Hawaii has been the Western Athletic Conference's biggest underachiever this season.

Picked to finish second behind BYU, the Rainbow Warriors are tied for fourth place, with a 3-4 WAC record (6-5 overall). They'll try to improve that record Saturday, playing fourth-ranked BYU at 10 p.m. (MST) in Aloha Stadium.With 46 lettermen returning from a team that went 9-2-1 in the regular season, stomped BYU and made its first bowl appearance ever, even Coach Bob Wagner was optimistic entering this season.

And coaches are never optimistic.

Wagner called 1989 a rebuilding year, and if 9-2-1 was rebuilding, what was 1990 going to bring? Disappointment.

The 'Bows started the season by playing tough against Texas A&M at home before losing, 28-13. Then they crossed the Pacific for a game on the mainland, and the trouble started. Like most Hawaii teams, this one is much better at home. This season the 'Bows are 5-2 in Aloha Stadium, 1-3 elsewhere. Last year it was the same story, as the 'Bows lost both times they ventured to the mainland.

Even at home they have been inconsistent, pounding Wyoming one week, 38-17, then coming back the next week to lose to Colorado State, 30-27.

Looking at their statistics, though, the 'Bows appear better than their record. They have a potent offense with solid passing and running games, and a defense ranked No. 1 in the WAC. Comparing their season stats to their opponents, the Rainbows are better in most categories and not far off in the others.

Hawaii mounts a balanced offensive attack, a spread system also known as the run-and-shoot. It uses two wide receivers, two slot backs and one running back, and requires a good passer and effective running back to work.

The 'Bows have a good passer in Garrett Gabriel, ranked 11th in the nation in pass efficiency. He's completed 51 percent of his passes, with 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Gabriel throws most often to his slotbacks, Dane McArthur and Jeff Sydner. McArthur has 41 catches, Sydner 40. The deep threat is wide receiver Darrick Branch, who averages 19.6 yards per catch.

Like other systems that rely heavily on the pass, Hawaii's requires a good running game to be successful. The 'Bows have a powerful running back in 5-foot-10, 220-pound sophomore Jamal Farmer, who averages 4.4 yards per carry. They also like to pitch the ball, option-style, to the slotbacks, and the top three at that position average between 5 and 7 yards per carry.

Defensively, the 'Bows have slipped a little recently. After giving up 423 yards total offense to CSU, the Rainbows dropped to third in the WAC in pass-efficiency defense and second in scoring defense. They are still second in rushing defense, though, and No. 1 in total defense.

Top tacklers for the 'Bows are safeties Terry Whitaker and Tony Pang-Kee . The designated sack artist is outside linebacker Mark Odom, with nine.