Rainbow Warriors looking to 'amp it up' against Wyoming

Rainbow Warriors looking to 'amp it up' against Wyoming
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - There's nothing like a cold, wet football game against a rival to kickoff Mountain West Conference play.

Tomorrow, the Rainbow Warrior football team will take on the Wyoming Cowboys in their conference opener, with the Paniolo Trophy on the line at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie, Wyoming.

After winning the Paniolo Trophy back in 2014 after the Cowboys had maintained possession of it since 1993, the Warriors aren't travelling to play in the cold on the road just to give up the trophy.

The Warriors (2-1) are 15-23 all-time in conference openers, including a 3-5 mark against Wyoming. Wyoming leads the all-time series 13-9.

Hawaii is coming off its bye week after suffering its first loss of the season against UCLA, 56-23, while Wyoming (1-2) suffered a blowout defeat of its own, a 49-13 home loss to Oregon.

Against the Ducks, the Cowboys struggled in every facet of the game, particularly passing the ball downfield on offense.

For all the fanfare surrounding Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen and how he could be a top pick in next year's NFL Draft, he had a rough showing against Oregon.

And that's putting it lightly.

Last weekend, Allen went 9-of-24 passing (37.5 percent) for 64 yards. He threw zero touchdowns and had one interception. Allen is regarded as a dual-threat quarterback, but he wasn't given much time by his over-matched offensive line against Oregon, where he rushed eight times for 25 yards, a 3.1 yards per carry.

But even after watching his poor performance against Oregon, Warriors head coach Nick Rolovich isn't overlooking Allen's skill-set.

"He's incredibly talented," Rolovich said after practice earlier this week before leaving for Wyoming. "I know he said that he doesn't have the weapons he had last year, and that may have something to do it … but we need to just play better on defense all-around. It starts with conference play."

For the second game in a row, the Warriors defense will be going up against an elite quarterback prospect in Allen after Josh Rosen of UCLA took a part Hawaii's secondary.

Daniel Lewis Jr., one of the leaders on defense for the Warriors, said that their defense won't get walked over again this weekend.

"If we play our defense, if we play our style of defense, we're gonna hit him (Allen) a lot," Lewis said. "That's our intentions. He's got hit a lot already this season, so we're gonna amp it up more, send pressure at him like we do and just play our keys and stay sound, defensively, on the back end."

While Lewis and his fellow Warriors hope to get Allen on his back with regularity, similar to the way the Ducks created pressure last weekend, he understands what Allen is capable of if defenses get too greedy against him.

"I think he's a great prospect, like they say. Real strong guy, he's a big that's able to make defenders miss," Lewis said. "He can make plays with his feet and he's not afraid to throw the ball all the way across the field. He has a strong arm, and he's not afraid to show it off."

What's being overlooked in tomorrow's fixture, however, is the fact that Hawaii as a potent offense in its own right.

After scoring 23 points on the road against UCLA in a game where they out-gained the Bruins in total yards, the Warriors can hang around with anytime as long as the score remains close.

Putting points on the board will be the mission for Rolovich and the rest of the offense, where they will look to expose Wyoming's defense if an opportunity arises.

"I think they're really impressive on defense," Rolovich said. "I think they run around, play hard, they're physical. They got good pass rushers, I know the coordinator I know how he works. He's a professional and these guys look like they bought in."

The Warriors will look to take the Paniolo Trophy back to Honolulu, along with the team's third win of the season and first in conference play. Hawaii vs. Wyoming will be broadcast live on ESPN2 at 4:15 p.m. HT (8:15 p.m. MT).

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