Thursday, May 07, 2009

Spring Fish Wrap - Hawai'i Reloaded Edition

Aloha! Time to take a closer look at how opponent number two on the '09 WSU schedule, the Hawai'i Warriors, are coming out of spring ball. Fish-wrap style, part II in a series. If you care, you can find the previous fish wraps on the link to the right, mixed in with the other usual links on our site. Just Stanford and now Hawai'i so far, but it will start to add up over the coming weeks.

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?


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!


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:


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!


Portland Coug said...

2 starters back from a bad WAC DEFENSE?????? If the Cougs don't score at least 30 points Wulff and the rest should just quit on the spot. I am serious. Dont even bother going back to Pullman. Just grab a microphone, walk out to the 50 and announce your resignation. Otherwise an interesting take on the formerly know as the rainbows.

Sedihawk said...

Fire Wulff if they don't score 30? Please. Portland, we were 2-11 last year. We struggled to score points vs. anyone not named Portland State, so who knows what we're going to see. In a "normal" year, maybe, but who knows about next year?

And can't Hawaii say the same type of things about our offense? Yeah we've got some depth at running back and the O-line looks good but how about the QB situation? Can't they look at our offensive stats from last year and laugh? Or how about our young WR's will look without Gibson?

We still have a full fall camp to sort all that out, and maybe we'll be pleasantly surprised. But to sit here in May and crow about how many points they should or should not hang on Hawaii is kind of crazy.

Hawaii Fan said...

This was a great overview of the Hawaii team, although on some points maybe too generous.

Hawaii appears to have some good talent in the defensive secondary, but as you noted, they are untested so who knows how well they will perform. Hawaii has historically relied on their offense (during the Jones era) to make up for defensive deficiencies, but McMackin has brought more balance to the program.

Again, I appreciate the great write-up to give us fans something to read during this slow period in college football.

Sedihawk said...

Thanks Hawaii fan, if that is your real name! Although I do see some people coming here from the UH football blog, so maybe it is.

With 7 starters back on O I am sure they will move the ball without a lot of trouble next season, but yeah, the D with 2 starters looks awfully untested. Will the O be so good to mask the defensive shortcomings? You just never know if they'll get "white line fever" where they cross the white lines and suddenly it's different compared to running around the practice field.

It should be an interesting matchup though. It's a big game from WSU's perspective, so I'm sure both teams will get after each other.

BH said...

You know folks as we entertain possibilities for the upcoming season, I think we all have to keep in mind just how hard it still might be for this group to score.

Remember, even in the Big Apple's senior year, we were averaging about 21ppg for most of the year and that was with NFL players on our roster..

So, its been a long time since we've scored a lot on anybody who is not Idaho or I-AA.

The name of the game verus the fighting rainbows from hell: WIN.

No more, no less.

Just win.

'03CouveCoug said...


You're absolutely right...we likely will have problems scoring this coming season. Even if we have significant improvement, all signs point to us running the ball quite a bit in order to not only maximize our most talented position, but also to control clock. Running the ball and controlling clock doesn't usually equate to scoring bunches of points.

I say who cares how many points our Cougs score, as long as it’s more than the other team. I am not concerned how WSU beats Hawaii, so long as they do.

BIG MIK said...

I love the fish wrap ups but are you going to keep it since Miller has done it on Pac 10 teams at ESPN today? You guys kick ass but I am not sure how you can offer anything different than what Miller has done. No offense but just hope you are aware.

And Havaii looks vulnerable. I fell off the toilet when I saw only 2 starters back on a bad defense. The debate is how will we score but if we cant score on them who will we score on? BH is right we have struggled to score in the past but remember that the kicking failures could be the problem. Gesser and Kegel got us in the end zone plenty of times but they also had Dunning kicking. A good field goal game can add 6-9 points on your average.

'03CouveCoug said...

Miller's stuff is an overview from 10,000 feet. He reports news and states the obvious to the WSU fan. This blog takes information and uses it to actually provide some in-depth analysis. Plus, this blog's analysis usually includes insider information and the occasional juicy rumor. Miller can't/doesn't do this...which is why he even links to this very blog from time to time.

Additionally, Coug fans can actually have a coherent discussion with fellow Cougs on this blog, rather than getting into juvenile pissing contests with quack, mutt and even redneck SEC fans on Miller's blog. The only people that comment on there are antagonists looking for an argument.

That's the difference.

Anonymous said...

Rumor has it Cory Mackay has been seriously injured per Cougfan and Cougzone. Anyone hear this?

Sedihawk said...

It is bad on Mackay. Just heard he is at Harborview with a serious back injury(fracture). No other details. Damn.

Anonymous said...

News on Mackay from Cougfan: