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Getting To Know Hawaii With The Mt. West Connection

We got together with Chris Turner from over at the Mt. West Connection to exchange scouting reports in preparation for Saturday evening's showdown in Honolulu between Oregon St. and Hawaii. Earlier today, you got to see what Robert & I had to say in response to Chris' questions, and now here are his insights into what to expect from the Warriors.

BTD: Hawaii almost upset Washington in last week's opener. Other than the fact that the Huskies John Ross got loose a couple of times for most of their offense, what other one thing kept the Warriors from the win?

Chris- There was a crucial penalty that killed the Warriors in the long run. In the second quarter, on 3rd and 12, Washington quarterback Jeff Lindquist completed a short pass to Kasen Williams that would've brought out the punt unit, but a roughing the passer penalty from DB Ne'Quan Phillips gave the Huskies an automatic first down. The drive continued and was capped off by a John Ross touchdown to put UW on the board. So you take away a couple bad penalties and it's a completely different ball game.

I also look at Norm Chow choosing to go for it on 4th down in the first quarter. Although, admittedly, I would've gone for it in the same situation, when you're playing against a team like Washington that has athletes like John Ross, you don't want to give them any momentum. Taking the Field Goal would've worked out in the end, and Hawaii may have opened the season with a win.

BTD: What did Hawaii do that most helped them make a close game of it against a ranked opponent expected to win comfortably?

Chris- Putting pressure on the QB for sure. This was the debut of the new 3-4 look under new DC Kevin Clune, and I was very impressed by how well the front seven looked vs. UW. They had 8 QB hurries on Saturday, along with one big sack late in the game on third down.

(It's worth noting that Oregon St. head coach Mike Riley called out what Clune accomplished at Utah St., and that the Beaver coaching staff spent a lot of time looking at Utah St. defensive film to prepare.)

The defense really shined in the second half as well, holding UW to zero points, and just 117 yards in the 3rd and 4th quarter. Their performance left me wanting more, so I'll be excited to see more out of this group come Saturday.

BTD: Tell us more about Joey Iosefa, who didn't play in last year's Hawaii-Oregon St. game. Other than being a human battering ram of a running back at 245 lbs., what should Beaver fans be watching for from him?

Chris- You can expect him to get the ball a lot. He has been the #1 guy at RB his entire career at Hawaii, although injuries have kept his limited in recent seasons. He missed the first eight games of last year with a foot injury he sustained the week before camp started. When he came back, he dominated each game he played in. Iosefa ran for almost 600 yards and five touchdowns in the last four games of 2013, breaking the century mark in three of those games.

So now that he's back at 100%, you can expect Norm to utilize him as much as possible, and it showed last week vs. UW, with 30 carries for 143 yards. Iosefa is such a physical runner, but he's got some good speed if you let him in to open space.

BTD: Coach Norm Chow hasn't had much success following the June Jones era. Can he survive another losing season? What is the climate around Hawaii football?

Chris- Norm hasn't had the most success since returning home to the islands in 2012, sporting a 4-21 record after the loss to Washington on Saturday. The 2012 season wasn't an ideal debut for him, but I feel 2013 was sort of a step in the right direction.

Yeah, they went 1-11, but six of those losses were by 10 points or less, so at some point, the Warriors were in those games and had a very good chance to take home a victory. After the game against Washington, I still think we're trending in the right direction with Coach Chow. UH has a solid, young QB in Ikaika Woolsey, a veteran Offensive Line, and a new scheme on defense that could be very successful if what we saw Saturday continues this year.

However, they're going to have to take an outward step to show fans they're making progress. I look at the schedule this year and see 5-6 winnable games for Hawaii, if they can reach that mark, and possibly become Bowl Eligible, I think Norm Chow will be coach again in 2015. Otherwise, it may be job hunting season this winter.

BTD: Last year, Sean Mannion threw for 4 touchdowns against Hawaii, kicking off a run of 6 straight wins by Oregon St. What will Hawaii do different to try to keep Mannion from having another big day?

Chris- The Warriors need to create a ton of pressure like they did last week against Washington. Mannion is a more experienced QB than Lindquist, but getting in the pocket early and forcing him to make quick decisions could force some mistakes in Hawaii's favor.

Avoiding the deep ball should be emphasized this week in practice as well. Even though the only big play was John Ross's 91-yard TD in the second quarter, it ended up being the difference maker that keep the Huskies ahead for the win.

During practice this week, former USC QB Max Wittek has been imitating Mannion during practice this week, so hopefully the defense will be better preparing to go up against one of the best arms in the nation.

BTD: If Hawaii can pull the upset this week, what will the Warriors have done to make the game winning difference?

Chris- The Warriors will have kept Mannion from making big plays. The front seven brought pressure into the backfield that kept both the passing and rushing game in check. The last thing Hawaii needs is another 90-plus yard TD that would kill any momentum they had going at that time.

Speaking of momentum, the Warriors need to set the tone of the game early. They did it last week on the first drive against Washington. After a Diocemy Saint-Juste 40-yard return to start the game, Ikaika Woolsey lead Hawaii on a 10-play, 58 yard drive that was capped off by a Joey Iosefa TD less than five minutes into the game. If the Warriors come out and efficiently move the ball like they did last week, they could set themselves up for a potential upset at home vs. the Beavers. ​

Thanks, Chris, for the great info.!