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Army Football Mission Planning: Undefeated Hawaii visits West Point

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In Week Three, the Army Black Knights welcome Hawaii to West Point. Will the Rainbow Warrior’s long trip slow down their offense?

NCAA Football: Liberty at Army Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors have gotten off to an incredibly impressive start. After being ranked 129 of 130 in the S&P+ Preseason Rankings, Hawaii owns a record of 3-0. This week, it’s the Army Black Knights turn to host Hawaii, in what will be the Rainbow Warriors second service academy they have faced this year.

In college football’s Week 0, Hawaii traveled to Colorado State, beating the Rams 43-34. This win gained significant attention across the nation, and some even classified the win as an upset. Hawaii continued their “upset” win streak after a dominating performance against the Navy Midshipmen. Although the score read Hawaii 59, Navy 41, the narrative of the game was worse than the score lets on. It should be noted that this was Navy’s first game of the season. Additionally nearly every team makes their biggest improvements on the year between their first and second game. Therefore, with the Midshipmen’s long trip to paradise, and a limited understanding of how good Navy was, many were hesitant to commit to calling this year’s Hawaii team good.

Last week, Hawaii’s performance actually appeared to have gotten even better. Hawaii had no issues handling Rice in a 43-29 victory. This week it is the Rainbow Warrior’s turn to travel across country to take on the Army Black Knights. We take a deeper look at Hawaii’s team and how they match up against Army.

Run and Shoot

During Hawaii’s season opener, quarterback Cole McDonald made a name for himself and started to gain national notoriety. McDonald’s outstanding performance continued in the following games against Navy and Rice. Let’s review some of McDonald’s numbers through the season thus far. In just three games, the sophomore has 13 touchdowns and 1165 yards. That’s an average of over four touchdowns and almost 400 yards per game. Furthermore, McDonald has completed 70.3 percent of his passing attempts.

McDonald isn’t able to do this on his own. He has two wide receivers who are able to make plays in open space. The first of his two favorite targets is John Ursua. Ursua is a deep threat and averages nine receptions a game. The fellow sophomore has totaled five touchdowns on the year and is hungry for more. McDonald’s other popular target is junior college transfer, Cedric Byrd. Byrd is nearly identical to Ursua in his big play making ability and high reception rate. Byrd also has nine catches per game and five touchdowns on the season. Army will need to contain these two if they want to have a chance this week.

One Play to Watch For

In Week 0, Hawaii tore apart Colorado State’s defense with a shovel pass that worked in various offensive situations. Hawaii’s young and inexperienced offensive line has proven the ability to give McDonald enough time to find open receivers. Should Coach Nick Rolovich wanted to employ the shovel pass play this week, he can be confident his offensive line will be able to protect long enough to allow the play to develop.

Defense

The Hawaii defense has a clear leader, and that’s Jahlani Tavai. The native of Redondo Beach, California recorded 124 tackles last year, ranking 10th in the nation. Tavai did not play in the team’s first game at Colorado State. The defensive captain likely sat out due to an arrest that came during the off season. Tavai was arrested for assault during an altercation where he and another teammate were defending a woman. Ultimately, no charges were pressed.

The defense has been the Rainbow Warrior’s weak spot this season, primarily by allowing opponents to score late. Both Colorado State and Navy scored 27 points in the second half of their respective games after Hawaii playing much better in the first. However, Army runs the triple option just like Navy. This will be Hawaii’s second week preparing for a triple option offense of the year. Typically, teams do better the second time around since this offense is so unique. One may argue Navy has better talent on offense than Army...but we will save that for another day. The point is, Army will have to be creative in order to gain yards on this Hawaii defense who has already shown the discipline required to face the triple option.

Special Teams? Sure, why not!

In Week 0 against Colorado State, Hawaii sent two, ambipedal (ambidextrous of the feet, or two-footed) punters onto the field...at the same time. We have not seen what Coach Rolovich is planning to do with this set, but the opportunities are endless. Both punters are of Australian origin and grew up playing Australian Rules Football. Therefore, they have the athleticism to be apart of a potential trick punt play.

So Army, here is your scouting report for this week’s battle. Now, it’s time to execute.