be some wild nights this fall at Aloha Stadium!