Hawaii takes on Western Carolina in Home Opener
UH will look to improve to 2-0 against WCU in their first home game of the season.
The Rainbow Warriors will look for its first 2-0 start to a season since 2009.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (1-0) vs Western Carolina University Catamounts (0-0)
Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
When: 6:00 PM HST
TV: Spectrum Sports PPV
Radio: KKEA ESPN 1420 (Honolulu), KNUI 550AM (Maui), KHLO 850AM (Hilo), KKON 790AM (Kona), KTOH 99.9FM (Kauai), KNWJ 104.7FM (American Samoa), XM Radio 203 and Sirius Radio 93.
Web Audio-Cast: ESPN 1420 AM
Web Video-Streaming: Stadium (Only available on iOS with app)
- Saturday’s game will be the first meeting between Hawaii and Western Carolina.
- The Catamounts are the only FCS team that the Rainbow Warriors will be playing this year.
- Dating back to 2001, UH has won its last 14 games against FCS teams.
- WCU is 0-52 all-time when facing FBS competition and also sport a 6 game road losing streak.
- Both Western Carolina and Hawaii have 17 players returning to their lineups with starting experience.
- The home opener will have special “Fan Initiatives“.
- No injuries to report.
2017 Team Leaders:
Passing: Dru Brown (Hawaii): 25-38, 391 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Diocemy Saint Juste (Hawaii): 23 carries, 78 yards
Receiving: John Ursua (Hawaii): 12 receptions, 272 yards, 1 TD
Tackles: Jahlani Tavai (Hawaii): 13 (6 solo) tackles
Sacks: Jahlani Tavai (Hawaii): 2.0 sacks
Interceptions: Solomon Matautia (Hawaii): 1 interception
Keys to the Game:
Keep Building: The Rainbow Warrior offense had a good first game totaling 503 yards and 38 points. The passing attack looked great, and it was nice to see the team find their number one receiver early in the season. On the other hand, the running game scuffled throughout.
Against Western Carolina, the Hawaii offense can expect less resistance, but the team must stay focused because anything can happen in sports. No matter how the matchup may look on paper, the players still need to execute to win. The overall numbers the team put up so far were good, but it will be vital for the run game to find itself. Similarly, it will be just as important for Dru Brown to improve his decision making.
There were quite a few times where UMASS nearly intercepted his passes, and as competition gets better, those close calls may not go Brown’s way. Even though the Catamounts are an FCS team, the ‘Bows must keep building if they want to achieve their season goals.
Derail Detrez: While the Catamount defense might have been suspect, their offense was not. They ranked 38th in the FCS in rush yards per attempt and passing yards per attempt. They return their freshman phenom quarterback, Tyrie Adams, but more importantly, their star running back is back. Detrez Newsome rushed for 93.7 yards per game and averaged 31.1 receiving yards per game. The Rainbow Warriors can’t forget his prowess in the return game as he averaged 24.3 yards per kickoff return, which ranked 1st in the FCS. Newsome totaled 2,345 yards in 2016 and is hungry for more in 2017.
Newsome is a fast and powerful running back with excellent balance. He is not particularly elusive but is decisive, and if there is a hole, the senior back is gone. It will be of paramount importance to keep an eye on him. The Catamount ground attack revolved around Detrez Newsome which accounted for 40% of the team’s yardage last season. If the ‘Bows can shut them down, they can focus on shoring up their pass coverage which got exposed last week.
The Sheperd’s Crook: It was fascinating to see Nick Rolovich bring out a Sheperd’s Crook during fall camp. I’m not sure if he planned on bringing it out again but after a number of penalties the team took against UMASS, he might want to take it to Aloha Stadium. While the team did many things right last week, penalties were a problem. They have been among the worst in the FBS three out of the last four years in penalties and penalty yards per game. Six penalties in the second quarter helped stall two promising drives in opposing territory. Western Carolina does not have the same caliber of players that Massachusetts had, but penalties still hurt. It might not make things as close as it was against the Minutemen but disciplined play will ultimately help return the team to a bowl game this year.
Not a lot for me has changed since I wrote my preseason prediction for this game:
Hawaii should be able to exploit the inexperience that Western Carolina has on defense. They were especially weak against the rush, but due to critical losses in the secondary, their pass defense will be suspect. It would be smart for Brian Smith and Craig Stutzman to establish the run to relieve pressure from an inexperienced receiving corps. We should expect Diocemy St. Juste to have a big game. He will compile at least 175 yards and if he gets worked into the passing game, watch out.
On defense, the Rainbow Warriors will need to practice discipline against the Catamount option. They had issues containing the option against Air Force in 2016, allowing 389 yards on the ground to the Falcons. Legi Suiaunoa will need to fix that because if one thing was consistent for WCU in 2016, it was their option-based run game. Their offense should be much improved as they return everyone in their starting lineup except their top wide receiver and center. It will be vital for Jahlani Tavai and Trayvon Henderson to remain active to keep Tyrie Adams and Detrez Newsome in check.
With solid games from Diocemy St. Juste, Jahlani Tavai and Trayvon Henderson the Rainbow Warriors should have little problem in defeating the Catamounts. This game should provide the coaching staff with a good look at what their bench can bring to the table. When the fourth quarter ends the score will be 48-17 and St. Juste will be named the player of the game.
I would like to note that Dru Brown should continue his good performance from last week. I don’t expect him to get disrupted from the team that ranked 122nd in sacks per game last year. If anything, Brown must keep himself in check and be patient to find the right window to hit.
In the end, I still believe the score will be 48-17, but I would like to correct the player of the game. Without a single catch last week, I have a hard time believing Diocemy St. Juste will be able to put together a 175 yard game like I initially predicted. I think he will eclipse the century mark, but Dru Brown will shine this week.
The Catamounts will be tracking John Ursua pretty meticulously after last week, so I see Brown distributing the passes more evenly. Brown will finish with 350 passing yards, 50 rushing yards and will account for 5 touchdowns.
Keep an eye out for the recap. I am adding a new fun section in there this season. Also don’t forget to follow me on Twitter at warriorboutit to get some play by play commentary and some random thoughts.