After a 38-0 loss to the #1 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes last weekend, the Rainbow Warriors (1-1) return home to face the UC Davis Aggies (0-2). The Aggies are led by third year head coach Ron Gould who has led his team to an overall record of 7-18. As a member of the Big Sky Conference, the Aggies compete in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), and were picked to finish 12th by the head coaches, and 11th by the media out of their 13 team conference. In the past 11 seasons, the Aggies have played at least one FBS school, but have won just twice out of 14 tries. Those two victories coming against Stanford (20-17) in 2005, and San Jose State (14-13) in 2010. The last meeting between the Rainbow Warriors and the Aggies occurred in 2011 at Aloha Stadium, resulting in a dominating 56-14 victory for Hawaii.
The Aggies come into this game on a two game losing streak. UC Davis loss their season opener at the University of Nevada Reno 31-17, and dropped their home opener versus South Dakota 17-27 last weekend.
Engineering the offense for the Aggies is redshirt junior quarterback Ben Scott, who will be in his second season as the Aggies starting quarterback. After taking over in week 6 of last year’s season, Scott earned himself an All-Big Sky Honorable mention. In his debut versus Montana State, Scott threw for 379 yards and 4 touchdowns. In just 7 games, Scott finished just four touchdowns shy of cracking the Aggies’ single season top 10.
Scott’s main receiving target will be redshirt junior Ramon Vargas, who led the team in receiving last season, despite playing only 7 games. Vargas, also earned an All-Big Sky honorable mention a year ago. Opposite of Vargas is junior receiver Chris Martin, who posted a career high in yards and receptions last week versus South Dakota after finishing with 121 yards on 5 catches.
The Aggies’ defense has been susceptible to the rushing attack, surrendering 237.5 rushing yards per game. They have only given up 150 yards through the air and are led by junior safety Keleen Culberson. The 2014 campaign was Culberson’s coming out party, as he recorded a team high 73 tackles, leading in solo stops (47), and assisted tackles (26).
Although the Aggies and the Buckeyes are on opposite ends of the spectrum, in terms of recent success, overall talent and program prestige, head coach Norm Chow will not take any opponent lightly. Coach Chow emphasized that his team cannot afford to take any days off.
“We are just not good enough to decide that we aren’t going to practice hard each and every day.” said Coach Chow.
The team’s mentality and willingness to prepare each week is not based on the upcoming opponent, he reaffirmed.
“It’s not about them, it’s about us, and our willingness to do the things successful each and every day.” Chow said. “I don’t know if you watch tennis, but I watched that gal beat Serena and she said she wasn’t focused on Serena, she was focused on herself and getting the ball back.”
After an encouraging showing by Tom Mason’s unit in Columbus, the defense led by junior defensive lineman Kennedy Tulimasealii are focused on maintaining their energy and intensity this weekend versus the Aggies.
“We just have to play them like another big school, just another offense we need to get ready for and just play them like another team.” Tulimaseallii said.
Although Coach Mason was proud of his unit’s effort against the Buckeyes, he understands that you still need to bring it every week.
“At the end of the day a loss is unacceptable, we gotta prepare each week like we do every week.” said Mason. “The kids right now are just starting to understand the concepts, there is a lot of growth left but we need to play with that same intensity every week.”
Also playing well is senior captain Ne’Quan Phillips. A mainstay at cornerback for the Rainbow Warriors, Phillips is focused on improving each week. “We gotta go back to the drawing board and fix those mistakes and get better as a whole team.” said Phillips.
After struggling versus the stout Buckeyes defense, new offensive coordinator Don Bailey’s unit is preparing to get back on track. “We don’t worry about who we are playing.” Bailey said. “We worry about our self and our execution. We said that from day one and that’s how we’ll approach it.”
Kickoff is set for 6pm this Saturday at Aloha Stadium. The Rainbow Warriors look to improve to 2-1, while the UC Davis Aggies are in search of their first win.