Army hosts high-scoring Hawaii at Michie Stadium
WEST POINT, N.Y. (AP) — After guiding the Black Knights to victory over Liberty in their home opener last week, Army coach Jeff Monken didn’t savor the moment very long. He quickly turned his focus to the next opponent, unbeaten Hawaii.
“They are really, really good,” Monken said. “They’re playing real confident right now.”
Monken, a self-described glutton for punishment, stayed up until the wee hours last Saturday night to watch the Rainbow Warriors put on another show, rolling to their third straight victory of the young season, 43-29 over Rice, in Honolulu.
Now, it’s Monken’s turn to try to ground the high-flying Rainbow Warriors, who received votes this week in the AP Top 25. They visit Army (1-1) on Saturday.
“They’re a tough football team and they play really hard,” said Monken, who started his coaching career as an assistant at Hawaii in 1990. “They are really good at what they do. They’ve done it their first three games and it’s been really impressive to watch.”
At least Army has the advantage of playing at Michie Stadium, where the Black Knights have won eight straight. And there’s the dose of jet lag the Rainbow Warriors had to deal with after their nearly 5,000-mile trip East. It’ll be 6 a.m. back home at the opening kickoff at West Point.
“It’s not so much the trip as it is Army as a team and what they bring to the table,” Hawaii coach Nick Rolovich said. “They’re a physical, disciplined, hard-nosed team. These guys are winning games, they’re tweaking offenses, they’re making things harder than just the triple option.”
Sophomore quarterback Cole McDonald has been the catalyst for the run-and-shoot offense of the Rainbow Warriors. He’s 78 of 111, leads the nation with 1,165 passing yards and 13 TDs, and has not thrown an interception in 120 career pass attempts.
“Coach always talks about not being complacent and having an attitude that we’ve never arrived,” said McDonald, whose 430 yards per game of total offense also leads the nation. “It’s easy to say, ‘OK, we’ve done it. We’re doing good.’ But we have to get better every day. Teams are going to start keying on stuff. We’re just going to have to be disciplined in what we do.
“This team takes a lot of credit to being underdogs, in a good way. I feel like we’re going to rise to the occasion.”
Other things to know when Hawaii plays Army at Michie Stadium on Saturday:
Stifled by Duke in its season-opening loss on the road, Army reverted to form against Liberty with its ground-gobbling option attack. The Black Knights put up 449 yards rushing and held the ball for over 41 minutes behind an array of eight runners. Hawaii ranks 117th in total defense, allowing 7.19 yards per play and 503.3 yards per game.
“You’ve just got to keep your eye discipline and your alignment assignment,” Hawaii defensive back Kalen Hicks said. “You’ve got to stay tuned in at all times and don’t fall asleep.”
Spoken like a guy who just got off a red-eye flight.
Hawaii, which is 3-0 against Army, beat Navy 59-41 two weeks ago as McDonald threw for 428 yards and six touchdowns. The Rainbow Warriors scored on their first six possessions and racked up 522 total yards. Navy had 326 rushing yards but possession time was just about equal.
“I know they’ve got a plan,” Monken said.
Hawaii slotback receivers Cedric Byrd and John Ursua have combined for 53 catches, 742 yards and 10 touchdowns (five apiece). Ursua tops the nation with 423 receiving yards and total offense (430). At least Army has passed a big test. The Black Knights held Liberty’s 6-foot-4, 220-pound Antonio Gandy-Golden to three catches for 33 yards. Gandy-Golden led the Sun Belt Conference last year with over 1,000 receiving yards.
Hawaii has scored on its opening possession in all three games and has not trailed this season. The Rainbow Warriors failed to score on their opening possession in all 12 games last season.
The trip to West Point is Hawaii’s second-longest trek for a game in the continental U.S. (4,955 miles). The longest was last year’s trip to UMass in Amherst, Massachusetts (5,006). The Rainbow Warriors are 2-10 all-time in the Eastern time zone, but one of those victories was 31-28 over Army in 2010, their first visit to Michie Stadium. The last time Hawaii played a game that started at noon in the East was in 2016 at Michigan, a week after playing Cal in Australia, and the Rainbow Warriors lost 63-3.