In its first two games, the University of Hawaii football team’s offense has started well and the defense has finished strong.
Against Washington and Oregon State, the offense used a nice mix of scripted plays to move the ball crisply on the first drive after taking the opening kickoff (against the Huskies the drive ended in a touchdown, against OSU a lost fumble in the Beavers red zone). But in both games, the offense was generally much less effective after the first drive.
Also in both games, the UH defense improved as the game wore on. The defense and special teams are the main reason the Rainbow Warriors have outscored their opponents 29-7 after halftime.
Today’s opponent, Northern Iowa, went back-and-forth with Iowa in its Aug. 30 season-opener, both teams scoring in every quarter and Iowa hanging on to win 31-23.
Especially without workhorse running back Joey Iosefa and starting linebacker Jerrol Garcia-Williams both lost to injury, the Rainbow Warriors will have a better chance of handling the Panthers with more consistent performance throughout the game on both sides of the ball: The offense needs to keep doing what it’s done on the first few plays of each game, and the defense must not use the first part of the game as a warmup.
Quarterback Ikaika Woolsey is a key to that offensive consistency. He played well enough against Washington and was not part of the reason UH lost. But he was often wildly inaccurate and completed just 20 of 50 passes against Oregon State.
Other than David Johnson (5 receptions for 203 yards, 13 carries for team-high 34 yards) no one for NIU’s offense was especially impressive statistically against Iowa. The Panthers will need other weapons to step up if they are to beat the Rainbow Warriors.
UH’s special teams should be a big advantage. Hawaii won’t block a punt and force a fumble on a kickoff every game, but those plays were not flukes.
My best guess for a final score is Hawaii 20, Northern Iowa 13.