Oh, and for what it's worth? To honor our friends on the islands, and in part for their gifts of WSU greats Jason Gesser AND Derrick Low? We'll spell Hawai'i with the "okina", or ', in the spelling. Sound good? If you want to learn more about the okina and it's uses in language, visit your local library. Or click here. No big whoop.
So, Hawai'i. They will be visiting lovely Qwest Field, taking on our Cougs in the second week of the season in the annual Seattle game. This will be Hawai'i's second game of the year, hosting Central Arkansas on Friday night of the first weekend of the season. How do the Warriors look as spring winds down? Read on for the WSU Football Blog read on Hawai'i....
LAST YEAR: 7-7, 5-3 in the WAC, which was good for a 2nd place tie with Nevada and LA-Tech in the conference. They rallied to even get bowl eligible after starting the year 1-3 and also sitting later at 4-5. But in a disappointing close to their season, they lost big to Notre Dame, 49-21, in the Hawai'i Bowl.
LAST YEAR vs. WSU: A somewhat sloppy 24-10 victory over the Cougs in Hawai'i. WSU cut the lead to 17-10 midway through the third quarter on a Dwight Tardy TD run, but Hawai'i bounced right back behind a 44-yd TD pass from QB Greg Alexander. Alexander would throw for 315 yards on the night, his most yards passing for all of the 2008 season (previous high of 288 vs. New Mexico State).
Why was it sloppy? Oh, the usual - some turnovers, missed field goals, blown coverages and assignments, fumbled snaps, etc. But this part of the game recap says it all:
Washington State's entire season was summed in one play in the fourth quarter. After blocking a 47-yard field-goal attempt, Devin Giles picked up the ball, danced around, broke the grasp of a tackler, backpeddled, danced around some more before pitching it to Chima Nwachukwu, who fumbled in front of the Cougars coach Paul Wulff.
Do you want a laugh? Or maybe a good CRY? Then watch the tape:
Awful.....but even I laughed out loud looking at that and reading the quotes! WOW was it bad last year. Good riddance 2008. But we can laugh now at stuff like that......right??
HAWAI'I FANS ARE: Well, they are OK. Not 100% thrilled, but not ready to fire the coach either? Granted '08 was a big fall from the lofty perch of 2007, when June Jones led them to the Sugar Bowl and then bailed for SMU. And it did look bleak there for a while. After starting off the Greg McMackin era at 1-3, and then later at 4-5, hope for another bowl bid seemed like a long shot. But they circled the wagons, rallied the troops, and pulled together to get back to the postseason. It was the third year in a row that Hawai'i was bowl-eligible, and the fifth time since '02 that they played in the Hawai'i bowl. And it wasn't like they backed into a bowl either. They earned this one, with one heck of a difficult schedule last year. Road games at Florida, at Fresno State, at Boise State, at Oregon State, and at home against Cincinnati. Overall, they played eight bowl teams, five of which were BCS teams (WSU was the other BCS squad, and no, not a bowl team). To lose all that experience, and a brand new head coach? Yet still make it to a bowl? All told, '08 should be considered a success.
OFFENSIVE SCHEMES: Run-n-shoot/spread is the best way to put it. They will still throw the ball a lot, but not nearly as much as you might think. In 2007, with Colt Brennan and the boys still around, they passed 662 times. IN 2008, just 490 times. So they will run the ball more than they used to.
The potential issue there was their struggles to run the ball consistently, regardless of the level of the competition. In eight of their 14 games last year, they failed to get at least 71 yards rushing in a ballgame. Even the WSU D slowed them down on the ground, allowing just 63 rushing yards on 34 carries. And of their 412 rushing attempts on the season, they averaged just 3.2 yards per carry. Not terrible, but certainly not what you want to average on over 45% of your offensive plays.
Obviously, one must always consider sacks from the rushing yardage totals in college football. And, Hawai'i did allow quite a few of them - 57 - losing 348 yards in the process. OUCH. But in a scheme without a true fullback or tight-end on many plays, the QB is going to be alone quite a bit. If the QB is new to the system and has new faces to throw to, there were bound to be some growing pains.
OFFENSIVE RATINGS: Another big change from 2008 compared to the year before. In 2007, Hawai'i was #2 in the country in passing yards, averaging 446 yards per game. Last year? Down to 251 yards per game, good for 28th in the county. And in total offense, they came in 72nd in the NCAA at 345 yards per game, which was good for 5th in the WAC. But in 2007, they averaged 531 yards per game, which put them 3rd in the country. But 345 yards per game? That's almost 100 yards LESS per game in passing yards from the year before. Quite the change in '08.
DEFENSIVE SCHEME: They will come at you with a 4-3 look, and aren't exactly a blitz-heavy team. They recorded 36 sacks last year, nine coming from senior defensive end David Veikune. Hawai'i is quick and they play a physical brand of football, always a staple of their defense.
DEFENSIVE RATINGS: Fair to midland, I guess? Hawai'i finished 83rd in scoring defense, 87th in pass efficiency defense, and 78th in passing yards allowed. But they did finish 65th in rushing D, and finally, came in 62nd in total defense. Right in the big fat middle of the NCAA rankings, if not a little on the downward slope?
