Hawaii has chance to make noise facing No. 14 Boise State
One of Nick Rolovich’s major concerns during Hawaii’s week off was making sure his Rainbow Warriors didn’t get wrapped up in the history of what Boise State has accomplished with the Broncos next on the schedule.
He wanted Hawaii focused on now, and not the past problems the Warriors have faced when traveling to play the Broncos.
“It’s about staying together and staying dialed in on what we’ve got to do. It’s not about the other team and what the other team has done in the past two or three decades,” Rolovich said.
History hasn’t been kind to the Warriors in their previous trips to Boise, but a win over the 14th-ranked Broncos on Saturday night would be a major statement about the strides made by Rolovich in his fourth season in charge.
Hawaii (4-1, 1-0 Mountain West) already grabbed attention when it opened the season with home wins over Arizona and Oregon State. But what happened two weeks ago at Nevada may have changed the perception of the Warriors as much as either of the early wins over the Pac-12.
Playing away from Honolulu has always been a struggle, except in rare seasons. That’s why the blowout win at Nevada was noteworthy. Hawaii simply has not gone on the road and thumped opponents the way it did the Wolf Pack in the 54-3 victory, its largest margin of victory since joining the Mountain West.
The Warriors’ performance altered the importance of the matchup against Boise State.
“We got in our opinion the best football team we’ve played all year long,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said.
The Broncos (5-0, 2-0) returned from their first open weekend with an easy, albeit incomplete 38-13 win over UNLV last week. Freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier threw a pair of early touchdown passes, including a 76-yarder to John Hightower, and finished with 299 yards passing. Hightower’s long TD catch was his sixth career touchdown of 50 or more yards.
After being a bit prone to throwing picks early in the season, Bachmeier has gone 69 straight attempts without an interception. His last came in the second quarter of Boise State’s win over Portland State on Sept. 14.
“He’s a good player, he’s a starter for us but there is still a lot he’s learning as the season is going on,” Harsin said. “There is a lot he’s getting better at and I think he’s doing a really good job.”
Here are other things to watch as the Warriors look for their first win ever in Boise:
Curtis Weaver became the Mountain West’s all-time leader in sacks when he recorded three of Boise State’s five sacks last week against UNLV. Weaver now has 29½ in his career and leads the country with nine sacks this season. With as often as the Warriors put the ball in the air, Weaver could have plenty of opportunities to add to that total this week.
“Curtis has prepared himself every single week to go out there and do that,” Harsin said.
BYRD IS THE WORD
If the Warriors are going to stick around, Cedric Byrd II needs to have a big game. Byrd leads the country with nine touchdown catches after grabbing three in the victory over Nevada. He’s third nationally with an average of eight receptions per game, and in an offense where the ball gets distributed all over the place he has clearly become the favored target of quarterback Cole McDonald.
Boise State has been exceptional on third down on both sides of the ball. The Broncos are converting 46.7% of their third downs on offense, 22nd best in the country. Bachmeier is 29 of 45 for 507 yards with 23 first downs and four touchdowns in third-down situations this season.
Defensively, the Broncos have been ever better. Boise State is allowing just 23.9% conversions on third downs. That’s third-best in the country behind Wisconsin and Kansas State.
Hawaii hasn’t been too bad itself. The Warriors are converting 42.6% of their third downs and allowing only 32.8% conversions. Those are both among the top 50 nationally.
Boise State would like to see more of its red-zone drives finish in the end zone. Of the Broncos’ 19 red-zone possessions, only 10 have ended in touchdowns. They rank 100th nationally in converting red-zone possessions into touchdowns. Hawaii has been one of the better teams in the Mountain West at limiting TDs in the red zone. They’ve allowed eight TDs on 14 red-zone possessions.