The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors are matching up against the BYU Cougars tomorrow in the Hawaii Bowl. These two teams first met on the playing field in 1930. That is a storied history with nearly 90 years of games. Hawaii is 8-32 all-time against the Cougars. The last win for the Rainbow Warriors against BYU was in 2001 when Hawaii won 72-45. BYU is 7-5 entering the contest as an independent team. The Cougars started the season 2-4 but won their last five of six to get to the Hawaii Bowl. The Rainbow Warriors, on the other hand, are working toward their first 10 win season since 2010. With two different paths taken this season, let’s take a look at the Hawaii Bowl Preview.
2019 Hawaii Bowl Preview
The former Mountain West foes will face off on Christmas Eve in what is essentially a home game for the Rainbow Warriors. BYU has been practicing in the rain and wind to prepare for a throwback Hawaii offense. The Cougars have reached a bowl game 14 of the last 15 years and are 2-0 in bowl games under current head coach Kalani Sitake. This is the second year in a row that Hawaii is playing in the Hawaii Bowl. Further, since 2002 the Rainbow Warriors have played in the Hawaii Bowl eight times and have won five times.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors Breakdown
Quarterback Cole McDonald has a 64% completion rate this season with 3,642 pass yards. In addition, he has 29 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Those 14 interceptions are just half of the Rainbow Warriors’ turnovers this season. Hawaii has 30 turnovers this season while only recording 16 for themselves. McDonald has had five games this season with over 300 passing yards, with four happening at home. Cedric Byrd is McDonald’s favorite target. Byrd has 95 receptions this season averaging just under 12 yards per receptions. The senior wide receiver has 1,068 receiving yards this season and 10 touchdowns. The passing attack does not only utilize Byrd. JoJo Ward, Jared Smart, and Jason-Matthew Sharsh all have over 800 receiving yards this season. Ward and Smart are dangerously close to hitting the 1,000-yard mark and will likely do so on Christmas Eve against BYU. If the offense can limit mistakes BYU will have a tough time with the Hawaii air attack.
The Hawaii defense accounts for 16 takeaways this season. Solomon Matautia leads the team with 74 tackles this season. In addition, he has three tackles for loss, one sack, and two interceptions. One of those interceptions was returned for a touchdown. Kaimana Padello is a senior defensive lineman for the Rainbow Warriors that has a team-leading seven tackles for loss with three sacks on top of that.
BYU Cougars Breakdown
The Cougars enter the 2019 Hawaii Bowl with a 7-5 record. BYU also only has one senior on the squad. Aleva Hifo is the only senior from Sitake’s first recruiting class as head coach. The senior wide receiver has five total touchdowns in 2019 with 37 receptions and 439 receiving yards. BYU quarterback Zach Wilson has 2,108 passing yards this season with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The sophomore signal-caller spreads the ball around to many different receivers, including leading receiver Matt Bushman who has 597 receiving yards. BYU mainly utilized two running backs this season. Lopini Katoa filled in after starting back, Sione Finau suffered a season-ending injury. Katoa has 74 rushing attempts on the season with 307 yards and three rushing touchdowns. Katoa also has one receiving touchdown on the year.
The BYU defense is led in tackles by Kavika Fonua with 78 total tackles with two for loss. Further, Fonua added two interceptions this season as well. Overall, the Cougar defense has 21 turnovers on the season and one defensive touchdown. BYU will have its hands full with the Hawaii air attack, but if the Cougars can force the Rainbow Warriors to utilize the ground game the game may even itself out. Even though BYU has not been great against the rush this season, it may be their best shot at slowing down this Hawaii pass-heavy offense.
Hawaii Bowl Breakdown
What: SoFi Hawaii Bowl
Where: Aloha Stadium; Honolulu, Hawaii
When: Tuesday, December 24th at 8:00 pm ET on ESPN