Tom Smart, Deseret News
HONOLULU — BYU Cougars renew an old rivalry as they take on the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at Aloha stadium Saturday night. Strange things have happened over in the islands during these games in past years, so what can we expect this Saturday?
Hawaii doesn’t look to have all that much on paper, but this is their bowl game and they’ve historically given BYU their best effort of the year whenever they match up. BYU, meanwhile, is locked into the Armed Forces Bowl and will be bringing back Riley Nelson at the quarterback position for the first time since his injury sustained against Idaho.
So what does all of this mean? We looked at the matchups, but more importantly, got the opinion of players leading up to the game.
BYU rushing attack vs. Hawaii
While Michael Alisa has emerged as a top running back option for the Cougars, it’s still old, reliable Bryan Kariya that they count on when they need to make critical yardage. Whether ii be third-and-short situation or near the goaline, it’s the veteran senior that will be getting the football.
“I don’t have the shake or the speed to go outside. I just know how to do one thing,” said Kariya. “I guess that’s served me well when the team needs to get one or two yards, and I’m happy to do it. I can’t do a lot of the other things the other guys can. But I know what I can do, and if it’s to get a critical yard, then I can do that.”
He’s done it very effectively so far this season as the Cougar ground attack has continued to thrive after the changes offensive coordinator Brandon Doman installed following the Utah State game. The run-blocking schemes have been stripped down and they’ve added the talents of Alisa to the rotation — all seen with success.
“You’re not able to do much of anything if you can’t run the ball and our offense has gotten better and better with us running it better and better in each game,” said Kariya.
They’ll be matching up against a Hawaii team that yields 140 yards per game on the ground on a 3.9 yards per carry average. They’ll present a 4-3 base defensive system that features its linebackers, most notably their two senior linebackers Corey Paredes, 6-0, 235, and Aaron Brown, 6-1, 225.
Paredes will man the middle, backing up the defensive line, with Brown playing out of the buck position. Both players lead the Rainbows in total tackles this season.
Along the defensive front, they’ll feature three experienced seniors and are particularly strong up the middle with Vaughn Meatoga, 6-2, 295, and Kaniela Tuipulotu, 6-2, 300, leading the way as their two starting defensive tackles.
“They have a good defense,” observed Kariya. “They’re strong, they’re big, they play physical and they’ll be a challenge.”
BYU will add the services of Riley Nelson and what he brings to the Cougar ground attack, and they should see some good gains because of it. Look for JJ Di Luigi to have a good game with his ability on the edges, which is where Hawaii looks to be vulnerable. BYU should be able to approach 200 yards rushing in the game.
BYU passing attack vs. Hawaii
The Cougar passing game changes quite a bit with Nelson under center as opposed to Jake Heaps. Fans can expect a lot of short and long passes with not much in between with Nelson directing the offense.
Coaches have tried to get the tight ends more involved all year long, but were served a huge blow in that regard with the injury to Austin Holt. Marcus Mathews and Hawaii-native Kaneakua Friel now stand as the top options and they’ll both need to step up come Saturday.
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