Wyoming at Hawaii: Storylines
1 Momentum on mainland
Wyoming has to deal with one of the nation’s hotter teams in Hawaii, which is on pace for one of college football’s biggest turnarounds. After going 3-9 a season ago, Hawaii has won five of its first six games with a 2-0 mark in Mountain West play that has the Warriors as the early leader in the West Division. Wyoming will be trying to prevent Hawaii’s first 3-0 start in conference play since joining the MW in 2012.
2 On the defensive
Wyoming’s defensive struggles have been well-documented this season, and Hawaii hasn’t been much better. Neither unit ranks better than the middle of the pack in the MW in scoring defense, total defense or passing defense. Hawaii has been better at getting to the quarterback with 13 sacks, second-most in the MW, but that’s the closest thing to impact plays that either defense has produced. Wyoming and Hawaii are 10th and 11th, respectively, in the 12-team conference in turnovers, combining for just 10 takeaways in 11 games.
3 Passing chance
Wyoming’s offense has struggled to stay balanced this season, but if there’s a chance for Tyler Vander Waal and the passing game to gain some confidence, this is it. Hawaii began the season allowing 537 passing yards to Colorado State, yielded 451 more to San Jose State last week and enters this week’s game ranked eighth in the MW against the pass (279.3 yards per game). Granted, some of those teams have a pass-first philosophy, but if the offensive line can do a better job of keeping the pocket relatively clean for Vander Waal, who’s been sacked 13 times already, there will be chances for Wyoming to connect on some big gainers through the air.
4 Hey, Arnold
Wyoming’s offensive line is in need of a boost, and the return of center Patrick Arnold should provide it. Head coach Craig Bohl said Arnold likely won’t start the game as the Cowboys try to build some continuity up front that’s been hard to come by this season. But Arnold is healthy again after missing last week’s game against Boise State with a sprained ankle and will likely rotate in as he works his way back and keeps the interior of the line fresh. The lopsided score didn’t help with the Cowboys having to be predictable with their play-calling later in the game, but the line struggled mightily without Arnold, yielding five sacks and eight tackles for loss against Boise.
5 Hardware game
One of three rivalry trophies Wyoming is involved with in the MW includes Hawaii, which will be playing the Cowboys for the Paniolo Trophy. The trophy, named for the Hawaiian word meaning “cowboy,” resides in Laramie after Wyoming defeated Hawaii 28-21 in overtime last season. Wyoming will also play for trophies against a pair of intradivision rivals this season — the Bronze Boot in the Border War against Colorado State and the Bridger Rifle against Utah State.
Wyoming and Hawaii began playing annually in 1978 when the Warriors joined the Western Athletic Conference, stopped after the 1997 season when Wyoming left the WAC for the MW and started again in 2013 when Hawaii joined the MW as a football-only affiliate. Wyoming has dominated of late, winning seven of the teams’ last eight meetings dating back to 1993, and leads the all-time series 14-9. Hawaii won the last time the teams met off the mainland — a 38-28 victory in 2014.