ANNAPOLIS, Md. >> It’s quite fitting that Hawaii and Navy have engaged in a two-game, home-and-home football series.
Although the two programs are far apart in terms of miles, they are very closely connected.
Navy’s current run of success is due largely to the efforts of coaches that are products of the Hawaii program. It all begins with Bob Wagner, who now resides in Annapolis.
As head coach at Hawaii from 1987 through 1985, Wagner hired Paul Johnson as offensive coordinator, gave Ken Niumatalolo his first full-time job in coaching and recruited Ivin Jasper.
Johnson left Hawaii to become offensive coordinator at Navy under head coach Charlie Weatherbie. In order to install the triple option in Annapolis, Johnson needed coaches familiar with the offense, so he convinced Weatherbie to hire Niumatalolo and Jasper.
After Johnson enjoyed a successful run at Navy, he left for Georgia Tech and was replaced by Niumatalolo, who will lead the Midshipmen against Hawaii on Saturday.
Here are five things to watch for in Saturday’s game at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium:
HAWAII WINLESS: Hawaii is still searching for its first win of the season and will have to overcome a nightmare road trip in order to get it. The Rainbow Warriors have been traveling for 10 days on a trip covering 9,863 miles, seven airports and six time zones. Hawaii’s football team got stuck in the Los Angeles airport due to the shooting incident on Nov. 1 and did not arrive in Ogden, Utah until 12 hours before kickoff of last Saturday’s game against Utah State. After getting routed 47-10, the Rainbow Warriors flew to the nation’s capital and spent this past week at a hotel in Greenbelt, Md. while practicing at Bowie State University. Hawaii, one of five remaining winless teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision, has lost 11 straight road games dating back to 2011.
BOUNCING BACK: Navy is coming off a 38-34 loss at Notre Dame. The Midshipmen had the ball in the home team’s territory with a chance to win with a touchdown, but were stopped on fourth down. Niumatalolo has not been pleased with the way the Midshipmen have played following emotional, energy-draining games. After beating service academy rival Air Force, Navy traveled to Duke and was routed 35-7. He hopes the team, which has won two in a row just once this season, responds better to the disappointing defeat at Notre Dame.
POSSIBLE SHOOTOUT: Both teams have piled up the points at times this season while both defenses have struggled. Hawaii has scored 37 points twice and lost while Navy was beaten in games it scored 34 and 44 points. Hawaii ranks 111th out of 123 FBS teams in total defense (474.5 yards allowed) while Navy stands 74th (406.5 yards) in that category.
POLYNESIAN HEAD COACHES: This matchup pits two Polynesian head coaches for the first time in FBS history. Niumatalolo, a native of Laie, Hawaii, remains the first and only head coach of Samoan descent at this level. Second-year Hawaii head coach Norm Chow was also born and raised on Honolulu.
MISTAKES ARE COSTLY: Navy ranks No. 1 nationally in fewest penalties per game (2.75) while Hawaii is 102nd (7.1) in that category. The Midshipmen stand seventh nationally in fewest turnovers with eight while the Rainbow Warriors are 117th in turnover margin (19 committed, nine forced).