What: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Where: Camp Randall Stadium (Madison, WI)
When: Sept. 26, 7:00 P.M. CT
Radio: Badger Sports Network
Odds: WISC -24.5; O/U 50.5

Scouting Report: Hawaii

The Rainbow Warriors come into Camp Randall for the first night game at the stadium since 2012. Behind head coach Norm Chow, a proven college football coach and offensive mind at BYU and USC among other schools, Hawaii brings in a pretty solid team to face off against the Corey Clement-less Badgers.

In their first game of the season, Hawaii defeated one of the worst teams in the Pac-12 in Colorado at home behind senior quarterback and USC transfer Max Wittek. The Warriors won 28-20 behind Wittek’s three touchdowns. The Rainbow Warriors did a pretty decent job on one of the nation’s top receivers in Nelson Spruce. They forced three turnovers in a defensive battle that included 16 punts, which was a great opener for the team to understand the importance of turnovers and field position.

Hawaii’s second game of the season was against the defending national champion and one of Wisconsin’s biggest rivals in Ohio State, and this game gave us more of an idea of Hawaii’s identity. The Buckeyes shut out the Rainbow Warriors 38-0, but the game was actually closer than the score indicated. Hawaii did not give up a passing touchdown to Cardale Jones or J.T. Barrett and pretty much shut them down. Ezekiel Elliot scored three touchdowns at the goal line and racked up 101 yards on 27 carries (3.74 yards per carry). Unfortunately for Hawaii, they just couldn’t get anything going on offense, and Wittek had a miserable day throwing for 67 yards on two interceptions and only completing seven of 24 passes on the day. Hawaii was 2-14 on third down, and they only had 165 total yards. A fumble from a misplayed handoff toward the end of the game led to a defensive touchdown and solidified the defensive victory for the Buckeyes.

In the team’s third matchup, Hawaii faced a mid-major and winless UC-Davis team. They destroyed the Aggies 47-27 behind Wittek’s two touchdown passes and running backs Paul Harris and Melvin Davis combining for three touchdowns and 192 yards on 23 total carries. The majority of Harris’ yards came on a 95-yard touchdown run. UC-Davis actually only turned the ball over once and dominated the time of possession 39:58 to 20:02, but the Rainbow Warriors won on big plays.

Takeaways from the Tape

Obviously, the team with as much (and way more) talent as Wisconsin is Ohio State. In that game, Hawaii actually did a great job of containing the Buckeyes’ offense, they just couldn’t get anything going on the ground. Wittek stood out to me in the other two games for his pocket presence and precision, but he noticeably struggled against pressure.

The player that caught my attention the most throughout watching their previous games was wide receiver Marcus Kemp (#14). He is a big and strong receiver, standing at 6’4″, 200 pounds, that could give the Badgers some trouble in this one if they cannot get consistent pressure on Wittek. Kemp had a long touchdown reception after breaking a tackle against Colorado that really stood out to me. He was named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list before the season, which makes a lot of sense.

Their defensive unit is a hard-hitting bunch, as seen in the tape and noted by Badgers’ head coach Paul Chryst. As Chryst told reporters this week, “I think they’re a team that loves the physical part of the game and they’ve got some guys that — I think their schemes play to that and I think they’ve got some really good football players.”

