The Warriors started their 2011 and final WAC campaign off on a good note beating the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs in Ruston by a score of 44-26. The Warriors were led by quarterback Bryant Moniz who had his second consecutive big game. He was 34-55 for 410 yards passing and 4 td’s and threw no interceptions. In his last two games, he has thrown for 834 yards, 11 touchdowns and zero interceptions. The warriors proved why they were picked by the coaches and media as the favorites to win the WAC.
The games started off wacky. Hawaii ended up with the ball to start both halves because of an error by the Louisiana Tech captain. It would turn out to be that kind of night for Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs started the game off well stopping the Warriors then driving down the field and scoring led by Tech Freshman quarterback, Nick Isham and his 2 yard pass to his top receiver Quinton Patton. Hawaii’s John Hardy-Tuliau blocked the point after attempt keeping it a 6-0 Bulldog lead. It was all Hawaii after that. Royce Pollard made his presence felt in a big way. He would catch all three of his touchdown receptions in the first half. The first was a 27 yarder from Bryant Moniz to make it a 6-6 game. Hawaii place kicker Tyler Hadden would miss the point after attempt keeping it a tie game. The Warriors defense would get a big stop on Louisiana Tech’s next offensive drive getting the ball back to an offense that was on fire. Moniz’ second touchdown pass would come soon after, this one a 13 yard back shoulder fade throw to Royce Pollard making it a 13-6 game. Hawaii would not be done as they would tack on another touchdown before the half giving the Warriors a 20-6 halftime lead. Royce Pollard would end up with his second consecutive game with 3 touchdown receptions.
The Warriors had the ball, again, to start the second half but did not take advantage of Louisiana Tech’s mental error. Hawaii got bad field position after warrior kick returner Mike Edwards fumbled the ball deep in his own territory. The warriors would end up punting and giving the bulldogs good field position. Nick Isham would lead a Tech touchdown drive making it a one possession game at 20-13. The Warriors next drive would start off slow as well. Bryant Moniz was forced into a 3rd and long and needed to make a big play. One could sense the Bulldogs were starting to gain some confidence and momentum. That is when the magician, Bryant Moniz would make yet another spectacular play this time keeping the drive alive. He stepped up in the pocket and threw a ball into the right flat to slot backJustin Clapp who made a leaping catch and got the first down. The Bulldog crowd was stunned and silent. The Warriors were now back on track. Moniz would lead a touchdown drive capped off by another great play by the veteran quarterback. It looked as if Moniz was going to be sacked but he made a would be tackler miss, then as he got hit by another Tech defender made a great throw, off his back foot, to warrior slot back Billy-Ray Stutzmann to complete a 6 yard touchdown. That gave Hawaii a 27-13 lead in the third quarter. That is when the wheels started to fall off the bulldog train.. On the ensuing drive, Nick Isham threw a lob pass into the flat that was read by warrior safety Richard Torres who intercepted the pass then cruised into the end zone capping off a 49 yard scoring play. That would give the Hawaii a 34-13 lead. Things went from bad to worse for the bulldogs. On the ensuing kickoff, Louisiana Tech kick returner Lyle Fitte fumbled the ball and Hawaii’s Tank Hopkins would recover and run the ball 16 yards into the end zone to put the bulldogs away for good at 41-13. The warriors would then cruise to a 44-26 victory over the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and improve to 1-0 in conference play. The warriors proved to be the WAC favorite for a reason. They put their past road struggles behind them and came out focused and prepared and got the job done.
Here are my game grades:
Offense A: The warriors were flawless in this aspect of the game. They still have some work to do and could have scored more but they did not turn the ball over. The offensive line gave Moniz the time to hit his receivers down the field. The offensive line also gave warrior running backs some nice holes to run through. This was freshman running back Joey Iosefa’s coming out party. He would rush for 99 yards on 16 carries and also accumulated 28 receiving yards. The offense went up and down the field and scored 44 points on the road in a hostile environment.
Defense B+: The warrior defense was solid. They would get 2 turnovers, 1 touchdown and add 4 more sacks to their season total of 19 (2nd in the nation.) They dominated an offense that gave teams like Houston and Mississippi State trouble. They still need to be more consistent and gave up some quick touchdowns to Tech in the second half. The also need to work on tackling. There were way too many missed tackles in this game and that was one of the reasons they did not get an A grade.
Special Teams B-: Special teams was special in some aspects and not so special in others. They did a solid job covering punts and kicks. They held Tech returner Lyle Fitte (one of the top returners in the country) to only a 14.3 yard average on 3 kick returns. The coverage unit also forced a fumble and returned it for a touchdown. What the warriors still need to work on is point after attempts and field goals. Warrior freshman place kicker Tyler Hadden had a long field goal attempt blocked and missed a point after attempt that was wide right. It is quite obvious that Hawaii needs to improve in this aspect of the game. It is a very important aspect of the game and can be the difference between winning and losing in a close game.
Overall A-: The warriors still have a long way to go to become the team they want to be but after 5 games, they have proved to be a pretty good football team. They went on the road and took care of business in style against a solid opponent on the road. Even the warriors best teams struggled to get wins in Ruston (’07 undefeated Hawaii team won, 45-44.) With this WAC win, the warriors are now in the drivers seat to win the WAC in their penultimate season in the conference. Hawaii has Fresno State and Utah State in the friendly confines of Aloha Stadium. The warriors next toughest conference game will be at altitude in Reno against a rebuilding Nevada Wolfpack team.