Warriors are an obstacle to BSU's WAC, BCS hopes


POSTED: Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hawaii owns it.

Boise State wants it back.

The Warriors ended Boise State's five-year reign atop the Western Athletic Conference last year, capping a perfect run through the league with a victory over the Broncos at Aloha Stadium.






        Kickoff: Tomorrow, 2:05 p.m. HST




Radio: 1420-AM


The line: Boise State by 24



The rematch comes tomorrow in Boise with the 15th-ranked Broncos aiming to maintain their edge early in the WAC race and hopes of busting into a BCS bowl game for the second time in three years.

“;They are the WAC champs,”; Boise State coach Chris Petersen said, “;and if you're going to do anything in the WAC, it starts with Hawaii.”;

After a disappointing loss to San Jose State to start WAC play, Hawaii recovered to win its last two games to stay in contention. The Warriors face a ranked team on the road for the second time in three weeks. The first resulted in an upset of Fresno State on Oct. 4.

Boise State, a 24-point favorite, will try to protect its blue turf before a Friday night ESPN audience and take a step toward reclaiming the title and avenge last year's loss.

“;I know they want payback, everybody wants to pay us back after last season,”; UH coach Greg McMackin said. “;That's just something we deal with.”;

Following is a look at the matchup as Hawaii tries to become the first WAC team to leave Bronco Stadium with a win:

When Hawaii has the ball: The Warriors' emphasis has shifted since quarterback Inoke Funaki settled into the starting role.

Over the last two games, the Warriors have run the ball 59 percent of the time, compared to 30 percent last season. Funaki's ability to break off big gains on draws and rollouts presents a dimension the Broncos haven't faced in past meetings.

“;It's a lot more balanced and certainly different than the Hawaii teams that we've seen in the past,”; Petersen said. “;Now you really have to focus on the run game as well as the pass game, so they are in some ways more challenging.”;

Funaki passed for a career-best 224 yards last week and will face one of the nation's stingiest defenses. The Broncos surrender an average of 11.2 points and gave up more than seven just once this season.

Boise State has allowed teams to break inside its 20 just 12 times, allowing eight scores. Hawaii is tied for first in the WAC in red zone offense, converting on 16 of 18 opportunities.

“;What they do, they do very well and they're always where they're supposed to be,”; UH offensive line coach Brian Smith said. “;They really don't make a lot of mistakes and when they do you have to capitalize and you have to out-execute them.”;

When Boise State has the ball: Freshman Kellen Moore has flourished in running the Broncos offense. Moore, who played for his father at Prosser (Wash.) High, is completing 71 percent of his throws with 10 touchdowns and three interceptions.

“;He does a great job being as young as he is and running this complicated offense,”; McMackin said. “;Coaches' sons have been around it and understand it. He's football smart and he knows the game.”;

Even with Moore's emergence, All-WAC running back Ian Johnson remains a focal point of the offense, though he's carrying a lighter load this year. Johnson shares time in the backfield with speedy Jeremy Avery and leads the Broncos with 322 rushing yards and four touchdowns although his average of 13.2 carries per game is down by five compared to last season.

Hawaii junior R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane is expected to get his second start at linebacker tomorrow alongside Solomon Elimimian and Adam Leonard for a UH defense that sparked the last two wins with 10 takeaways.

Elimimian, who is 10 tackles shy of tying the UH career record, Leonard and safety Keao Monteilh will be largely responsible for keeping the Warriors lined up correctly to counter the Broncos' myriad pre-snap shifts.

Special teams: Big plays in the kicking game proved to be the tipping point in recent meetings between the teams.

The Broncos have blocked 33 kicks since 2002, five against Hawaii, including two PATs last year. Johnson has one of Boise State's three blocks this season and is also returning kicks.

“;We've had the luxury of him playing some special teams and doing some things we wanted to do but couldn't afford to in the past,”; Petersen said.

Hawaii has blocked field goals in the last two games and kicker Dan Kelly has recovered from a shaky start to make five of his last six field goals. Boise State's Kyle Brotzman handles all of the Broncos' kicking duties, and is 5-for-6 on field goals this season and has not missed a PAT in 87 attempts.


Key Matchup

Hawaii defensive line vs. Boise St. offensive line

Control of the line of scrimmage will go a long way to deciding the game as the Warriors try to set the tone early on.

“;Any game that you play you need to start fast and impose your will,”; defensive end David Veikune said.

Veikune has been the Warriors' most productive lineman with 37 tackles, five for losses, and the Warriors' ability to pressure quarterback Kellen Moore with their front four will be critical. Hawaii coach Greg McMackin counted up just 14 plays all season in which Boise State faced a blitz.

“;That means people are afraid to blitz them because their shifts get them fouled up,”; McMackin said.

Boise State senior Andrew Woodruff began the season at guard and moved to tackle last week to try to secure the edge of a line that starts two freshmen and a sophomore and has gone through several shuffles this season.

Hawaii, meanwhile, has added depth to the defensive front with the return of tackle Fale Laeli from injury and end Francis Maka being declared eligible last week.