Junior transfer Jared Smart had a breakout game against Central Arkansas, racking up a career high 121 receiving yards. Smart was a frequent target for quarterback Cole McDonald, leading all ‘Bows receivers with 10 targets. He hauled in 8 of those targets, including his first career UH touchdown. It wasn’t a perfect performance (more on that later), but it was definitely a sign of things to come. Smart has been on the verge of a breakout throughout the young season, with yard tallies of 68 yards, 81 yards, and 54 yards in the first three weeks. The ‘Bows hope that his strong performance continues throughout the season, giving the another strong target for McDonald alongside Cedric Byrd II and JoJo Ward.
Redshirt freshman Kai Kaneshiro started the season strong against the Arizona Wildcats with his first career interception. His production steeply dropped off however, as he was used sparingly against both Oregon State and Washington. He didn’t register a stat in either of those games. He announced his return in a big way on Homecoming night, picking up his second career interception on Central Arkansas’ first drive of the night and taking the ball back 55-yards for his first career touchdown. The pick-six put ‘Bows on the board first after an early Miles Reed fumble had the Bears thinking upset. Unfortunately, Kaneshiro later left the game after his ankle was rolled up on by a teammate making a tackle.
McDonald continued his strong performance, racking up 300 yards through the air for 4 touchdowns and a season high 78.1% completion rate. He also picked up 31-yards on the ground, including a season high 21-yard carry. With his 4 touchdowns, McDonald surpassed former ‘Bows quarterback Garrett Gabriel to claim 4th on the UH career passing touchdowns list. He now has 50 touchdowns in his Hawai’i career and will have a chance to pass Bryant Moniz (75 TD) later this season. McDonald also did well to spread the wealth, as each of his 4 touchdowns went to a different receiver.
The true freshman announced himself in style to the Aloha Stadium crowd during his home debut. Victor was a surprising addition to the offense after the loss of receiver Melquise Stovall, and he certainly didn’t disappoint. On the second offensive drive of the game, Victor made an acrobatic catch on the sideline to help move the chains. His first career catch later led to a JoJo Ward touchdown, the first offensive score of the game. Deep in the game, with a chance to ice the game, McDonald looked to Victor, finding him for a gain of 16-yards. Victor fought hard through contact to extend the play, and McDonald rewarded his effort on his next toss. Victor took the check down pass from McDonald and fought his way into the end zone for an 11-yard touchdown, the first of his career. It will be interesting to see whether Rolovich continues to get Victor involved in the offensive game plan.
After struggling in back-to-back games, going 1-6 against Oregon State and Washington, the redshirt senior kicker quietly had a nice bounce back game against Central Arkansas. Meskell didn’t attempt any field goals in the blowout, but was perfect on all five of his PAT attempts. It’s a step in the right direction for a kicker that finished with an 83% field goal percentage just a year ago, and Hawai’i will be hoping that Meskell has put his kicking troubles behind him.
The Not So Good
Throughout the first few weeks of the season, the Rainbow Warrior defense struggled with containing the run. Against Arizona and Washington, the ‘Bows gave up nearly 200 rushing yards to each, with 178 and 190 respectively. Against Oregon State, those numbers went through the roof, as Beaver running backs gashed Hawaiʻi for 263 yards on the ground. Although not ideal, those numbers could be forgiven to a degree, as they all came against Pac-12 foes. Against an FCS team, many thought those leaky numbers would finally come to an end. That didn’t exactly come to fruition. Against Central Arkansas, the Hawaiʻi defense gave up 143 rushing yards. All things considered, that number pales in comparison to those that came before it. Things take a turn for the worst however when you account for the fact that 102% of those yards (5 yards were lost from the net gain on a Breylin Smith sack) came from a single running back, Carlos Blackman. Blackman gashed the ‘Bows defense for 147 yards and a touchdown, while throwing for another out of the wildcat formation. One big factor to consider would be the loss of starting linebacker Penei Pavihi prior to the season-opener against Arizona. It’s fair to wonder if that loss has affected the run defense, but one way or another, Pavihi is not slated to return this season. The run defense will have to figure it out as they head into conference play.
For the fourth week in a row, Hawai’i lost the turnover margin. The lone ‘Bows turnover came on Kaneshiro’s pick six, while coughing up the ball on an interception and two lost fumbles. Hawai’i also lost another fumble on a muffed punt. Despite a strong overall game by McDonald, the interception certainly sticks out. The pick was McDonald’s ninth of the season, just one shy of his season total for ALL of last season. It also means that he’s been picked off in every game he’s played this season. After three consecutive Pac-12 teams played, this game against Central Arkansas appeared to be a good opportunity to break that interception streak. McDonald was only picked off once this time around, but nearly threw another two interceptions earlier in the game. Meanwhile, fumble troubles continue to plague the ‘Bows running backs. This time around, it was Miles Reed who coughed up the two fumbles. The turnovers ultimately didn’t take away from what was otherwise a stellar offensive performance, but it’s definitely something the offense has to figure out if the team wants a chance at a bowl game.
The special teams unit lost a pivotal member in returner Melquise Stovall when he went down with an injury last week against Washington. Taking his place this week was receiver Jared Smart. Smart had a break out performance on the offensive end, but the same could not be said of his punt return work. Smart muffed two of the punts he fielded. He fell on the first one to mitigate the damage, but he lost the second one late in the first half to give Central Arkansas one more chance at points before halftime. The defense was able to keep the Bears out of the end zone, but the prime field position at least gave them a field goal. With Stovall set to miss next week’s game in Reno as well, it will be interesting to see who will be back to receive punts. Will Rolovich continue to put his trust in Smart? Or will it be someone new? Two of the options include defensive back Justice Augafa, who is the team’s primary kickoff returner, or Lincoln Victor, who displayed good hands both offensively and on kickoff in is Aloha Stadium debut.