FACTS & STATS: Site: Aloha Stadium (50,000) — Honolulu, Hawaii.
Television: Oceanic Pay-per-view. Home Record: USU 4-0, Hawaii 2-3. Away
Record: USU 1-3, Hawaii 0-3. Neutral Record: USU 0-0, Hawaii 0-0. Conference
Record: USU 2-1, Hawaii 1-2. Series Record: Utah State leads, 7-6.
GAME NOTES: Slowly moving towards bowl eligibility, the Utah State Aggies take
another step in that direction on Saturday night when they drop in on the
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors for a Mountain West Conference battle at Aloha
Utah State has had to work through some major injuries, first losing starting
quarterback Chuckie Keeton and then backup Darell Garretson. Last weekend, the
team started Craig Harrison and while the Aggies were able to pull out a 34-20
victory at home, they also lost Harrison to a leg injury that has him out
Winners of three of the last four contests in order to reach five victories in
this 13-game schedule, the Aggies will now rely on their fourth starting
quarterback of the campaign, freshman Kent Myers.
As for the Rainbow Warriors, winners of just two of their first eight games,
they fought hard against visiting Nevada last Saturday night but came up just
short in a 26-18 final. The defeat was the second in a row and the fourth in
five games for a team which will be playing three of the last four games of
the season on the road where they’ve been quite inept the last several years.
Thanks to a 47-10 thrashing of Hawaii last season in Utah, the Aggies own a
7-6 advantage in the all-time series.
USU moved out to a 10-point lead early in the first half against UNLV, allowed
the Rebels to close the gap, but then rattled off 17 straight points in the
second half to secure the win at Romney Stadium. Before heading to the
sidelines, Harrison converted 13-of-23 passes for 221 yards and three
touchdowns. Myers stepped in and hit 3-of-5 for another 45 yards.
JoJo Natson turned his six receptions into a team-best 124 yards and a score,
while Joe Hill not only had one catch for a 69-yard TD, he also carried the
ball 13 times for 48 yards and a score.
Although he came away with just two total tackles in the game for the Aggies,
B.J. Larsen made both of those stops against UNLV signal caller Blake Decker
in the backfield. Decker was saddled with six sacks on the day. Nick Vigil,
who was credited with 1.5 sacks, also had a forced fumble.
Through eight games, Nick Vigil is the second-leading tackler for the Aggies
with 76 stops, trailing only Zach Vigil who has 84. Both players have logged
11 tackles for loss, but the former is first with 5.5 sacks and has four
forced fumbles to his credit as well. Larsen now paces the team in sacks with
six, despite having made just 22 tackles overall.
Although not all are quarterbacks, the Aggies have had a total of six
different players attempt at least one pass this season, but still Myers is a
bit of a mystery given that he has attempted only five. Hopefully Hunter Sharp
(46 catches, 714 yards, five TDs) can make the transition as seamless as
possible, while Hill (280 rushing yards, three TDs) can take some of the
pressure off coming out of the backfield.
The Warriors appeared to be well on their way to a much-needed conference
victory last Saturday night, leading 10-0 in the second quarter, but then the
offense dried up for the hosts and the defense allowed Nevada to rip off 26
Quarterback Ikaika Woolsey converted 18 of his 32 pass attempts for 201 yards
and a score, but was also picked off once. Donnie King and Marcus Kemp tied
for the team lead with four catches for 59 yards, but it was only the former
who made it into the end zone. Steven Lakalaka ran the ball 15 times for a
team-best 55 yards and a score as well.
Defensively, Taz Stevenson was credited with 12 tackles, Simon Poti 10 stops
and Beau Yap the only sack of the meeting against Nevada signal caller Cody
Stevenson, who leads the team in tackles overall with 66 stops, has made more
solo tackles (53) than anyone of his teammates has total. But when it comes to
stops behind the line of scrimmage, the leader there is Kennedy Tulimasealii
who has 6.5 TFL on just 21 tackles overall. Also giving the unit some punch is
TJ Taimatuia who has not only 5.5 TFL, but is also tied for the team lead with
a pair of interceptions.
Woolsey has done his best to give the offense a spark, but he has just seven
TDs against five INTs, and is converting his pass attempts at a mere 49.8
percent. The sad part for the Warriors on this side of the ball is the loss of
running back Joey Iosefa, who in two games accounted for 197 yards and
a still a team-high four touchdowns, but he has since been sidelined with an
injury, as well as a suspension for a DUI arrest.
With the Aggies digging deep to find their next quarterback, perhaps this is a
good opportunity for Hawaii to rise up and steal a game from an opponent that,
at the start of the season, should have been a favorite to potentially run the
table in league play.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Hawaii 23, Utah State 20