Chang & Hawai'i Visit the Blue Turf Friday

Friday marks the last of four regular-season games televised by ESPN. The Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors make the long trek to Boise for this WAC showdown. Let's meet the Rainbow Warriors!

Beware the Man Behind the Curtain

Hawai'i (3-3; 3-2 WAC) @ #15 Boise State (7-0; 4-0 WAC)
Friday, Oct 29,
6:05 p.m. Boise

Boise State seemed to return to form this week, dispatching Fresno 33-16. The nation's second youngest team graduated to the second semester. They weren't mistake free, but mistakes weren't as costly. In particular, the defense played in pre-season press form. These were the guys written about before the Broncos took any snaps this year. I'm not sure where the Covenant had stashed them, but I'm sure glad that Sydney Bristow broke them out this week.

On a day when previously WAC unbeaten La Tech stumbled, the Broncos held serve and now sit in first place by themselves. I've ordered one of those jugs that St. Bernard's wear so I can fill it with beer and attach it to the Bulldogs; they're on special at Winners of 18 in a row, 22 straight in the WAC, and 23 consecutive on The Blue, and 12 on "the world-wide leader in sports", the Broncos welcome Hawai'i on Friday night (6:05 p.m. Boise).

Seven-and-oh with four to go. "Where's the next brick?" the mason asks.

Talking about Hawai'i obviously begins with Timmy Chang, who needs just 241 yards Friday night to break Ty Detmer's career record of 15,031 – that's about 8.5 miles of completed passes. He's been very efficient this year, in the range of 140 or better in 4 of 6 games so far. Someone showed him a color wheel – he's fired only 3 picks thus far after 20 and 22 the last two years. He's thrown 2-3 TD's in every game this year and his WORST output is 294 yards. He's not much of a threat to tuck it and run, but he gets rid of it pretty quick having been sacked only 8 times all year (5 of which came in the Rice game – somebody find game film of that). Net, he's gonna' get his. There's no truth to the rumor that Chuck Daley wrote "The Chang Rules". I checked. He sticks to basketball.

Hawaii's running game is a bit like that treadmill in my back bedroom – after a token attempt just pass me the beer. Hawai'i averages 16 carries per game (removing Chang from the totals), but each nets well over 5 yards. It's a rare day when anyone gets 10 totes, but Michael Brewster (no relation to Punky) gets the most (49), and why wouldn't he at 7 yards per. Key here is to stop this with the front 4 or at worst 5. Run-blitzing might be a good idea on regular basis – get to Chang before he gets rid of it while plugging the gaps when Brewster is coming at us. Just need to keep our wits about us for any screens. When not run-blitzing a spy on Brewster is a must.

Chad Owens is the key wideout, with nearly twice as many catches as anyone else and almost half the TD grabs. Wouldn't be a bad idea to double him regularly and see if anyone else is a warrior or simply a rainbow. Britton Komine is the second leading receiver and did find paydirt for the first two times this season against UTEP. He's led the team when Owens couldn't, and you surely can't afford to lose sight of him. There's a cast of other characters including Jason Rivers who catch some balls, and the Broncos are sure to see many 3+ WR sets. This is why it's imperative the defense limits the run with 4 or 5 men in the box so as to keep 6-7 guys in coverage. Needless to say, the secondary can't afford many Hass (OSU) or Watkins (BYU) type breakdowns.

I suppose it's obvious that it's more difficult for Chang to hurt you while he's on the sidelines. But win or lose, Hawai'i has only led in Time of Possession once all year. As any team that airs it out, they can strike quickly, although there are several 10 or 12-play scoring drives this year as well. Stopping third-downs is probably the most telling way to beat Hawai'i. They were terrible against FAU (3-15) and UTEP (2-13), and consequently lost. Even against Rice (8-14) they weren't exceedingly effective, and lost again. It goes without saying that forcing several 3-and-outs would be in the Broncos' interest. To do so means stopping 261-lb RB West Keliikipi (I won't make any North/South jokes here, Johnny) on short 3rd-down carries and not giving up long passes to covert in those situations.

In Hawaii's losses, FAU (293), UTEP (317), and Rice (118) all threw the ball well – well, that's good for Rice (it included 2 TD's). When Hawai'i wins, the thing that jumps out is their scoring runs. Hawai'i can string together numerous consecutive scores so the defense needs to make them earn all they get. Hence the need to be likewise efficient through the air on offense.

Hawai'i is a bit of an enigma on turnovers. Opening the year against FAU, the Rainbows forced 3 turnovers (while committing none), yet still lost. At Rice they won the TO battle again (2-0) with the same results. Overall, they're +7 (15-8) year-to-date, but that's mostly a function of these early season anomalies. The 8 turnovers they've committed have all come in the last 3 weeks. I'm looking for Thomas Crown in our Secondary this weekend.

Teams that beat Hawai'i or hung relatively close did so with a balanced offensive effort. Failure to compliment a passing attack with a reasonable rushing effort has been disastrous. Tulsa was anemic on the ground, and was never really in the game late. UTEP won by combining Howard Jackson's 138 yard, 1 TD effort with Jordan "Carson's that amateur starting ahead of Kitna" Palmer clearing the rain clouds (28-44-317 5 TD). Rice then lumbered for 300 on the ground and a 41-29 victory on the board (again, they threw for 118 and 2 TD, which is balance in the wishbone).

For the Broncos, continued efficiency by Z will be key (FSU was his first pick-free outing of the year). Greg Graham might have been impressed with the Broncos dribbling on Saturday, but I seriously doubt Hawk was. If more of those ended up in FSU hands the outcome would have surely been closer, and if they find their way into Rainbow hands the Broncos will be looking for one of those confiscated umbrellas. The Broncos will need to do a better job of converting red zone chances into 7. I liked seeing TJ at the end against Tulsa, but truthfully prefer his kicks to be more of the 1-point variety. Z needs to stay aware of Hawaii's DBs - Elimimian (5) and Peters (3) are first and third in the WAC in picks.

It appears to me that the Bronco passing game is missing Schouman. That late TD was redemption for the one defended by the zebra, but all things being equal Boise State performs best with a credible TE threat and the offensive attack clearly is missing Schou. Acree, James, and Bady need to turn in more than their 8 collective grabs against FSU in the event they choose to play this wild one in what should be referred to as "The Pavilion sponsored by Taco Bell". It's difficult to say whether inconsistency or depth accounts for the distribution of balls that we see – probably a bit of both – but I'll take a QB hitting 3-4 guys with 5+ balls any day over 7 guys getting 1-2 each. Something about rhythm, not randomness, appeals to me.

Hawaii's run defense has been porous at times, and a 3rd C-note by Lee Marks would surely help the Broncos chances. Speaking of whom, it would sure be nice if he found paydirt on a homerun ball at some point. Anyway, the ‘Bows are susceptible to this sort of back (see Howard Jackson, above). Z made several nice runs on to help Marks in the Bronco running attack. Perhaps the Covenant nabbed the backfield in exchange for the defense last week. Seriously, there were a lot of 0-3 yard carries by the rest of the backfield on Saturday. Ball control will be a key on Friday if only to keep Chang on the sidelines and that means getting a lot of 2nd & 4 and 3rd & 1 situations.

Perhaps no two statistics are as telling as these:

Honolulu balmy 88 with lows in the high 70's
Boise Friday high of 55 falling to 37.

Guess where the game is? Oh yeah, and Hawai'i hasn't won on the road this year.

All things being equal, this is "The House of Blue", and that should equate to #19 overall, #23 in the WAC, #24 at home, and #13 with an ESPN crew in town.

Our pot of gold is somewhere over those Rainbows….

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