Hawaii (1-2) at BYU (2-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, September 28, 8:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,725) -- Provo, Utah. Television: ESPN. Home Record: Hawaii 1-1, BYU 2-0. Away Record: Hawaii 0-1, BYU 0-2. Neutral Record: Hawaii 0-0, BYU 0-0. Conference Record: Hawaii 0-1, BYU 0-0. Series Record: BYU leads, 20-8.
GAME NOTES: Losers of two straight, the BYU Cougars try to land back in the win column this week as they challenge the Hawaii Warriors at home on Friday night.
BYU, which was nationally-ranked earlier in the campaign, began the 2012 season with back-to-back victories over the likes of Washington State and Weber State, but then came the close call against Utah which resulted in a disappointing 24-21 setback in Salt Lake City. If the Cougars thought they had seen it all in their matchup versus the Utes, there's no way they could have predicted how their meeting against 24th-ranked Boise State would have turned out on the blue turf last week.
A defensive struggle from the start, the Cougars made countless mistakes and yet trailed by a mere seven points late in the fourth quarter on the road. BYU managed to get the ball into the end zone on a four-yard quarterback run by backup signal-caller Taysom Hill with 3:37 remaining in regulation, but instead of playing for the tie head coach Bronco Mendenhall opted for a two- point conversion attempt which subsequently failed, leaving his team with the 7-6 loss.
As for the Warriors, they've experienced the highs and lows on the scoreboard in a span of just one week, going from a 54-2 throttling of Lamar out in Honolulu to an ugly 69-24 setback versus Nevada in the Mountain West Conference opener for both teams last weekend. The defeat was the second in three games for new Hawaii head coach Norm Chow and was also the first loss for the Warriors at home against the Wolf Pack since 1948.
Hawaii lost last year's meeting at the end of the regular-season, 41-20, in Honolulu, which means the all-time series now numbers 20-8 in favor of the Cougars.
The defensive effort by the Warriors against Nevada was absolutely dismal, allowing the visitors to generate 575 yards of total offense and, more specifically, running back Stefphon Jefferson to record six rushing touchdowns and another through the air to set a new MWC record for TDs in a game with seven. Twice, once in both the first and second halves, the Warriors surrendered touchdowns on four consecutive possessions by Nevada. Beau Yap was the only defensive player of note for the hosts as he made three of his four tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
From an offensive standpoint, Sean Schroeder managed to throw for 234 yards and two touchdowns against Nevada, but he was also picked off twice and sacked four times, with one of those INTs being returned 78 yards for a touchdown by Nevada's Khalid Wooten. Will Gregory tried to give the Warriors a presence on the ground with his 92 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries, but it wasn't nearly enough to slow down the Pack.
Hawaii has rarely had much of a running attack, but at least Gregory is giving it an effort as he averages 67.3 ypg on the ground through three outings. As a group, the Warriors are responsible for 139.7 ypg rushing which ranks them 88th in the nation.
Unfortunately, the usually high-powered passing attack for the Warriors has yet to be established this season under Schroeder who has played in just these three games for the team after transferring from Duke.
While the Warriors seem to be set with their quarterback, the same cannot be said for BYU as the team struggles with the dilemma set forth by some poor play by Riley Nelson. With four completions for just 19 yards, Nelson had almost as many passes to his own teammates as he did Boise State (three) before being yanked last week. Nelson's interception to Mike Atkinson, returned 36 yards for a score, proved to be the turning point for the Cougars in the hard-luck road loss.
Hill, who scored the only points for the Cougars against BSU, converted 4- of-10 passes for 42 yards and also led the team with 72 yards rushing in an otherwise dismal effort.
Then again, as bad as BYU was on offense, the program had to be pleased with its defensive effort as it limited one of the most powerful teams in the country over the last decade to just a single touchdown, and that one was brought on by the BSU defense. Ezekiel Ansah produced a team-best seven tackles for the Cougars, accounting for the lone sack and tying for the team high with 2.5 tackles for loss.
Kyle Van Noy, who also had some key hits against Boise State, continues to be a leader for the BYU defense as he paces the team in TFL (7.5) and sacks (4.5) and has also logged two of the unit's four forced fumbles, but still this is a squad that is ranked 102nd in the country in turnover margin (minus-1.25 per game), mostly due to the issues on offense.
Nelson has thrown five interceptions thus far in 2012 and doesn't appear to have earned the trust or support from his coaching staff if the Cougars are so inclined to pull him out of action when a game is still undecided. Hill has certainly given the team a spark when he's been in the huddle, but perhaps some of that is due to the fact that opponents haven't fully prepared for his appearance in the first place.
This meeting with Hawaii should be a good test for Nelson and the Cougars, an opportunity for the signal-caller to earn his keep and prove that his being the starter is the right move for BYU at the moment.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 31, Hawaii 20
09/26 10:32:25 ET