Hawaii 101: Into the Sunset

After a thrilling Apple Cup victory the Cougars are playing with their heads held high. The Hawaii Warriors however, are playing their best ball of the season of late -- and trying and make a bowl game. The Warriors need to win one of their final two to go bowling and with Cincinnati looming next week, Hawaii will be going all out against the Cougs on Saturday.


Players to Know
Greg Alexander, QB: A first year JC transfer, Alexander has come on strong lately in replacement of the ineffective Inoke Funaki. In four starts and six appearances he has 149.3 quarterback rating and eight touchdown passes. He also has good mobility despite his sturdy, 230 pound frame.

Malcolm Lane and Mike Washington, WRs: The Warriors distribute the ball around equally among their receivers, but Lane and Washington have gotten the most looks lately. Lane is the deep threat while the diminutive Washington has emerged as the possession receiver.

The Warriors didn't just lose Jones in the off-season, they also lost a ton of offensive talent. UH promoted wide receivers coach Ron Lee to OC and he has retained the run and shoot system, but it's clear that something has been lost in the transition. Hawaii is averaging just 236 passing yards per game, low by their standards. Two consecutive wins and increased production with Alexander under center has increased their confidence though so expect them to throw the ball a ton.

Attack. WSU had its most successful outing of the year last week and they need to leverage that confidence. The Cougars looked their best then they sent a linebacker at the QB. Louis Bland looked to have a knack for blitzing and should be put into position to make plays regularly. Pressure the QB aggressively to disrupt the passing game. Hawaii is uncomfortable relying on their ground game win for them.


Players to Know
Solomon Elimimian, MLB: One of the most consistent linebackers in the WAC. The senior has the speed to play the whole field. He leads the team with 91 tackles including 9 for a loss.

David Veikune, DE: Speed rusher on the left side who can bring havoc to the backfield. He leads the team with 6.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss.

Cougars (2-10) vs Warriors (6-5)
8:00 pm Pacific Time

Aloha Stadium (50,000)


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Hawaii by 29

1999 in Honolulu, WSU won 22-14.

WSU leads the series 2-1

Underdogs, ShmunderDawgs -- Cougars 21, Hawaii 20

Wins against New Mexico State and Idaho have helped, but the defense has been as big a letdown as the offense on the year. The Warriors have surrendered nearly 30 points per game and have been weak against the run and the pass. Some of the credit should go to the quality of opponents though -- depending on how final games shake out, Hawaii may have scheduled 4 BCS Bowl teams this season.

Follow the roadmap from last week. Keep it close as long as you can in the hopes that wearing them down with physical play pays dividends in the second half. Keep the game plan conservative and based on the run, then take your chances and hope to strike gold when they creep up too much.

Once again the Cougs may have a key advantage in the kicking game. Kicker Dan Kelly has only made 50 percent of his attempts this year and none longer than 41 yards. The Warriors have also had 3 field goals and one punt blocked this season. Get after the football and try for a game changing special teams play.

In light of their resilient Apple Cup comeback, the Cougars' trip to paradise seems a bit more deserved. The Cougs left Pullman on Wednesday after only two practices indicating that a win in Hawaii will have to come on the wings of their newfound confidence and enthusiasm as opposed to standard preparation. Hawaii, though, has been playing their best ball of the season of late and it will be a tough challenge indeed. But the rise of Jason Gesser and the eventual 2002 conference champion Cougars began with a win in Hawaii in 1999. You never know, a little magic on Saturday could plant some deep seeds for the future.

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