The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (2-3, 0-1 MW) will host the San Diego State Aztecs (2-3, 1-0 MW) this Saturday at 6 p.m. in a Homecoming matchup on Hawaiian Airlines Field. The game will be televised locally and statewide on Oceanic Cable (Digital Ch. 255 and HD Ch. 1255) and Hawaiian Telcom (Ch. 969) Pay-Per-View.
Head to Head At A Glance:
The Aztecs are the fifth most frequent opponent the University of Hawaii football team has faced, which dates back to 1939. San Diego State leads the all time series 18-9-2. Since the Rainbow Warriors have joined the Mountain West conference in 2012, the Aztecs have reeled off 3 straight wins against Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors were blown out in 2012 52-14, but the past two contests have been decided by a combined 17 points. Hawaii fell in OT 28-21 in 2013, and suffered a 20-10 defeat in 2014.
Aztecs Will Be Without Do It All Back Pumphrey:
A year ago in his sophomore campaign, junior running back Donnel Pumphrey set single season school records with 1,867 yards and 20 touchdowns. His record setting season landed him on the pre season Maxwell Award (College Football player of the year) watch list, along with the Doak Walker Award (Best College Football Running Back) watch list.
Last Saturday, Pumphrey recorded his 15th career 100-yard rushing game in their 21-7 victory over Fresno Sate. However, he suffered a high ankle sprain and will miss Saturday night’s contest. Coming into game, Pumphrey leads the team in rushing, 425 yards and 4 touchdowns, as well as receiving, 14 receptions for 145 yards.
In a run heavy offensive attack, the Aztecs will turn to senior running back Chase Price, who proved to Aztec coaching staff that he can handle the load by rushing for a career high 151 yards on a career best 27 carries, after he spelled the injured Pumphrey last weekend.
San Diego State Up to This Point:
The Aztecs opened up the 2015 season with a 37-3 victory over in-city FCS rival San Diego Toreros. San Diego State capitalized on 5 Torero interceptions in the win.
The next 3 games did not go as planned for 5th year head coach (34-23) Rocky Long’s squad. In week 2, the Aztecs visited Pac 12 foe California in Berkeley falling 7-35, where 12 penalties for 136 yards proved too much to overcome.
Returning home in week 3, San Diego State fell 27-34 in a back in forth game to the South Alabama Jaguars. The game featured 5 lead changes and 4 ties, but the Aztecs surrendered 511 yards of total offense to the Jaguars.
Despite outgaining the Penn State Nittany Lions 161 yards to 101 yards in the second half, it was three Aztec lost fumbles that led to 21 Nittany Lion points. The Aztecs lost 21-37 in Happy Valley.
Last weekend, San Diego State rebounded from their 3 game skid, winning their conference opener at home 21-7 over the Fresno State Bulldogs. The Aztec defense held the Bulldogs under 100 yards (89), the first time an opponent did not gain more than 100 yards on San Diego State since 1970.
Chow On Team’s Mindset and Aztecs:
Head Coach Norm Chow’s message to the team has been to take it one game at a time, regardless of the outcome, regardless of the score. “A loss is a loss, a win is a win, it only counts as one.” Chow said. “Regardless of the score, none of us feel good what happened in Boise, but it amounts to one loss.” He later added, “We’re 2-3, we knew this stretch was going to be tough, obviously we want to play better.”
The Rainbow Warriors will certainly have to play better to upend the Aztecs, who play a physical brand of football. “They’re a big physical team, their offense ran the ball 15 times in a row versus Fresno St.” Chow said. “They have a big physical offensive line.”
On the defensive side of the ball, the Aztecs will line up and give Hawaii a different look. “They run a 3-3-5 defense which Rocky has played forever, it presents some very unique challenges.” Chow said. Hawaii must contain the Aztec’s kick off return team, as they are currently ranked #1 in the country, with 2 returns for scores so far.
Chow has reminded his team to focus on their own responsibilities and execution as a team, rather than their opponent. “Its not about them, its about us, and our willingness to regroup.” Chow said. “Our willingness to play through some hurts and injuries and try to make this thing happen.”
Don Bailey’s O Looks To Find Consistency:
After being shutout 3 times this season, it is apparent that the Rainbow Warriors need to solve their offensive struggles. Granted the shutouts have been against superior opponents on the road, Saturday’s test versus the Aztecs will present a fair opportunity to grade Bailey’s unit.
In 5 games this season, Hawaii has not started the same skill player lineup due to injuries, but Bailey believes his offensive group must find consistency. “We have some skill guys hurt, but it’s the next guy up, you have to try to adapt with what we have and move forward.” Bailey said. He went on to add, “Everybody has to do their job, we have to have consistent play.” said Bailey.
Tom Mason’s D All About Pride:
Boise State had their way with Hawaii torching the Bows for 55 points, 49 of them coming in the first half. Tom Mason and his defensive unit are looking to rebound from their dreadful performance.
Mason’s unit knows that the Aztecs want to establish the run. “They said we’re gonna run it here and you stop us, so we gotta stop them.” Mason said. “We gotta play that type of football game and I think we can, it’s a matter of pride now.”
The Rainbow Warrior defense has been solid through the first 5 weeks, despite last weekends’ drubbing. Mason believes his players will answer the call. “I think we’ll step and be ready to play, I got the confidence that the kids will bounce back.” Mason said.
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. HST at Aloha Stadium this Saturday for this Mountain West conference western division clash.