Wisconsin: Keys to Victory

  1. Balanced offensive attack: As you have heard by now, running back Corey Clement will out at least four to six weeks after he gets sports hernia surgery. Clement may not even return this season (and redshirt) depending on well the Badgers are playing. With the Badgers finally showing a balanced offense with quarterback Joel Stave’s improvements, Clement’s injury really will not change as much as people would expect this season. The Badgers will be facing a test against this Hawaii defense, and Clement’s replacements Dare Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal need to step up. The Rainbow Warriors have a lot of great tacklers led by defensive lineman Kennedy Tulimasealii (3.5 tackles for loss) and inside linebacker Jerrol Garcia-Williams (leads team in solo tackles), so it will be up to the Badgers’ rushing tandem to find the holes. Additionally, I think the Badgers will use Tanner McEvoy more out of the wild cat formation this week, giving a creative identity to the rushing attack. And it goes out without saying that Stave will need to find more than Alex Erickson in the passing attack and spread the (Reggie) Love (no pun intended) to keep the Warriors on their toes.
  2. Offensive line: Of course, the running backs can only find the holes and Stave can only stay of trouble with the proper blocking. The right side of the line has been a work in progress all season, but this will be their toughest task since Alabama. Hawaii native Micah Kapoi should be getting the start at right guard with Walker Williams’ status still in question. Regardless, Williams would likely share time with starting right tackle Hayden Biegel and possibly even Jacob Maxwell. The left side of the line has been very solid with Tyler Marz and Michael Deiter, but the Badgers do not run the ball on that side nearly as much as the right. It will be up to Marz and Deiter to solidify that side in this one and limit the penalties.
  3. Defense wins championships: The Badgers are currently tied for 13th in the nation in points allowed, giving up 12.7 per game, and 28th in yards against. After looking into what Hawaii will bring to the table, I think the key to the Badgers’ success is their defense this week. As we’ve seen in the past two weeks with them only giving up three points to Miami (OH) and Troy combined, Wisconsin’s defense is this team’s identity. Hawaii played extremely well defensively against Ohio State, but they couldn’t put any points on the board. If Wisconsin can contain Wittek and add pressure from outside linebackers Vince Biegel and Joe Schobert, they should be able to force a few turnovers and mistakes. It will be interesting to see how newly promoted inside linebacker starter Chris Orr responds after his 14-tackle performance last week. Lastly, cornerbacks Sojourn Shelton and Darius Hillary and possibly even Derrick Tindal will be tasked with handling the elite Kemp and emerging receiver Devan Stubblefield.
  4. Time of possession: Football minds will say winning the turnover battle, time of possession, and limiting penalties are the keys to victories. That doesn’t change here, but I want to emphasize time of possession. The Warriors have only averaged having the ball for a little over 23 minutes in their first three games, and the Badgers need to make the most of their possessions. Of course, the same was true for Troy last week, and they had the ball a lot more than we expected; however, the Badgers will likely slow it down this week and do their best to tire the strong Hawaii defense.

Key Notes from the Game Notes

  • The Badgers are 37-30 all-time in night games, including a 12-5 mark at Camp Randall Stadium.
  • Saturday will mark the fourth meeting between Hawai’i and Wisconsin since 2000. The only non-conference opponent UW has faced more often in that time frame is UNLV (six games). The Badgers also have faced Fresno State and Northern Illinois
    four times each since 2000.
  • In the teams’ last meeting, in 2009, Wisconsin rolled to a 51-10 win behind 253 passing yards from QB Scott Tolzien and 172 rushing yards and three touchdowns from RB John Clay.
  • The Badgers seek their 35th-consecutive win in a non-conference home game, which would match Nebraska for the seventh-longest streak in NCAA history.
  • Among teams that have played two home games, the Badgers are tied with Illinois for the fewest points allowed at home this season (3). Since Dave Aranda took over as UW’s defensive coordinator in 2013, the Badgers have allowed an average of 11.4 points per game at home — the best mark of any FBS team in that time frame.
  • Wisconsin held Miami (Ohio) to -3 yards rushing, the sixth-lowest total ever allowed
    by a UW defense and the fewest rushing yards allowed since Northern Illinois rushed for -13 yards on Oct. 20, 2007.
  • Wisconsin defensive coordinator Dave Aranda spent four seasons on the staff at Hawai’i from 2008-11 under previous head coach Greg McMackin. Aranda was UH’s defensive line coach in 2008 and 2009 before taking over as defensive coordinator in 2010 and 2011. Aranda’s 2010 defense led the nation in turnovers (38).
  • Hawaii is 1-18 all-time against ranked opponents away from home (road or neutral site). The Rainbow Warriors’ only such win was in 2008 at Fresno State. Hawaii is 9-21 against current members of the Big Ten, including 1-7 on the road. The Rainbow Warriors one road win against a current Big Ten member came in 1955 at Nebraska.

Sources: ESPN, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the University of Hawaii.