LOGAN – The Utah State football team is trekking its way to The Aloha State for a showdown with the Hawaii Warriors (2-8, 1-4 Mountain West). The Aggies (4-5, 3-2) are trying to build some kind of momentum, but injuries and self-inflicted errors have limited USU on its way to reversing the 1-4 start the team opened with.
There’s plenty at stake still for the Aggies who have goals of bowl eligibility despite spending most of this season below .500.
- Kickoff: 9 p.m. MT
- Location: Clarence T.C. Ching Complex | Honolulu, Hawaii
- TV Broadcast: Spectrum Sports
- Aggie GameDay Coverage on KVNU (102.1 FM/610 AM & KVNU mobile app) & simulcast on 106.9 The FAN (106.9 FM / 1390 AM & 106.9 The FAN mobile app): 7:30 p.m. MT
- KVNU Aggie Call (102.1 FM/610 AM, KVNU mobile app + 106.9 FM / 1390 AM The FAN, 106.9 The FAN mobile app): Immediately after game ends
Another chance to be .500, advance toward bowl eligibility
Utah State started the year with a winning record but fell all the way to 1-4. This is the third chance the Aggies have had to get back to a .500 record. The previous two chances came in Week 4 against UNLV and Week 9 at Wyoming. USU lost both of those games and the chance to get away from the moniker of being a “losing team.”
More important than the semantics of being a winning team or losing team is the prospect of becoming bowl eligible. Every week matters at this point, especially in the more winnable games like this week’s matchup with Hawaii.
“As I said last week, it’s a must-win,” USU head coach Blake Anderson said. “We want to be bowl eligible, we can’t let this one slip; we’ve got to find a way to go win.”
There were several notable injuries/absences for the Aggies last week. Linebacker MJ Tafisi and safety Gurvan Hall Jr. were both out from the get-go and Calvin Tyler Jr. left the game in the second quarter. Hall was serving a one-game suspension and will return to the team. Anderson said he was pleased with how Hall handled being suspended for the one game.
As for Tyler and Tafisi, their statuses are “day-to-day” according to Anderson. Tafisi is dealing with a neck/shoulder issue, something Anderson said he doesn’t want to mess with.
“He wants to play bad,” Anderson said of Tafisi. “We’re just being very smart about when he should (play). When you’re dealing with stingers and neck and shoulder issues you can’t afford to be careless. He wanted to play (against New Mexico), we made the decision not to allow that to happen. We’re going to keep watching him.”
Tyler is in concussion protocol. On Monday, Anderson said “as long as (Tyler) stays on the schedule he should be ready to go.”
Travelling to Hawaii is a “tough trip” to make
There are about 3,000 miles between Logan and Hawaii, roughly the same travel distance as the rest of USU’s road games combined. It’s not easy to move three time zones and go play a football game.
“Tough trip this week to go to Hawaii. Not easy to do,” Anderson said. “I think they’ve proven to be really, really difficult to beat at home especially. A lot of young guys going over there for the first time. We’ll have to block out the distractions of the trip and just how long it takes to get there and how it will adjust our week and how we prep during the week and be focused on the task at hand.”
Although the Warriors are 13-27 over the last four seasons (including games played so far this year), they have a winning record in home conference games with a mark of 7-6. In conference play, Hawaii is 1-1 at home with a 31-16 victory over Nevada and a close 20-27 loss to Wyoming.
Hawaii hanging around the bottom of FBS
Hawaii is having one of its worst seasons in more than a decade. With just two wins, one of those against a non-major opponent, the Warriors are at risk of having their lowest win total since the team went 1-11 in 2013. If the two-win total holds it’d be only the fourth time in 50 seasons of Hawaii football that the team failed to get at least three wins.
As befitting a team having this poor of a season, Hawaii ranks in the bottom 10 in nine different statistical categories. Those include pass completion percentage (53.1 percent), pass yards per completion (9.82), scoring offense (17.8), team passer rating (98.26), rush defense (230.7 yards allowed) first downs allowed (22.5), scoring defense (35.8), fumbles recovered (two), and sacks (nine).
Warriors RB Parson threat to score
Though Hawaii as a team ranks low statistically in many ways, its senior running back Dedrick Parson is among the best in the nation at getting rushing touchdowns. He has 10 on the season to rank 20th in FBS (and had eight last season to rank seventh in the Mountain West). He’s had three multi-TD games and the Warriors are 2-1 in those games.
Over a four-game stretch in mid-September to mid-October, Parson averaged 83.3 rushing yards per game and had eight touchdowns. However, in his last three games Parson hasn’t scored a touchdown and has been held under 30 rushing yards twice.
Hawaii tough to figure out
With the season as rough as it’s been for the Warriors, they’ve tried different approaches. Few have been successful but to defeat an opponent you have to be able to know who they are to counter their game. And for Anderson it hasn’t been easy to nail down who Hawaii is because it’s changed so often.
“They look different offensively right now than they did early in the year. They were trying a lot of things early,” Anderson said. “We’ve seen a ton of different defense from them as well, trying to find out what they’re personnel is and what fits the bodies that they have.”
First-year head coach Timmy Chang will certainly throw anything and everything at the Aggies to make something work. As Anderson said, “You can kind of see anybody at this point” in terms of personnel or play-calling.