By WES NAKAMA
Stephens Media Hawaii
HONOLULU — After getting seemingly closer and closer to a first victory of the football season, the University of Hawaii and its fans were probably looking at Saturday’s Homecoming Game vs. Colorado State as the breakthrough opportunity.
After all, it was widely believed way back in mid-summer that the Rainbow Warriors would be underdogs in their first six games, which turned out to be true.
Colorado State at home on Hawaiian Airlines Field, however … that looked like a game UH should certainly win.
But now, it suddenly looks like yet another big challenge.
The Rams (3-4 overall, 1-1 Mountain West Conference) are coming off a stunning 52-22 rout at Wyoming, a team that won at Air Force, 56-23, and lost by a field goal at Nebraska. Colorado State was also good enough to trail only 17-6 after three quarters at No. 1-ranked and two-time defending national champion Alabama.
Just as scary: The Rams rushed for 290 yards against Wyoming, and quarterback Garrett Grayson completed 18 of 23 passes for 219 yards and three touchdowns.
That is not welcome news for a Rainbow Warriors defense that has allowed an average of 547.7 yards in its past three games, including 208 rushing.
Until this past weekend, the common thought was that the second half of UH’s schedule would be much easier than the first, which included Pac-12 opponents USC and Oregon State as well as No. 15 Fresno State plus a road trip to Nevada.
But upon closer inspection, the next six games will not be a whole lot easier: at home vs. an improved Colorado State — kickoff is 6 p.m. Saturday and the game will be televised on Oceanic pay-per-view — back-to-back road games at chilly Utah State (4-4, 3-1) and distant Navy (3-3), home vs. resurgent San Diego State (3-3, 2-0), at frigid Wyoming (4-3, 2-1) on Nov. 23, and then the home finale vs. Army (3-5).
The Rainbow Warriors have no doubt improved on offense since the season opener against USC, but their defense appears to have somehow regressed.
This schedule, though, is unforgiving. So UH fans can only hope the past bye week will result in a refreshed defensive unit that healed some bruised bodies and egos, made the technical adjustments to plug recent big-play holes and rediscovered the stubborn pride shown in the first two games.
Because if not, the second half of the season could turn out to be as painful as the first.
Wes Nakama is a Honolulu-based freelance writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org