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2018 Hawaii game page

HOUSTON (Sept. 6) – Wheels are down for the Rice football team in Honolulu today, and the first item on the agenda for Owl head man Mike Bloomgren is to take his charges on a respectful tour of Pearl Harbor, which we’ve all grown up learning was the site of the most dastardly sneak attack on the sovereignty of the United States in its now 250-odd-year history.

Come Friday morning, the South Main boys will get to take the launch out and stand and watch the oil slowly ooze from the sunken hull of the U.S.S. Arizona, and be moved.

Next on the menu for the Owls, however, will be strictly business. And in that respect, they well might take a cue from their brief digression into history, and come up with a sneak attack of their own that will surprise and shock the presently high-strutting Hawaii (formerly Rainbow-) Warriors.

The local Ohana are fired up about football again with the emergence of the seemingly unstoppable run-and-shoot passing attack of Coach Nick Rolovich, ably led by his soph quarterback Cole McDonald.

Despite being a cumulative 30-point ‘dog in their first two outings, the Warriors blew past Colorado State on the road, 43-34, and then overwhelmed Navy on the island, 59-41, racing away from the Middies after taking an early 28-0 lead.

In those two games, McDonald threw for nine TDs, zero interceptions, and 846 yards. And the guy was supposed to be just a second-stringer. When the Warriors’ two-year starting quarterback transferred back to the mainland, the staff unexpectedly was forced to push the lightly-used McDonald into the starting role this season.

Beyond that, Hawaii coaches had to install four new starters in the offensive line, including true freshmen at tackle and guard and a JUCO transfer, Kohl Levao, at right tackle.

Meanwhile, three of the four starting receivers are junior-college transfers who’ve been running and catching and catching and running like crazy in the locals’ first two games. It’s a great life – catching balls, catching surf, with little in the way of academic requisites to sideline their attention from the task at hand.

And it’s the same old John Jenkins run-and-shoot, but with some added wrinkles thrown in – like a shovel pass that’s an integral part of the game plan. The QB and receiver basically make it up as they go along, reacting to defensive sets in determining route patterns.

Meanwhile, for the OL, it’s pretty much “max protection” each play, every play. And a lot of deep balls thrown, and plays made.

Sounds like a nightmare for the ponderous Owl defensive secondary, which has seen wideouts zoom right past them for multiple big–play scores in both their first two outings.

Not to mention the fact that one Owl secondary man who has distinguished himself in early play, safety Tyrae Thornton, is out for this game with injury.

So what’re Owl defenders to do under these revolting circumstances? Well, they might could take a cue from the approach taken on the Islands by a previous Rice mentor Ken Hatfield, who knocked out some pretty stout Hawaii offenses back in the day when the teams were conference foes, by simply playing smash-mouth football.

In one case, the Hat didn’t even ground his charges on Oahu until just before kickoff, spending several days in an out-of-the-way, faded resort on one of the outlying islands, and working out on the grass-bare golf course there.

It worked. The Owls were strictly business come game time. The Rice defense, led by future Dallas Cowboy Travis Ortega, landed forearm after forearm into Rainbow Warrior chin straps.

Meanwhile, running quarterback Chad Richardson did just that, continually gouging the Hawaii defense for first-down-earning runs, moving the rock and eating the clock.

It’s Rice best chance to pull off a ‘W’ in this meeting as well. Other team can’t score as long as you hold onto the ball and don’t turn it over.

Hawaii’s defense was treated to the luxury of being spotted a huge lead in both their first two games – 37-7 at Colorado State, plus an early-game 28-0 bulge at home against Navy.

Falling behind four touchdowns by the time the sun went down obviously wreaked havoc on the Midshipmen’s game plan. The Owls absolutely cannot allow the Warriors to come out and start piling up points from the get-go.

Pound the rock, run the clock, from opening kickoff – that’s the recipe for the Owley Birds to stay in the thick of this game. That, and a plus-ratio on turnovers of say, two, just might add up to a surprise Owl victory.

Hawaii has zero turnovers in its first two games, but that’s the luck of the draw – their wide-open offense is far from ideal when it comes to ball security.

Colorado State and Navy together ran up a total of just under 1,100 yards total offense aainst this Hawaii team. In both their cases, though, they first let the Warriors jump out to a big lead and had to play catch-up the rest of the game.

The recipe for the Owls: just don’t let that happen. And go out and plain kick some rear end.

In the final analysis, this is not a trip where broadening one’s travel experience really fits in well with the appropriate itinerary.

In fact, Coach Bloom has a better idea. “Hopefully this’ll make them hungry to go back there, maybe go to a bowl game some day for the Hawaii Bowl,” he said Tuesday. “And at that point we’ll take surf lessons and do a little vacation before we lock in.”