Covering University of Colorado sports, mostly basketball, since 2010

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hawai'i Preview: Warriors, come out to PLAAAAAAYYYYY

If you haven't been with me before, in these previews I try to take a light-hearted look at the opponent.  I'll touch on the headlines, the trends, and the stars for the opposing squad, while giving a rough outline for how they'll try to attack the Buffs on offense and defense; I'll close by throwing out a prediction.

Additionally, CU played Hawai'i at home last season.  Here's my preview from last year.

Instead of starting the season against little brother, the Buffs will head west, far west, to the serene Hawaiian Islands to begin their 2011 football odyssey.  It's the program's first regular season taste of the Aloha State since 1925, and the first opener played outside of the state of Colorado since 1995 @ Wisconsin (only the second since 1983).

Cue the opening, we're hitting the islands:

The Jon Embree era begins 3,300 miles west of Boulder at the home of the Hawai'i Warriors.  Get ready for an interesting, if bumpy, 13-game ride.

Kickoff is set for 8:15 MT (That's PM for those of you, like my roommate, who have no sense of geography), and the game can be seen on ESPN2.

Click below for the preview...

Whither Hawai'i?:

The storylines are easy to find for CU.  First time coach, 18 game road losing streak, start of the grueling 13-game schedule, etc.  For Hawai'i it's a little more complicated.  They had a pretty great season last year, going 10-4 (7-1) and falling a Boise St. shellacking short of a conference title.  The 2010 Warriors season did end on a sour note, however, as they got crushed by Tulsa in a home bowl game.

I imagine Hawai'i will have a great shot at winning the WAC in their final year in the conference (they're moving to the Mountain West for football in 2012), and Bryant Moniz will put up a hefty bag full of passing stats, maybe even earning himself dark-horse Heisman status, but what will that really prove at the end of the year?  Crushing schools like UC-Davis and Tulane may make you feel awesome, but, if you're a non-AQ school, what does that end up accomplishing?

Hawai'i football has always seemed enigmatic to me.  Outside of 2007, when football lightning hit the islands, and Colt Brennan carried the Warriors into a BCS bowl, Hawai'i has always seemed to be a quirky after-thought of the college football world.  Games come on late in the day, the scores and yardage numbers are often ridiculous, and very few of their games effect anyone not involved.  They just seem to occupy a forgotten black hole of the collegiate universe, segregated from the rest of the football landscape by extra time zones, an inability to comprehend the running game, and poor defense.
Brennan and Coach June Jones put Hawai'i football on the national map... sort of.
Nothing against them, but I (condescendingly) find them to be a playful diversion from "real football."  Yes, I am a football snob.  I make no apologies.

Offense & Defense:

As is tradition, the Warriors will pass... a lot.  Like, all damn day.  Hawai'i combined for 614 pass attempts and 5,520 yards through the air last season.  They play out of a modified pistol (QB set back, directly in front of the running back), but, unlike the pistol-heavy Nevada squads, they use the formation more as a passing set in a run & shoot style.  The whole game plan essentially comes down to outscoring the opponent; hoping the defense can hang on just enough to allow the passing game to win it. 
As is tradition.
They used this explosive air attack to out gain opponents 7009-5006 and outscore opponents 554-357 last season.  They're a juggernaut with the ball in their hands, especially at home in Aloha Stadium where they averaged a blistering 555 yards per game in 2010.  CU's new 3-4 defense, along with the inexperienced CB corps, will be put to the test early and often.

Defensively, they're an easier team to handle.   On the surface you might think them a qualified bunch, having only two years ago found themselves to be the 34th best defense in the nation.  However, they've atrophied over the past two seasons.  Just look at the 2nd half of last year's game vs CU, when the Buffs racked up 317 yards in only 30 minutes of play, most of which came on the ground.  Their D can be had, you just have to go right at them.

Their 2010 schedule was puffed up with a lot of weak non-con and WAC filler, but if you look at the stats for their 4 losses (USC, @CU, @Boise St, and Tulsa), they gave up an average of 561 yards/game, including an eye-melting 737 against Boise St.    They purposely stick in a 2-LB nickel set for almost the whole game which should leave them open to the punishing running attack that CU hopes to have.  Even with the paint still drying on the new offensive scheme, CU should be able to move the ball against Hawai'i; the only question is, will it be enough to keep up with the Hawai'i offense?

