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Getting To Know Michigan’s Week 1 Opponent: Hawaii

Can Hawaii stay competitive against Michigan?

Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images

After starting off the season last Friday in Australia against California (a 51-31 loss), Hawaii now makes yet another long plane trip to face the Wolverines.

Logistics will make this game hard enough on the Rainbow Warriors. Then combine that with a talent gap, and the energy of a home opening game at the Big House... it very well could be a long day for the visiting team. When the game starts at noon eastern time, it will be 6 A.M. in Hawaii. The Warriors have a 1-7 all time record in the eastern time zone, and have been outscored 286-30 in the losses.

The two squads have only faced off twice in their history, with Michigan winning both meetings. As a player, Jim Harbaugh led Michigan to a 27-10 victory in 1986. In 1998, Tom Brady and company beat them 48-17.

Hawaii is coming off a 3-10 year, and their expectations are much different than Michigan’s. Players have stated they will be satisfied with a 5-7 record this season. While there are competitors on the team, that type of mindset, of setting the bar at mediocrity, tends to translate into mediocre or less play on the field.


Hawaii isn’t a complete joke offensively, they can move the chains. When quarterback Ikaika Woolsey is given time to throw, he can deliver some throws with zip and accuracy. Their running game last week against Cal picked up a good chunk of yards, 248 on the day.

The positives of their game don’t shine often enough. The offensive line doesn’t hold up consistently. When a team wants to bring pressure against them, success usually follows. When Woolsey is pressured, he forces throws into coverage and becomes highly inaccurate. His completion percentage was under 50% last season, he was 17-34 last week, and I don’t expect Woolsey to complete over half of his passes against Michigan. The Wolverines secondary should be able to catch at least one or two interceptions. Don Brown’s defensive scheme should wreak havoc, limiting the rush yards and then feasting in predictable pass situations.

Then there’s an area where an inferior team cannot mess up, and that is in the realm of penalties. Last week on offense alone Hawaii had 6 penalties for 52 yards.

  • Not a single receiver has a catch rate over 60%
  • Ranked 121st in FBS Total Yards Per Game in 2015
  • Ranked 118th in scoring offense in 2015
  • Led by first year coach Nick Rolovich (Previously an offensive coordinator at Nevada and Hawaii)
  • Shotgun-Spread Offense


Hawaii didn’t fare well against Cal on defense, every level was exposed. The defensive line rarely won a battle in either pass or run defense. Most of the time Cal held their D-linemen in check with little resistance. I don’t foresee Michigan having much of an issue holding their own against this unit. By the end of the first half Hawaii’s front should be completely worn out from Michigan’s ground and pound approach. Hawaii gave up 189 yards rushing against Cal. But what was more noticeable is the amount of time Cal had to to set up pass plays.

Hawaii’s secondary shows promise, with many competitive plays throughout the game displaying good coverage and technique. They held up the first half vs Cal, but then the wheels fell off. From the lackluster d-line play the secondary and linebackers became gassed and receivers started getting open with ease. On the day, Hawaii allowed 441 yards through the air.

Warriors defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa, was on Michigan Defensive Coordinator Don Brown’s staff at Boston College as their secondary coach. Lempa has an impressive resume, with 42 years of experience. His insights into Brown’s scheme will be important if they hope to make the game competitive. And serving under a coach with the pedigree as Brown would make one think Hawaii’s defense will improve as the season unfolds. Lempa runs a 4-3 defensive scheme.

Other Notes

  • Three Running Backs: Diocemy Saint rushed for 118 yards and a touchdown against Cal. Steven Lakalaka and Paul Harris both had touchdowns rushing as well. All three averaged more than five yards per carry.
  • Safety Trayvon Henderson: The biggest presence on defense last week, Henderson had 12 tackles.
  • Michigan is a 40.5 point favorite to win the game