Warriors gear up for reigning WAC champs Boise State

The Warriors return to Honolulu for the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) home opener against three-time reigning WAC champion Boise State. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:05 p.m., Saturday at Aloha Stadium.

Hawai’i, coming off its first win of the season with a 24-0 shutout at Idaho, looks to upset a Boise State team that is picked to win the WAC again this season. The Broncos, who have dominated the WAC for the past three seasons with a perfect 24-0 record, opened their 2005 campaign with losses to No. 6 Georgia (13-48) and unranked Oregon State (27-30) before earning their first win last week over Bowling Green (48-20).

Hawai’i holds an overall record of 2-4 against the Broncos and is 2-2 when challenging at home. The Warriors look to avenge one of the most lopsided losses in UH football history, a 69-3 thrashing at Bronco Stadium last season, when the Broncos gained 589 yards of total offense.

Warrior head coach June Jones improved his overall record to 49-32 and looks to add to his 29-19 record in WAC play. Bronco skipper Dan Hawkins is in his sixth season and owns an 85-19 overall record, which includes five seasons as head coach at Willamette. Hawkins is 45-9 at Boise State and has led the Broncos to three undefeated WAC championship seasons (2002, 2003, 2004).

The Broncos, who opened up the season ranked 16th nationally, return nine starters, including All-America quarterback Jared Zabransky. The junior finished his sophomore campaign among the best in Boise State history, completing 206-of-327 passes for 2,927 yards and 16 touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 203-pound Zabransky has completed 43-of-76 passes for 505 yards (6th in WAC) and four touchdowns. He has also rushed for 101 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. Against Bowling Green last week, the Oregon native completed 16-of-23 passes for 202 yards and one touchdown, and rushed for 64 yards and three touchdowns.

Junior receiver Jerard Rabb has stepped up as Zabransky’s main target. Rabb has posted 166 yards and two touchdowns on 11 grabs in three games this season.

Joining Zabransky in the Bronco backfield are running backs Ian Johnson and Lee Marks. In last week’s match up, Johnson rushed for 85 yards on 16 carries, while Marks came up with 80 yards on 12 carries. Both are ranked among the WAC leaders in rushing average and combine for 359 of Boise State’s 655 rushing yards this season.

The Bronco defense is anchored by 2004 first team All-WAC linebacker Korey Hall. The junior has posted 25 total tackles this season, ninth best in the WAC. Sophomore defensive back Marty Tadman, senior linebacker Chris Barrios, and senior defensive tackle Alex Guerrero will all play roles on the Bronco defense. Barrios is second on the team with 24 tackles, including 1.5 for-a-loss (-7), while Tadman is third with 22 tackles. Guerrero has 11 tackles this season, including three for-a-loss (-25), and leads the league with three sacks (-25).

The Warriors look to build on the best performance on both sides of the ball so far this season. The offense recorded 405 total yards, while the defense the first shutout since 1999, and limited the Idaho attack to 153 total yards. Sophomore quarterback Colt Brennan completed a career-high 34-of-44 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns and was named WAC Player of the Week for his efforts. On the year, Brennan has completed 78-of-107 passes for 816 yards and six touchdowns. The Irvine, Calif., native ranks in the top five in the WAC in three categories, including passing average (2nd, 272.0), passing efficiency (2nd, 153.6), and total offense (3rd, 816 yards).

Freshman receiver Davone Bess is also coming off a career performance. Bess recorded 10 catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns at Idaho, the best performance by a UH receiver so far this year.

In the third week of the season, four Hawai’i receivers rank among the WAC leaders in receptions per game. Bess leads the pack at third (6.67), Redshirt freshman Ryan Grice-Mullen is sixth (5.67), and Michael Washington and Ian Sample share seventh (4.00). The foursome also ranks among the top 10 league leaders in receiving yards per game.

As well as the offense performed, it was the Hawai’i defense that stole the show last week against the Vandals. Senior linebackers Tanuvasa Moe and Kila Kamakawiwo’ole anchored a swarming defense that held Idaho to 153 total yards and zero points, after giving up an average of 508.5 total yards and 52.5 points in the first two games. Moe led the Warriors with eight tackles, while Kamakawiwo’ole was named WAC Defensive Player of the Week for his seven tackles, including two sacks (-15).

Boise St. at UH, Saturday

• TV: Live statewide on Oceanic Cable Pay-Per-View digital channel 256. Call (808) 643-2337. Delayed at 10:30 p.m. on K5-The Home Team (KFVE channel 5). Rebroadcast, Sunday, Oct. 2 at 10 a.m. on channel 5.

• Radio: Live on Kong AM570 at 6 p.m.

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