Rainbow Warriors come to cold, hostile conditions to take on the Cowboys in Mountain West play
Hawaii was hot last week in a home win over Fresno State. But this week it's cold for the Rainbow Warriors' travels in Mountain West play. In fact, the forecast calls for below-freezing temperatures for their game against host Wyoming at Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie.
That's not exactly in the Warriors' wheelhouse in looking to improve to 2-0 on the campaign and hold on to the Paniolo Trophy that goes to the winner of the battle between the two schools.
Already, Hawaii's had outdoor practice time scrubbed on their trip into the Rocky Mountains, when it hoped to get some preparation in during a stopover in Denver, about two hours south of the University of Wyoming, where seven inches of snow made a mess of things. So the Warriors are relying heavily on the momentum gained in last Saturday's convincing 34-19 win over Fresno State that marked the debut of new head coach Todd Graham.
"I thought we physically dominated them," Graham, who became the first Hawaii head coach to win his first game since Bob Wagner in 1987, told reporters. "Proud to be 1-0, proud of our boys... they deserve all the credit. (But) we got a lot of things we can get better at."
The same can be said of Wyoming, which lost its opener to host Nevada, 37-34 in overtime. One would be a better start — the Cowboys got down early and eventually fell behind 28-6 before scrapping back to force OT.
"We got off to a slow start, and there are certainly things we need to work on in all three phases of the game," Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl told reporters. "The desire is there, but the execution needs to improve. We have a lot to play for this year, and we play a good Hawaii team in Laramie."
Hawaii at Wyoming
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 30 at 9:45 p.m. ET
Spread: Hawaii -2
When Hawaii Has the Ball
Graham brings a run-and-gun offense to Hawaii. But it was way more run than gun against Fresno State. The 323 yards amassed on the ground in the win was the most the program rolled up in a game in four years.
Spearheading the assault was sophomore quarterback Chevan Cordeiro, who had 116 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Junior running back Miles Reed also cracked the century mark with 109 on 21 hauls. And senior running back Calvin Turner rolled up 60 and two majors on eight attempts.
Cordeiro also proved effective with his arm, going 20-of-31 for 229 yards — a combined 15 balls caught by seniors Jared Smart (seven for 89 yards) and Rico Bussey Jr. (eight for 86 yards) — as part of an eye-popping 552 yards of total offense in last Saturday's victory. That's an effective attack, especially since Cordeiro and Co. finished 11-of-17 on third downs.
But he'll likely face more pressure from Wyoming's defense than he did a week ago. Despite allowing 496 yards, the Cowboys had three sacks and eight tackles for a loss, proving that the Wyoming unit can generate penetration.
When Wyoming Has the Ball
Another year, another season-ending injury for quarterback Sean Chambers. The Wyoming captain broke his leg on the third play against Nevada, meaning he's suffered three devastating injuries in each year (leg, knee, leg) of his career. Ugh. While it obviously threw the Cowboys for a loop early in that game, they did rally behind freshman quarterback Levi Williams, giving them hope for the future.
That future, of course, starts against the Hawaii defense, which proved to be a bulldog one against the Bulldogs last week. The Warriors had four takeaways, with senior defensive back Eugene Ford snagging two interceptions.
"All the credit goes to my (defensive) line," Ford told reporters. "Them boys were getting after that quarterback... all the credit goes to them, but it felt good."
One key for the Warriors will be getting after junior running back Xazavian Valladay, a key weapon in the home team's attack. Perhaps a look back at how Nevada held him would be a huge help, as Valladay found room for just 87 yards rushing on 22 carries and 44 receiving yards on seven catches. The Cowboys' main threat through the air was freshman receiver Isaiah Neyor, with three catches for 102 yards.
But it all comes down to how Williams fits in with the Wyoming offense. The young QB showed flashes in going 16-of-31 for 227 passing yards with one touchdown against one interception but improved as the game wore on in helping total 361 yards of offense.
"Football is a game of momentum," Graham told reporters of the late rally against Nevada. "Our guys believed. They didn't panic. They played with poise, and the momentum started to swing our way."
That late surge should serve Wyoming well even with a fresh quarterback at the controls against Hawaii. And the weather? Well... that certainly plays well in the Cowboys' favor. No matter how you slice it, Hawaii is not a cold-weather team.
"I can't do anything about the altitude — I can't do anything about the weather," Graham told KITV Island News. "Signed up for football cause it's hard, it's for tough people. If you ain't tough, you should get out of it."
So you can throw all of last week's good vibes for Hawaii out the door. And you can do the same about the bad luck suffered by Wyoming. Hawaii's saving grace might be the new aspect of the attack, Graham's commitment to the run game. But Wyoming's one of the better Mountain West teams, and this is one of those weeks where the home team will benefit from familiar conditions.
Prediction: Wyoming 28, Hawaii 20
Podcast: Week 9 Preview and Predictions
(Xazavian Valladay photo courtesy of Wyoming Athletics)