The Rainbow Warriors give up 235.1 yards per game through the air and an average of 7.3 yards per pass attempt.
Their biggest threat in defending the passing attack may come from outside linebacker Art Laurel, 6-0, 235, who has accounted for nine sacks on the season. Hawaii likes to bring a variety of blitzes throughout the game, and the Cougar offensive line will have to be on their toes throughout the game.
It’s hard not to like both Hoffman’s and Apo’s abilities to not only stretch a defense, but win balls in the air against what Hawaii presents defensively. Look for the amount of passing attempts to go down with Nelson at QB, but also look for a good share of big-gainers down the field.
BYU rush defense vs. Hawaii
The Cougar ground defense has been solid throughout the final half of the season. They’ve seemingly cleaned up a lot of mental errors that allowed teams to go for big-gainers around the edge, although they haven’t faced a prolific running attack since the Utah State game.
They’ll be facing a decent and unique running attack against Hawaii. The Warriors average 101.9 yards per game on a 4.3-yards-per-carry average and will be running almost exclusively out of a single-back set.
“They spread you out, but they’ll run it on you,” said cornerback Corby Eason. “They have a good running back that we’ll have to be watching for on every play.”
Their primary running back will be America Samoa’s freshman Joey Iosefa, who packs a punch at 6-0, 240.
“He’s a big, physical runner,” observed Eason. “They have some other good running backs, but he’s the guy who handles the runs for the most part.”
BYU hasn’t struggled this year and don’t typically struggle with big, bruising running backs, and they shouldn’t come Saturday. Iosefa does have a lot of talent, however, and will have to be accounted for.
They’ll also have to account for a running quarterback in David Graves, 6-0, 195, but overall, BYU should be well-prepped to defend this type of spread offense, considering how well they’ve done with their nickel package which has all but become Bronco Mendenhall’s base-defensive alignment over the past two games.
BYU pass defense vs. Hawaii
The Cougar defensive backs haven’t been challenged much all season, but will get a big challenge from Hawaii this Saturday. The Warriors like to throw the ball often, averaging 311 yards and almost 50 pass attempts per game this season.
“They’ll be throwing it around on us all day, we know that,” said Eason. “I’m excited for it. It’s going to be a true test for us, but I think we’re good and should be fine if we stay disciplined in our assignments.”
Hawaii doesn’t have just one go-to guy at receiver, but like to spread it around pretty equally, judging by their stats.
Billy Ray Stutzman, 6-0, 175, is their leading receiver on the year with 71 catches for 860 yards, but their big-play guy looks to be senior Royce Pollard, 6-1, 175, who has 66 receptions for 963 yards and eight touchdowns on the year.
“They’re all good,” observed Eason. “They’re quick, they’re fast, they can stretch the field. They’re going to give us a big challenge and they’re definitely the best passing offense that we’ve faced for a while, probably the toughest that we’ve faced all year.”
It’s a good thing that the Cougars have practiced a lot of nickel defense as of late, because they’ll need that alignment to have a chance in stopping Hawaii. Look for Hawaii to approach their season average as a result, with a lot of quick-hitters on slant and short out-patterns, congruent to how Mendenhall likes to set up his coverages.
Prediction: BYU 42, Hawaii 34
It’s difficult to predict anything but a barn-burner, considering not only the teams but the venue, and what this game means to Hawaii. It is their bowl game, and they’re sure to bring their best effort of the year against BYU.
BYU is simply the better team, however, and with it being the final regular season game for the seniors, they should be able to meet Hawaii’s effort, coming away with a victory.
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