TOP OFFENSIVE PLAYER: QB Greg Alexander.
OK, the kid isn't Colt Brennan. And he's not exactly Timmy Chang either. But that said, Alexander did a decent job last year, and really helped save Hawai'i's season. Alexander came off the bench to help Hawai'i go 4-2 in their last six regular season games, clinching the bowl bid when things looked lost. He threw for almost 1900 yards and 14 TD's against just five INT's for the season. And after throwing an INT in the season opener at Florida, he didn't throw another one until the WSU game in late November. He completed over 63% of his passes and really showed that he was the answer all along. After a full season in the program, he could have a huge senior year.
Here's some video of him with a nice soft touch off the back foot, on an endzone fade to beat Nevada.
Nice. But where the hell is the safety help?? All that kid did was jog over into the area of the play, then bitch at the ref for saying he caught it. Whatever!
TOP DEFENSIVE PLAYER: LB Brashton Satele
The senior-to-be is the leader of the linebackers, and the top returning linebacker on the team coming back in '09. He's got NFL size at 6-1, 255, and is regarded as a heck of a hitter. Overshadowed by bigger names like Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard, both all-conference linebackers who combined for over 200 tackles last year, Satele held his own.
In his first real shot at major playing time, he was all over the field in '08, with 53 tackles (six for loss), plus a sack, an interception, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble, and five pass breakups. And he's got a pretty good legacy story going. Here's some video on the guy, in the first couple of minutes of the clip, talking about his background and impact on the team:
TOP THREE SPRING QUESTIONS:
1) Will the offense be improved? In a word, ABSOLUTELY. Hawai'i struggled to find their way for half of the '08 campaign, but things settled in nicely under Greg Alexander. If you project his passing stats out over a full season, he could have thrown for over 3600 yards and 28 TD's, numbers any NCAA QB could be proud of. Plus, Greg Salas returns, the leading receiver in receiving yards (831, on 57 catches) as well as Malcolm Lane, the top big-play WR on the team, averaging 17.5 yards per catch and six TD catches. Add in the return of Kealoha Pilares, who moves from running back to wide receiver but led the team with seven total TD's last year, as well as 3/5ths of the starting offensive line, and things are certain to be much improved next season.
2) How's the D look? Well, it's YOUNG. Awfully young indeed. Just two starters return from last year's D, a unit which really wasn't that strong to begin with. The hardest hits will be at linebacker, where outstanding players like Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard have moved on. Just between those two guys alone, you are talking about losing a combined 209 tackles, 19.5 for loss, and 6.5 sacks off of last year's roster. Brashton Satele is a nice looking player and should have a great season at middle linebacker, but there isn't a lot of experience around him. Up front, defensive end John Fonoti is back, and he had a strong season in '08 with 62 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 3 1/2 sacks. But along with Satele, they are the only two starters to return for '09. That also means the entire starting secondary will be brand new, with the loss of first-team WAC DB Ryan Mouton. That's zero starts among the projected starters in the defensive backfield.
3) And the schedule? It certainly won't be as tough as last year, that much is certain. Believe it or not, their toughest road game may well be the WSU game at Qwest. The only other non-WAC road game they play is at UNLV, the week after the WSU game. They do play Navy and also Wisconsin at the end of the year, but both games are in Hawai'i. And traditionally Hawai'i is a completely different animal at home vs. the road. Starting in 1999, the Warriors are now an impressive 60-23 at home! September could be a little dicey however, where after they open at home to start the year, they are on the road for the rest of the month. But six of their last nine games are at home to finish the season.
WSU FOOTBALL BLOG SEZ: From 12-1 in '07 to 7-7 in '08, and the big-time coaching change in-between, it's been quite a ride for Hawai'i the last couple of years. But we will see how things settle down in year two under McMackin. McMackin did become the 2nd-ever Hawai'i coach to lead his team to a bowl game in his inaugural year (June Jones was the other Hawai'i coach to do it). But he may have received a bit of a pass in 2008, just based on how much Hawai'i lost from the prior year's Sugar Bowl team. The fans in Hawai'i love their Warriors, and for good reason. So they weren't about to leap off the bandwagon just because they weren't in a BCS bowl again. And besides, not only did June Jones leave the island, but QB Colt Brennan and all his skill guys like Davone Bess, Ryan Grice-Mullen and Jason Rivers moved on as well. So not only was McMackin trying to fill some rather large shoes, on the field Hawai'i only returned EIGHT STARTERS last year, the fewest in the WAC. So while it was starting over in a lot of ways, to turn it all around after a slow start and still pull out a postseason bid was a very good sign for Hawai'i.
That said, Hawai'i is going to look a lot different than they did when WSU saw them in late November last year. Again, just nine total starters are back on both sides of the ball. And while the offense is going to be a lot better, you have to wonder about the defense. Early in the season, when there will be nine brand new starters on D, it could be the absolute perfect time to play them. Especially in the first road game of the young season. There could be some big offense from both teams in this one. We'll see what happens!
That's it for a Thursday. Enjoy your day, AND GO COUGS!