Hawaii's 4,500-mile trip to Ohio Stadium for Saturday's game will be the program's first in its history. What should fans know about the Rainbow Warriors, who began the season 1-0 with a win vs. Colorado?
1. Max Wittek is a name many college football fans know, and he made his much-anticipated Hawaii debut last week in leading the team to a win vs. Colorado. How did he do and what are his strengths on the field?
The coaches believe Wittek did well for not having played in two seasons. After the Colorado game, Wittek said, "It's good to feel sore again. It's good to feel beat up." Wittek displayed a strong arm — and legs. There was a play in which it appeared he would be stopped 3 yards deep for a safety. He fought his way out to the 1. Most of all, Wittek earned the respect of his teammates. He was not on scholarship in 2014 while redshirting after transferring from USC. He also paid his own way to attend a couple of road games. He was voted team captain in the spring.
2. Marcus Kemp and Quinton Pedroza are quite a duo, having combined for more than 1,400 yards last year. What can you tell us about each of those two players?
Kemp is a former high school basketball player/high jumper who has worked on improving his strength. Both have found motivation from different sources. Kemp said he plays for his father, who passed away when he was young. Pedroza is seeking redemption after being dismissed from Utah's football team in 2013 following a complaint of underage drinking. He transferred to UH, where he was reunited with head coach Norm Chow and receivers coach Luke Matthews. Chow was Utah's offensive coordinator in 2011. Matthews and Pedroza were road roommates at Utah.
3. Who are some of the defensive players OSU fans should be aware of?
Defensive lineman Kennedy Tulimasealii is a versatile player. He plays defensive end in the 3-4 base, but slides to nose tackle in nickel packages. He's extremely quick, with sideline-to-sideline speed, and difficult in one-on-one matchups. Makani Kema-Kaleiwahea is an outside linebacker who can align on the line or in pass coverage. He was projected to start at Arizona last year before transferring. Kema-Kaleiwahea, who was raised in the foster system, and his wife moved to Hawaii to adopt two boys who were his foster brothers.
4. It's been a rough couple of years for Hawaii football but has there been some excitement out there for the season-opening win?
The enthusiasm was tempered. It is widely acknowledged this is Chow's best team — and first only one player (fullback Justin Vele) is a holdover from Greg McMackin's tenure. But the opener was moved to Thursday, with a 7 p.m. start. Honolulu's rush-hour traffic stretches from3 p.m. to 7 p.m. What's more, two tropical storms had passed the islands that week, cutting the tradewinds and sending humidity into the 90 percentile. Bad traffic, bad weather and free television coverage hurt attendance.
5. Hawaii has a strong football history and it seems like a place that embraces the sport. Can you give us a sense of just how important Hawaii football is out there on the islands?
UH football is the equivalent of a professional sport. A few years ago, when quarterback Colt Brennan announced he would return for his senior season, coverage of the ceremony crashed news sites because of the number of hits. There is such statewide pride that the unofficial state song — Hawaii Pono‘i — is played after the national anthem before games. The team also has drawn international interest by performing the haka, a Maori fight dance/chant.