If I asked you when the last time BYU squared off against Hawai’i you would likely tell me immediately that it was the 2001 debacle in Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, HI, but you’d be wrong. I don’t blame you. Until just this past week, that would have been my answer, and I consider myself a pretty big BYU fan. But I think my calling as a fan (maybe particularly as a BYU fan) has it so I only dwell on memorable events and the 2002 game in Provo was not memorable . . . at least not as much so as the 2001 showcase.
In 2002, the Cougars had just come off their exhilarating (and ultimately, uninspired) finish to the nearly unbeaten 2001 campaign. Hopes were high in Cougar Town, but we had a new QB, a new RB, and no idea that a 5-7 record was looming. We’d just beaten Big East member Syracuse. The game saw 3rd down ineptitude in spades that day as BYU was 7-20 and Hawai’i was 7-18, causing for a crazy amount of attempts on 4th down (BYU was 3-6 and Hawai’i was 2-3.) Not quite the game the as the previous season that saw BYU turn the ball over seven times (six fumbles), saw Brandon Doman get hurt (ribs) and leave the game thus losing his first start as a BYU quarterback (previously 14-0). BYU scored 45 points, amassed over 600 yards of offense, controlled the ball a whopping 37+ minutes, yet still lost by allowing 72 points and two kick returns in the 1st quarter (1 kickoff and 1 punt.)
This year will be a lot of the same and a lot different at the same time. It will be the same because these games always have the flair of the old WAC shootouts. It will be the same because both teams like to score, though Hawai’i much more so. Different because this time around, BYU will focus more on ball control through the ground game and the defense is more dominant than defenses of old.
For the year, the Warriors have more than 500 yards more and 11 more offensive touchdowns than the Cougars. BYU strives for balance while Hawai’i prefers to air it out. BYU has almost 2600 yards in the air and more than 1800 on the ground compared to Hawai’i’s 3700 and 1200 respectively. However, the one-time Heisman hopeful, Bryant Moniz is hurt and won’t be playing, not that that should mean a drop off in the number of tosses they will put up. The Warriors have three receivers who have more receptions thank our leading receiver, Cody Hoffman. Their quarterbacks are mobile and though Moniz is/was the second leading rusher on this team, backup David Graves should not be taken lightly.
That leads me to my keys for the game for each team. BYU needs to run the ball and stop the pass. For Hawai’i’s part, they need to score early, score often, and test the BYU secondary as well as turn this game into a track meet. BYU needs to control the ball (in terms of time and security) to keep this quick-strike Warrior offense off the field. Eating up time from the game clock will keep the Warriors sidelined and unable to accomplish their keys to victory. Defensively, the Cougars will be stout against the run and I expect the Warriors will all but abandon the run early. In half their games this season, they have rushed for fewer than 100 yards, and in one game, only logged 6 rushing yards. That isn’t to say they didn’t try; in fact, in that game against UNVL, they ran it 16 times! Hawai’i will need this game to become a track meet early and then rush to score each time they touch the ball. I truly feel the only way they can win this game is to outscore the Cougars. BYU’s secondary will have to truly step up as they will be tested in a way they haven’t likely been tested all season as they could easily see 50 passing plays or more.
This game will turn into a shootout. Coach Mendenhall put to rest any QB controversy by telling the media that if Riley Nelson is available, he will play. I really feel that for this game, this may be the way to go. Nelson has shown the ability to extend plays, make something out of nothing, and if a play completely breaks down, run for the first down. Heaps’ inaccuracy could cost the Cougars in Hawai’i if it came down to a shootout. (Please note: I’m not making a case for one or the other hear, this is just one opinion for one game.) For the season, the Warriors score about 34 points per game and allow 27.5. On the other side, the Cougars score 29.6 and allow 20.4. The trick will be to keep Hawai’i to our opponent average which has only happened three times this season.
BYU will win this one though. BYU: 37 Hawai’i: 30
News and notes:
I thought it would interesting to put the Sagarin rankings to test to see how BYU’s schedule graded out this season by comparison to this year’s MWC, Big East, and next year’s proposed Big East (with BYU involved) just to see if the competition truly was better, worse, or the same. I carried that data going forward for the next few years (based of course on today’s data). It turned out fairly interesting to me. If you are interested, leave a comment, email me at AI_Blog@hotmail.com or direct message me on Twitter @Matt_Quinney.