Hawaii 101: Stars aligning for Cougs?

THIS ONE MIGHT set up well for the Cougs. Hawaii barely escaped in their opening "warmup game" vs. Central Arkansas. How close was it? Trailing with under three minutes left at home, UH drove 74 yards for the win. This is either a sign of a team with budding character or fatal flaws. A rare non-con trip stateside should help answer some Warrior questions – plus a few on the Washington State side.

Hawaii doesn't figure on Saturday to have the same kind of vocal backing if they find themselves trailing late and needing a last minute drive to try and win it.

Washington State is expecting 45,000 in Qwest on Saturday, double what the attendance was in Pullman last weekend.

Cougars (0-1) vs Warriors (1-0)
4:00 pm Pacific Time

Qwest Field (67,000)

Seattle Area - Universal Sports: Channel 5.2 OTA, DirecTV channel 688, Dish Channel 447, Comcast Channel 115 | Spokane Area - KHQ, SWX | Yakima Area - KNDO, SWX | Tri-Cities Area - KNDU, SWX | Hawaii - Oceanic Time Warner Pay-Per-View digital channel 255, KFVE-TV (delayed) | Other areas around the nation - DirecTV channel 688 Dish Channel 447 | ** See CF.C message board for the very latest broadcast info: HERE

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Hawaii by 2

Hawaii won last year 24-10.

The series is split 2-2.

Cougars 35, Warriors 21


Players to Know
Greg Alexander, QB: A strong armed passer and surprisingly nimble runner at 230 pounds. Against Central Arkansas Alexander he threw for 304 passing yards – and logged a team high 76 rushing yard. His career high 314 passing yards came against WSU last year.
Greg Salas, WR: Last season's number one target looks to be even stronger this year, exploding for 180 yards against Central Arkansas.

WSU needs to show a defensive turnaround of sorts after facing the heavily run focused Stanford squad. Hawaii operates the quintessential pass oriented offense, although some of the potency has been lost since June Jones left. It all flows through Alexander, who often provides most of the limited rushing yards as well.

Put max – and effective – pressure on Alexander. The Cougs can't afford to give him time in the pocket nor can they allow him to escape for cheap first downs the way Stanford QBs did. The Cougs have been victimized by running quarterbacks in recent years and if the trend continues against Hawaii, it could prove the difference. Bland and Mattingly have shown a knack for blitzing, the Cougs might be well advised turn them loose here. WSU also must start forcing turnovers and this appears a fine time -- Hawaii appears susceptible to them.


Players to Know
John Fonoti, RE: Currently questionable with an injury, Fonoti is the only possible returning defensive starter for Hawaii from 2008. Fonoti was said to be "very probable" for the opener by Hawaii coach Greg McMackin but didn't play. McMackin said he'll travel and he's hopeful the senior will be ready.

Expect Hawaii to run a fairly conservative base 4-3. Due to graduation and injuries, Hawaii broke in eleven new defensive starters last weekend -- they are definitely green. They did, however, give up very few yards against CAU. They also surrendered an 86 yard touchdown drive in final minutes which nearly cost them the game.

Build off what worked last week. Focus on physical ground play to try to keep the Hawaii offense off the field and minimize their possessions. Maintain a conservative gameplan early in the hopes of winning the turnover battle. The Cougs also need to stretch the field at some point more than they did against Stanford or Hawaii will cheat against the run and creep towards the box. WSU has some big play threats in Jared Karstetter and Jeshua Anderson. With the former especially, if the Cougs go deep, and Karstetter is one-on-one on what is essentially a jump ball, put your money on Karstetter.

WSU has got to tighten up on kickoff and punt coverage. Hawaii showed some explosiveness in special teams last week. The WSU defense will have its hands full without giving the Warriors a short field. But that is one of the more critical areas.

These teams are familiar with each other -- they faced off just nine months ago. The Cougars showed some fight in that game, and that appears to have carried over into the off season. WSU may not have wowed anyone last week, but the outcome was 33 points improved over last year's Stanford-WSU matchup. Continued improvement against Hawaii should warrant a victory. It all hinges on the WSU defense stopping the big plays, creating some of their own, and not wiping away all that effort with poor special teams play.

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