B-Y-U (8-3) at Hawaii (6-6)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 3rd, 7:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Aloha Stadium (50,000) -- Honolulu, Hawaii. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: BYU 6-1, Hawaii 4-2. Away Record: BYU 2-2, Hawaii 2-4. Neutral Record: BYU 0-0, Hawaii 0-0. Conference Record: BYU 0-0, Hawaii 3-4. Series Record: Hawaii leads, 19-8.
GAME NOTES: With their postseason plans already set, the BYU Cougars now turn their attention to the Hawaii Warriors as the teams close out the regular season against each other on Saturday at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu.
BYU, which is penciled in for the annual Armed Forces Bowl on December 30, has won two straight decisions and is 8-3 overall this season after leaving the Mountain West Conference and becoming an Independent. Two weeks ago the team closed out its home slate with a 42-7 rout of New Mexico State, just seven days after posting the same exact score against Idaho, another member of the Western Athletic Conference. The Cougars are a perfect 4-0 versus WAC foes this season, which is not a good sign for a Hawaii team that is just trying to get through the campaign without any more injuries.
The Warriors, who lost starting quarterback Bryant Moniz to injury several weeks ago, snapped a three-game slide last week with a 35-23 non-conference victory over Tulane. The team is currently 6-6 and needs a win this weekend in order to become bowl eligible and again host the Hawaii Bowl for what would be the seventh time.
BYU owns a 19-8 edge in the all-time series with the Warriors, putting up a 35-32 win in the most recent meeting in 2002 on the mainland. The last time the Cougars traveled to Honolulu they demolished the hosts in an ugly 72-45 final that saw the two teams generate close to 1,300 yards of total offense.
Once again this season the Cougars have had to do some juggling at the quarterback position, but at least the moves have paid off in the long run with eight wins in 11 opportunities. Riley Nelson missed the meeting with New Mexico State because of injury, which left Jake Heaps to direct the offense to an overwhelming win. Heaps is averaging just over 180 ypg passing for the squad, but he has almost as many interceptions (eight) as he does passing scores so it is clear that he still has some issues with decision marking. But no matter who is making the throws, Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo are the ones doing the most damage in the receiving game with a combined 13 touchdowns on 76 catches. Coming out of the backfield a host of backs are making themselves available to help the team generate 165.7 ypg.
Take away the two matchups against former Mountain West Conference rivals, Utah and TCU, and the scoring defense for the Cougars would be near the top of the charts. But as it stands, this group is permitting only 20.4 ppg which is 24th in the nation and the 318.5 ypg permitted represents the 17th-best mark in the country heading into this week's action. Kyle Van Noy has played like a man possessed for BYU, placing second on the squad with 55 tackles, of which 10 have been made behind the line of scrimmage. He is also first on the team with five sacks and eight quarterback hurries, added three interceptions, a couple of forced fumbles and a blocked kick to his stat line. Losing Jordan Pendleton to a knee injury has forced the linebacking corps to realign itself since he was second on the team in both TFLs (8.5) and sacks (4.0) in just seven games.
Against a visiting Tulane crew, David Graves and Shane Austin combined to hit on 30-of-48 passes for 358 yards and a couple of interceptions, although Graves did toss a pair of TDs and also ran for another in the much-needed victory at home. Running back Joey Iosefa made an impression for the hosts with 12 carries for 63 yards and two touchdowns of his own as the team generated 482 yards of total offense. Iosefa has provided the team with some crucial yardage in clutch situations this season and leads the team with 541 yards overall, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. However, even with Iosefa playing a significant role on offense, everyone knows the Warriors operate first and foremost as a passing team and that's where Graves comes in with 57.5 percent accuracy ahead of Austin who has just one passing score and three interceptions.
The Warriors ran 72 offensive plays against Tulane and allowed the Green Wave to produce 70 snaps of their own, but the difference between the productivity was like night and day as the visitors managed just 287 total yards. Aaron Brown and Tank Hopkins both logged interceptions for Hawaii, but still the team has a negative turnover margin on the season overall. Brown is now tied for the team lead in interceptions with both John Hardy-Tuliau and Richard Torres with three apiece, the big difference being that the latter has returned two of his picks for scores this year. But in addition to being a quality pass defender, Brown is also second on the team in both total tackles (95) and TFLs (11.0) and has made 3.5 sacks. Then again the stats show that Hardy-Tuliau has not only three forced fumbles in 2011, he also has been credited with a staggering four blocked kicks.
Even though opponents often have trouble playing out on the island, BYU is not a team that will be easily intimidated and with the Warriors juggling their quarterback position you can be sure the Cougars will be shaking things up from the opening kick on defense.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: BYU 35, Hawaii 27
11/30 11:42:42 ET