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Opponent preview: not your grandpa's Hawaii

OBNUG’s game previews are written by reader-turned-contributor Stephen Grettenberg. Because not every article should contain pinings for Marty Tadman.

Hawaii vs. Boise State

A couple of weeks ago this looked to be a pretty lopsided game, but the Hawaii offense is beginning to come together, upsetting Fresno State on the road two weeks ago 32-29, then beat Louisiana Tech 24-14 last week. Hawaii remains a shadow of where they were last year; but they are improving, and they may end up as the No. 2 team in the WAC.

Revenge should be on the mind of Boise State, with a chance to dominate the team that broke their stranglehold at the top of the WAC last year. One area Hawaii is struggling in mightily is protecting the quarterback, ranking 114th in that category. Here’s hoping the defensive line this week kicks some serious Warrior butt by planning routes over and around the makeshift offensive line. The starters on the D-Line should be Ryan Winterswyk, Billy Winn, Steven Reveles, and Mike T. Williams.

Ian Johnson has been quoted saying, "We’re not going to let these guys come into our house and keep us from getting another WAC championship. Right now, those guys are the reigning WAC champs. We want to show them that the new WAC champs are back." Great – prove it Friday night!

Hawaii Coach:

Greg McMackin had a hell of an offseason, trying to replace most of a staff, an offense, and pretense of order. That was reflected in starting four quarterbacks so far this year. Truly it is not all his fault, certainly, but he is just now getting an offense to sync together under present starter Inoke Funaki. Hawaii’s defensive coordinator from 1999-2007, McMackin is a no nonsense sort of guy. The jury is still out whether he’ll be a good head coach at this level.

Hawaii on Offense:

What happens on offense when you lose the head coach, the star quarterback, and a bunch of first-rate receivers? Not much in the first few games as Hawaii got blown out against Florida 56-10 and Oregon State 45-7. To be fair Florida just kicked reigning national champion LSU 51-21, and Oregon State has been awful or great, beating USC. So Hawaii is down, but not nearly as bad as people think. And they are showing signs of improvement.

Inoke Funaki is one of four quarterbacks that started this year, but at this point it is becoming his team. They have re-tailored the "Pass and Shoot" offense to his skill set, which involves short passes and screens, often to running back Kealoha Pilares. Funaki and Pilares are the two primary rushers as well, and after that, things drop off pretty quickly in terms of offensive weapons. Sophomore Greg Salas had his best game last week against Louisiana Tech with 87 yards and a TD, but Kyle Wilson should be able to lock him down.

Inoke Funaki ran for 79 yards and threw two touchdown passes, killing Fresno State’s last hopes for an exceptional season two weeks ago. Boise State has also had its ups and downs with running quarterbacks last year, like Jake Locker. Inoke Funaki is not quite up to Locker’s talent level yet, but Boise State needs to stay home to prevent the scramble.

Hawaii on Defense:

Although the Hawaii defense returned more players this year than last year, they started the season getting drubbed by dynamic offenses, and they need to improve as a unit. I expect them to have trouble defending strong running right up the middle, and to be confused trying to defend the complicated sets and skillful passing of Kellen Moore.

I assume McMackin is spending a little too much time on the offense, because a big physical line and quality linebackers are not doing as good a job against the run as last season. DE David Veikune (37 tackles) and LB Solomon Elimimian (43 tackles) remain their strongest players. Keao Monteilh leads the team with three interceptions, but the Warriors are 112th in the country in turnovers with a mark of minus-1.17 miscues per contest. That is a bit deceptive though, for that is one of the many areas this team is improving in. Hawaii had just 2 takeaways compared to 17 turnovers in their first four games going 1-3. In their last two victories they had ten takeaways and only two turnovers.

The Game:

Last week Boise State was sloppy, losing fumbles and not staying focused consistently in the game. Assuming the Broncos get their heads in this game and play smarter protecting the ball, they should have no problems. Both teams should be excited and motivated for this game. Though improving, Hawaii does not have the depth and talent to beat a revengeful but disciplined Boise State at home.

The pick:

Boise State by at least two touchdowns.