Hawaii’s Passing Attack Will Create Many Challenges For BYU

Dec 9, 2019, 3:42 PM
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 14: Head Coach Nick Rolovich of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors looks o...
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 14: Head Coach Nick Rolovich of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors looks on against the Washington Huskies in the second quarter during their game at Husky Stadium on September 14, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
(Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – Like BYU, Hawaii football has had some great offenses over the years. The 2019 version of the Rainbow Warriors is no different as Hawaii boasts the nation’s sixth-best passing attack in all of college football this year.

Hawaii enters the hometown Hawaii Bowl with a 9-5 record and runner-up in the Mountain West Conference. In his fourth season as head coach, Hawaii alum Nick Rolovich has brought back the Warriors signature “Run-and-Shoot” offense.

BYU faced Hawaii’s Run-and-Shoot offense last year in Provo, defeating the Rainbow Warriors 49-23. But this Hawaii team is playing a lot more confidence and they are more explosive than a year ago.

This season, Hawaii is averaging 325.9 yards per game through the air and 469.3 yards of total offense which is 13th best in the country. BYU head coach Kalani Sitake knows Hawaii will pose a lot of challenges for his defense.

“You have to start with their quarterback and the offensive line that is providing them more time to throw the ball and they’re not getting sacked often,” Sitake said on Hawaii’s offense. “We’ve seen a lot of teams like this, but regardless we have to find a way to make the quarterback uncomfortable. That’s the name of the game.”

The quarterback Sitake was referring to was redshirt junior Cole McDonald who has had another productive season for the Warriors. McDonald has thrown for 3,642 yards and ran for an additional 393 on the ground.

But McDonald isn’t the only piece that could give BYU headaches on Christmas Eve.

Hawaii Offense: Production everywhere you look

In order to put up the type of numbers that Hawaii has had this season, you need playmakers. McDonald has a handful of receivers that have put up big numbers this season with the leader being first-team All-Mountain West Conference receiver Cedric Byrd. Byrd has 1,068 receiving yards this season. Along with Byrd, Jared Smart has 987 receiving yards, JoJo Ward with 975, and Jason Matthew-Sharsh with 823.

At running back, the Rainbow Warriors’ leader is closing in on 1,000 yards in Miles Reed who has 891 yards rushing.

Throughout Hawaii’s 14 games, the Warriors have scored 30 or more points in nine of their games.

Hawaii Defense: Improved but struggling to force turnovers

BYU’s last regular season came against one of the best defenses in the country in San Diego State. The Cougars scored only three points in that game. SDSU kept everyone they faced below their season averages. Hawaii on the defensive side of the ball is a far different story than the Aztecs who the Rainbow Warriors beat out to win the MWC West Division title.

Hawaii is 91st nationally in total defense giving up 426.1 yards per game. But the more notable stat might be their turnover margin. Hawaii is 124th nationally in turnover margin at -1.00 per game. For BYU, when the Cougars cough up the football it usually means a loss. They’ll be going up against a Hawaii team that hasn’t created many takeaways so far this season.

Like BYU, Hawaii defeated a few Power 5 teams

To open the season, both Hawaii and BYU kicked off the 2019 campaigns with games against Power 5 teams. Hawaii had their first three games of the season against P5’s, while BYU took on four P5 programs to kick-off 2019.

Each team came away with two victories against those Power 5 teams. BYU defeated Tennessee and USC while Hawaii took down Arizona and Oregon State in the first two weeks of the season to open with a 2-0 record.

BYU vs. Hawaii

Hawaii Bowl

December 24th, 2019

Kickoff: 6 p.m. (MT)


Radio: KSL NewsRadio 102.7 FM, 1160 AM

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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Hawaii’s Passing Attack Will Create Many Challenges For BYU