With so many Pac-12 teams on the schedule, Hawaii coach Norm Chow must feel like he’s back in the conference.
The Rainbow Warriors (1-2) hosted Washington, then Oregon State and now travel to Boulder, Colorado, on Saturday to tackle the Buffaloes (1-2).
Almost like old times for Chow, who had stints in the league as offensive coordinator for USC, UCLA and Utah.
Chow even joked that the schedule-makers sure made it formidable for the Mountain West squad. This will be the Rainbow Warriors’ first road trip of the season as they venture more than 3,300 miles to meet a Colorado squad that threw a brief scare at No. 15 Arizona State last weekend, before falling 38-24.
“We’ll play them. The kids are excited,” Chow said in an interview on the school’s website. “It’s nice to get on the road: 64 guys have to bond together.”
This contest will feature starting quarterbacks of Polynesian lineage — Ikaika Woolsey (Hawaiian) and Sefo Liufau (Samoan). Woolsey, a sophomore from Rodeo, California, has thrown for 631 yards this season. He also tossed his first career TD pass last weekend in a 27-24 win over Northern Iowa, one of the top FCS programs.
“He has to learn and has to grow,” Chow said of Woolsey. “He knows he missed three or four big plays. He can’t afford to do that.”
Liufau knows the feeling. Colorado was driving late in the game when Liufau, a sophomore from Tacoma, Washington, threw his second interception of the night. The Buffaloes had more total yards (545-426) than the Sun Devils, but couldn’t rally after spotting them an early 17-0 lead.
“It’s just simple things that can change the game,” said Liufau, who lived in Hawaii for two years when he was a kid. “I’ve looked at it and I’ve learned from it.
“We lost a game that we feel like we should have won, but nobody is hanging their heads this week.”
Things to consider as the Rainbow Warriors make the first of two trips to Colorado this season (they also play Colorado State in Fort Collins on Nov. 8):
WINNING WAYS: Hawaii has winning records against only two Pac-12 schools — Colorado (2-1) and Washington State (3-2). The last time the Rainbow Warriors played the Buffaloes was Sept. 3, 2011, in a home game they won, 34-17. There was talk about the 2015 season opener between the two schools being played in Japan, but it never materialized and will be in Honolulu.
PUNT SPECIALIST: Punter Scott Harding also returns punts for Hawaii. He’s averaging 40.7 yards on 25 punts and 10.6 yards on 10 punt returns. Asked if his punter, Darragh O’Neill, might multi-task like that one day, Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said: “He’s a good enough athlete but, I don’t think he’s ever caught one back there. … I guess (Harding) is such a good punter that he can just catch it himself. Maybe that’s how he learned how to do both.”
HISTORY LESSON: Last season, the Buffs played UCLA relatively close, 45-23, and then fell flat the following week against Washington, losing 59-7. They’re trying to guard against that happening again. “I think that overall, we’re a better team than we were in the UCLA game,” MacIntyre said. “So, I think that we’ll keep it going. … Our attention to detail is better.”
SCHOOL TIES: Hawaii offensive line coach Chris Naeole was an All-American lineman while at Colorado in the mid-1990s. He played in the NFL for 11 years with the New Orleans Saints and Jacksonville Jaguars.
WEATHER, MAN: MacIntyre was quite impressed that it snowed last week in Boulder and then quickly warmed up 80 degrees for practice this week. “I love the weather in Colorado, but somebody has got to explain it to me,” MacIntyre said. The temperature around kickoff on Saturday is almost Honolulu-like — mostly sunny and 75 degrees.