The last time the BYU football team faced Hawaii the result was an impressive 49-23 win in Provo in 2018 where freshman quarterback Zach Wilson went 16-of-24 passing for 194 yards with three touchdowns (as well as a rushing score) to propel the Cougars to the win.
Since that game was only a year ago, it’s only reasonable to believe a similar outcome could happen in Tuesday’s SoFi Hawaii bowl in Honolulu when BYU faces the Rainbow Warriors again, right?
The Cougar players and coaches don’t see it that way at all.
“Nick Rolovich is an excellent coach and they’ve got an excellent staff,” BYU head coach Kalani Sitake said earlier in the month. “Their players are playing really motivated football right now, playing really good team football. I’m looking forward to a good game and we’re going to try to be at our best. I am thankful for us to have the opportunity to be out there and play and try and get a win.”
Since the Cougars only put three points on the board in their last game, obviously there are some offensive questions BYU needs to answer.
Cougar offensive coordinator Jeff Grimes said the loss at San Diego State isn’t the main motivating factor for his unit heading into the bowl game.
“I don’t think anyone on offense would say we played our best game,” Grimes said. “I think everyone is eager to get on the field — but that last game is long behind us. We’re eager to get on the field more for an opportunity to play another game and to go compete than we are in looking to redeem ourselves necessarily.”
Arguably a bigger concern is the Hawaii offense, which Sitake has studied enough to know how good it is.
“They’re a top-10 passing offense in the country,” Sitake said. “The quarterback can play and they have a physical offensive line. Their wide receivers can catch and their running back is almost at 1,000 yards. It’s going to be a tough match up, but we’re looking forward to it.”
Of course, that also brings the excitement of competition.
“There is a chance they can strap 50 points on our defense because they are that good,” BYU defensive coordinator Ilaisa Tuiaki said. “It’s good for us to feel a little uncomfortable because they are a really good offense. But when you see that, a competitor says ‘bring it on.’ We know we have to bring our ‘A’ game but we are also expecting to just give it to them. It’s exciting for us.”
The Cougar defenders know they will have to strike the perfect balance to limit the success of Hawaii junior quarterback Cole McDonald.
Bring too much pressure and McDonald will just hit quick passes. Drop back into coverage too much and McDonald will wait for guys to get open.
“Nobody can be good sitting in 8 or 9-man coverages all game,” BYU associate head coach and linebackers coach Ed Lamb said. “No one can be good blitzing all game. There is a balance. Some of that has to do with the quarterback and what you feel like gives you the best chance to win. Finding ways to keep their quarterback from being comfortable will be a huge part of the game.”
The Cougar players hope to make the most of their final opportunity to show their improvement this season and set the tone for the coming year.
“We’ve grown a lot,” Wilson said. “As an offense I think we’ve come a long way. Watching the film from last year and even the beginning of this year, I feel like I’ve gotten so much better with the mental game. I feel like as a team we are a lot better than we were. For this bowl game, everyone is going to have the energy and the want to go out there and win that game.”