UH WARRIOR GAME DAY
Pass-happy teams ready
Hawaii vs. New Mexico State at Aloha Stadium
Kickoff: 6:05 p.m.
TV: PPV, Dig. 255
The line: Hawaii by 20
This one could take a while.
Hawaii's run-and-shoot offense and New Mexico State's air-raid attack combine to throw the ball nearly 86 times per game, which would seem to point to a lengthy evening at the park for folks at Aloha Stadium tonight.
Coaches on both sides are familiar with each other and the opposing schemes, and hope it won't be a long night for their teams as well. Here's a look at tonight's matchups.
When New Mexico State has the ball: Like Hawaii, NMSU will spread the field with four-receiver formations, which can open lanes for sophomore running back Justine Buries, the WAC's second-leading rusher with 80.2 yards per game.
"This guy can make you miss, he can run over you and he gains a lot of yardage after contact," UH defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said. "But they want to throw it for a living."
Turnovers have hampered a young Aggies offense that averages just 12 points per game.
Junior quarterback Royal Gill has five touchdown passes, but has also thrown seven interceptions.
Slot receiver Paul Dombrowski leads the team with 35 receptions for 404 yards.
The Aggies will operate without a huddle most of the time, making calls at the line of scrimmage depending on the defensive alignment.
UH's defensive front will have to adjust to the absence of Melila Purcell, who suffered a knee injury last week. Kila Kamakawiwo'ole leads the team with 6 1/2 tackles for losses, including four sacks, from his outside linebacker spot.
When Hawaii has the ball: The Warriors have rolled up more than 407 yards per game this season, but converting those drives into points more consistently will be the key for UH.
Colt Brennan is completing 68 percent of his throws and has 11 touchdowns to four interceptions. Freshman slotbacks Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullen combine for nearly 13 catches and 161 yards per game, emerging as two of the WAC's most productive receivers.
"They run that run-and-shoot, which I'm somewhat familiar with, but there's a few different wrinkles in it, and it has a lot to do with players," NMSU defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer said.
UH ballcarriers figure to become familiar with NMSU linebacker Jimmy Cottrell by the end of the night. Cottrell ranks second in the nation in tackles with 14.7 stops per game.
Special teams: NMSU leads the conference in net punting thanks to Brad Evans' 41.3 yards per kick and a coverage unit allowing 3.2 yards per return.
Both teams have true freshmen handling kicking duties. UH's Dan Kelly is 4-for-6 on field-goal attempts and 10-for-12 on PATs.
NMSU's Conor Foley has made all nine of his PATs and three of six field goals.
BACK TO TOP
Hawaii offensive line vs. New Mexico State front 7
The Warriors line prides itself on providing quarterback Colt Brennan the time to scan the field and find open receivers.
The Aggies know they'll need to put pressure on the sophomore to disrupt the timing of the attack and keep UH from rolling up big passing numbers.
NMSU has a league-low four sacks this season, probably due partly to the fact that opponents have elected to run more after building early leads.
But given UH's preference for the pass, defensive coordinator Woody Widenhofer may turn the Aggies' linebackers loose to turn up the heat on Brennan.
"Woody, in the past, has pressured. He's doing a little more zone blitzing than he did before, but that's kind of the wave of the league," Jones said. "He's going to pick his spots and he'll blitz us."
Hawaii's linemen are experienced pass blockers who have seen a variety of defensive packages in their collective careers. If there is a protection breakdown, the nimble Brennan has shown an ability to escape trouble.