The Opponent: Hawaii Warriors
When: August 26, 2023, 6:30 PM CT on SEC Network
Where: FirstBank Stadium
Last year: 3-10 (2-6 MWC.) This actually understates things a bit, because the wins were against FCS Duquesne (24-14), 2-10 Nevada (31-16), and 5-7 UNLV (31-25.) It turns out that Hawaii was bad, but the Mountain West also had a bunch of bad teams. On the other hand, they lost five games by three scores or more, including...
The last time we saw these guys: ...Vanderbilt stomping them 63-10 in the season opener. Vanderbilt rolled up 601 yards of total offense, and for a brief moment we thought Mike Wright was the quarterback of the future and the defense had figured a few things out after the dreadful 2021 season. Reality set in a bit the next week against FCS Elon and really set in against Wake Forest a couple of weeks later.
Series record: Vanderbilt leads, 1-0.
Former Rainbows quarterback Timmy Chang took over after Todd Graham got thrown into the volcano, and in a no-win situation managed to squeeze out three wins. That was at least enough to make you think maybe there’s a future here. I don’t really have much else to write about the guy, but let’s just say that last season could have been even worse than it was.
Well, both quarterbacks who played for Hawaii last season are back. But neither one of them did a whole lot — the better of the two, Brayden Schager, averaged less than six yards per attempt and threw nearly as many interceptions (10) as touchdowns (13.) Vanderbilt also saw a bit of Joey Yellen, who completed 40-of-87 passes last season. Gone are the team’s leading rusher and three of its top five pass catchers, though backup RB Tylan Hines (83 carries, 634 yards, 2 TD) showed a lot of promise as a true freshman.
Now, let’s get to the really bad news: four starting offensive lineman are gone, with only starting center Eliki Tanuvasa returning. And Hawaii surprisingly didn’t add much in the transfer portal: 6’4”, 315-pound tackle Joshua Atkins was a three-star recruit out of high school, but didn’t play in two seasons at Houston. Wide receiver Steven McBride played sparingly at Kansas. This offense could be brutally bad, and while it was brutally bad last season — that team had an experienced offensive line. This one won’t.
Hawaii’s defense legitimately can’t get much worse than it was in 2022, and probably won’t, with seven starters back. (This could also be a bad thing, I guess.) They also might have gotten some help from the transfer portal, with some Pac-12 transfers in DL Kuao Pelhopa (Washington), LB Patrick Hisatake (Cal), and DB Oakie Salave’a (Colorado) as well as an intriguing up-transfer from Eastern Washington in Josh Jerome.
Is that enough to improve a defense that gave up 34.7 ppg and 6.6 yards per play? Who knows. Maybe the most striking thing about Hawaii’s defense is that I can’t even tell who the stars are. Are there any?
Matthew Shipley handled both punting and placekicking duties for Hawaii last season and is fine at the placekicking, making 34-of-41 field goals over the last two seasons with a career long of 49. Not too much distance, but he’s pretty accurate. The return game was basically nonexistent.
- August 26 at Vanderbilt
- September 1 vs. Stanford
- September 9 vs. Albany
- September 16 at Oregon
- September 23 vs. New Mexico State
- September 30 at UNLV
- October 14 vs. San Diego State
- October 21 at New Mexico
- October 28 vs. San Jose State
- November 4 at Nevada
- November 11 vs. Air Force
- November 18 at Wyoming
- November 25 vs. Colorado State
Probably bad! Hawaii’s roster is still shot from Todd Graham torching the place on the way out, and Chang’s first recruiting class ranked 117th and wasn’t very heavy on transfers, either. The defense probably won’t be worse, but it’s hard to see where it’s improved all that much; meanwhile, the offense lost four starters on the line and that was off an offense that already wasn’t very good. Bill Connelly’s SP+ had Hawaii 131st (of 133 FBS teams) and that sounds about right. The Mountain West has enough bad teams that Hawaii might be able to find three or four wins again, but I doubt they’ll give Vanderbilt much trouble.