San Diego St vs Hawaii
Saturday, October 28, 8:15 PM on ESPN2
Aloha Stadium, Halawa, Hawaii
The San Diego State Aztecs (6-2, 2-2 MW) are looking to right the ship, as they sail towards Hawaii to take on the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (3-4, 1-3 MW).
The Aztecs look to find answers as to what has happened to derail their season. After starting the season 6-0 with wins over Stanford and Arizona State, San Diego State has lost the last two to Boise State and, most recently, to the Fresno State Bulldogs.
Aztecs coach Rocky Long was dumbfounded by the way his team played last week. Long had this to say about last week’s struggles:
“Obviously, we didn’t play very well and we haven’t played very well for the last two weeks,” Long said after the game. “If I knew why, obviously, we would have fixed it. Since we didn’t fix it, it’s obviously a coaching error.
“We’re not approaching them the right way or we’re not teaching them what we want them to do the right way, because they’re not playing at a very high level.”
The Aztecs won the last matchup 55-0 at what was then Qualcomm Stadium. SDSU leads the overall series 20-9-2 and have beaten Hawaii every game since they joined the Mountain West.
The Rainbow Warriors are coming off a bye week. Their last game was a victory over San Jose State 37-26. Hawaii sealed the victory with a Ryan Tuiasoa three-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter. It was their first win in the Mountain West Conference this year and snapped a four-game losing streak.
This week’s matchup will feature the top two leading rushers in the Mountain West, Diocemy Saint Juste and Rashaad Penny.
Hawaii running back Diocemy Saint Juste (5’8”, 200) set a school record with 39 carries for 202 yards and two scores before a home crowd of 21,021. It was the second week in a row that he topped the 200 yard mark, and the third time this season. He is second in the MWC with 1,094 yards rushing on 183 carries and six touchdowns. His numbers rank fifth in the NCAA. The senior running back was just the ninth player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards and now has back-to-back 1,000 yards rushing seasons.
Hawaii’s offense is far from one-sided. The team is averaging 480 yards a game- 261 yards a game passing and 219 rushing.
The passing game is led by junior quarterback Dru Brown (6’0”, 200) who has 1,816 yards passing with 13 touchdowns and only seven picks. He’s completed 149 of the 234 passes he attempted for a 63.7% completion rate and is averaging 7.76 yards per attempt. Brown’s 141.2 passer rating ranks 3rd among Mountain West quarterbacks.
Hawaii’s leading receiver will not be playing this weekend. Sophomore wide receiver John Ursua was injured in the second quarter of their last game with a torn right ACL and will be out for the rest of the season. Prior to his injury, he was the nation’s leading receiver in yards (667) and was second in receptions with 47. “(We) expect somebody else to make plays for us. We’re not going to change the whole offense because of John,” said University of Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich earlier this week. “He was a very good player for us and I think he’ll continue to be when he gets healthy, but right now, it’s an opportunity for somebody else.” Expect Keelan Ewaliko to fill in as Brown’s go to receiver and see the lion’s share of the pass attempts.
The glaring issue with Rolovich’s team has to be the defense. The Warriors have the nation’s 108th ranked defense and are giving up a whopping 35.6 points per game. That ranks 109th among FBS schools. Junior linebacker Jahlani Tavai leads the team in tackles with 61 and has 3 1/2 sacks. Leading the team in sacks is senior defensive lineman Meffy Koloamatangi with four.
The Aztecs’ offensive line will be a huge concern this week as four of the starting five linemen enter this week’s contest injured. Hawaii will emulate Boise State and Fresno State up front and give the Aztecs multiple looks and incorporate lots of movement. This has been successful for Hawaii in their last two games and the Aztecs have had trouble figuring out blocking assignments.
It’s gut check time for San Diego State. Last week, Christian Chapman had his worse game of the year, completing 50 percent of his passes for 77 yards with no touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 82.3. Like Chapman, Rashaad Penny had one of his worse games as well. During the Aztecs’ six-game winning streak to start the season, Penny averaged 165.5 yards per game. The last two games he’s averaged 61. Last week he had 69 yards on 15 carries, his lowest touches of the year. Penny ranks third in the nation with 1,115 rushing yards and leads the Mountain West Conference.
Despite the injuries to the offensive line, Rocky Long will need to figure out how to get Penny the ball early. The offense has been moving the ball well, but have been unable to capitalize on long drives with costly turnovers. This team is not built to come from behind. They must score early and feed Penny and Juwan Washington. The Aztecs will fare well if they can control the clock and keep Saint Juste on the bench. Prediction: Aztecs 42 – Hawaii 10