Star Players:

Bryant Moniz is the latest in a long line of strong-armed Hawai'i QB's.  Following in the footsteps of the likes of Colt Brennan and Timmy Chang, Moniz put up huge numbers last season; over 5,040 yards on 65% passing to go along with 39 TD's.  He was only the 11th player all-time to have a 5,000+ yards passing season.  Those numbers put him in dark-horse Heisman conversations, which is especially notable when you consider that Moniz was a walk-on delivering pizzas to pay the bills only 2 years ago.  (The Post seemingly forgot they wrote that story last year, so they doubled down on the pizza delivery trope with this from Tuesday)
(Silly Moniz, Heisman's are for players from BCS schools.)

With a series of departures along the offensive line and WR corps, he is the Hawai'i offense.  And as the Hawai'i offense, he is the Hawai'i team.  Stop him, and you've got a great shot at winning the game.

The Warriors also feature senior linebacker Corey Paredes, who was named a 1st-team All-WAC performer last season.  He was 14th nationally in recorded tackles, and he averaged over 10/game.  He's a great LB and plays all over the field.
Paredes is another damn fine hawaiian LB.


The good ship Hawai'i is helmed by Greg Mackin, who took over after June Jones jumped at the Brinks truck ferried to the Islands by SMU in '08.  Mackin, a former defensive coordinator with some NFL coaching experience, has allowed the high-flying run-and-shoot Hawai'i offense to continue to flourish under his leadership.  Overall, he's 23-18 in his head coaching career (all at Hawai'i), and, with Boise St absconded to the Mountain West, should have his group in the hunt for a WAC title this season.
Coach Mackin has continued the run & shoot ways of the recent past in Honolulu.
Not for nothing, but he's a little concerned about all the player losses from last season, saying "Bryant had a better supporting cast last year, I expect to start a little slowly and improve as the season progresses."

Hawai'i could be considered under-manned when they take the field against CU on Saturday.  Outside of Moniz, they lost plenty from the 10-4 squad from last year. Almost all experience from the offensive line is gone (5 new starters), the top RB is gone, and the top 2 receivers from 2010 are currently in the NFL.

Additionally, they will take the field without the services of starting LB Aaron Brown and starting WR Darius Bright who were arrested over the past weekend for an altercation at a local bar.  All told they're down 14 starters from last season, 2 who were expected to start this year.  Yeouch!


That annoying clip leads me to this: CU is hungry, desperate, and starved for wins.  In short: the Buffs have been driven mad in the pursuit of a road win.  CU has all but called out Hawai'i, singling out the 2011 opener against an above-average WAC team as the re-inaugural "brick" game, and circling it as the road trip that finally ends the streak. 

I had been prepared to predict a CU loss this weekend.  Trips to Hawai'i often go off plan; It's a tough place to play, the trip is a long one, it takes a lot out of traveling teams, and the Hawaii offense lays in wait for the defense to tire.

However, the magnitude of the personnel losses, both from graduation and off-field incidents, have slowly changed my mind.  The Hawai'i coach himself stated that he's expecting a slow start, and, unlike Steve Fairchild at CSU, I have no reason to believe that he's sandbagging (Who would he sandbag to?).

In the end, that Hawai'i D is porous, and pundits will be surprised by how many points CU is able to put up in OC Eric Bieniemy's first game calling plays.  The Buffs will run the ball early and often, which will help keep Bryant Moniz and the Warrior offense on the sidelines rather than on the field getting their shit together.  Additionally, I expect the Warrior offense will stumble all over their numerous replacements for at least 3 quarters.  They may be able to put it together in the 4th, but by then it'll be too late. 

Additionally, Coach Embree used to rock a bona fide 80's mustache.  I happen to know that mustachioed gentlemen do well on the Islands:
(I really don't have a reason to show this, I just wanted to play the clip.  Fuck Hawai'i 5-0, Magnum was the shit.)

Get the bricks ready, the Buffs are coming home with a win.

CU 41 - Hawai'i 34


1 comment:

Rico said...

You just made my day with the Warriors reference. I will be watching that game with a crapton of San Diego-area alums. Go Buffs