HONOLULU — After a disappointing Senior Day loss to UMass, BYU will hit the road for the final game of the 2017 season to face former WAC and MWC foe Hawaii. This will be the 30th time the two schools have faced off, with BYU holding a 21-8 all-time series lead.
Games played away from Provo are closer, with BYU leading only 12 wins to eight on the islands. This will be the Cougars' first trip to Aloha Stadium since 2011, and they will be looking to finish their season with a win on Saturday (7 p.m. MT, CBS Sports Network). Here are five numbers to watch for in the season finale.
For any fans hoping for a high-scoring game, this probably won’t fit that description, as the two schools are ranked in the near-bottom in scoring offense. Hawaii is tallying 23.0 points per game, which ranks the Rainbow Warriors No. 104 in the nation. BYU is even worse in the statistical rankings, scoring only 16.0 points per game (No. 125).
While the Cougar defense is allowing opponents to score a modest 25.1 points per game, which ranks 51st in points allowed per game, the Joe Critchlow-led offense may be able to exceed their season average against a Hawaii defense that is allowing 34.3 points per game (No. 107).
The Cougar defense has faced several stellar running backs throughout the 2017 campaign, including six currently ranked in the top 50 of individual rushing yardage statistics. Saturday will mark the seventh such player for the defense to keep in check, senior Diocemy Saint Juste.
The Florida native has earned his second consecutive 1,000-yard season, with 1,471 yards heading into the season finale for both schools. Saint Juste is averaging 5.45 yards per carry and 133.73 yards per game for the season and has been credited with seven touchdowns so far — one more than the totals of his previous three seasons combined.
Freshman Critchlow has had an up-and-down season through two starts so far. After not throwing any interceptions through action seen in four games, Critchlow threw four interceptions in the loss to UMass last weekend. His QB rating — a formula that factors in a quarterback’s attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns and interceptions — for the season sits at 102.0, and he is throwing an interception on 5 percent of his pass attempts.
In comparison, Hawaii junior quarterback Dru Brown has registered 2,527 yards through the air with 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His QB rating sits at 127.0, with an interception thrown on 2 percent of his attempts.
In addition to the Rainbow Warriors' explosive running back, Hawaii quarterbacks have found two consistent wide receivers to help them move the ball. Sophomore John Ursua leads the team in receiving yards (667 yards, with five touchdowns), while junior Dylan Collie leads the team in receptions (50, with four more touchdowns). Combined, the two receivers have accounted for 1,200 yards on 90 receptions and are averaging 12.37 yards per catch. Ammon Barker has added 36 more catches for 357 yards for Hawaii.
BYU’s two leading receivers — Matt Bushman and Aleva Hifo — have been credited with 84 combined receptions, for 905 total receiving yards, and five touchdowns, for an average of 10.77 yards per catch. Bushman leads the team in receptions with 47. He still has a chance to move past Austin Collie and Matt Bellini for most receptions by a freshman.
Both defenses have been above average in the red zone this season and will look to continue that trend this weekend. BYU’s opponents have had 51 trips inside the red zone this season. The Cougar defense has allowed 25 touchdowns (15 rushing and 10 passing) and 17 field goals. In possessions, 82.4 percent have ended in points, which ranks the team tied at No. 53 in red zone defense.
Hawaii has been even better in one less game so far, with 45 defensive possessions in the red zone. The Rainbow Warriors have allowed 30 touchdowns (14 rushing, 16 passing) and six field goals. Eighty percent of those possessions have finished in points, which ranks them No. 37 in red zone defense.
Landon Walters studied history and political science at Salt Lake Community College. He is an avid sports fan and loves writing. Email: [email protected]