It was not pretty, but it was one of those "we'll take it" victories over the Bears of Central Arkansas.
What was likely perceived by some to be an automatic "W" became a fight for survival for the Hawaii Warriors as they were able to overcome a 12-point deficit and then a one-point deficit late to beat their FCS-opponent at Aloha Stadium.
It could certainly be a sign of bad things to come.
But before fans begin to give up on the Warriors and turn their attention to the Wahine volleyball team, it is important to take the positives from a tough first game.
First, no one is going to mistake Central Arkansas for the University of Arkansas or even Arkansas State. They are not even on par with Richmond or Northern Iowa, two of the top teams in the FCS. But the Bears are a solid team. And the gap between the FCS and the mid-tier FBS schools is smaller than many recognize.
The Bears sported one of the top offenses in the FCS last season, and they returned top rusher Brent Grimes (who scored all three Bears' TDs). While they did break in a new starter in Robbie Park, who was efficient, they return talent at the wideout position.
Also, Central Arkansas' defense is solid and led by all-American DE Larry Hart, who did register one of UCA's four sacks. Hart is a beast in the college ranks (12 sacks, 43 tackles last year), but likely a late round NFL pick.
So UCA came in with some talent and an offensive scheme that is explosive. Despite that, Hawaii still tallied over 400 yards of offense while limiting the Bears to 270 yards.
The Warriors were their own worst enemy, committing four turnovers in the game, including one that set up Central Arkansas' first score early in the opening quarter.
Despite those miscues, Hawai'i was able to overcome it and win the game. And, protecting the football is something that can be corrected.
Also, keep in mind that the Warriors only committed two penalties. It is hard to say that such a trend will continue, but that shows good discipline. The turnovers hurt, the Warriors did not compound issues by having costly penalties.
Overcoming turnovers and keeping penalties down is a major positive. As Coach Greg McMackin noted after the game,
"we lost the turnover battle, but still pulled out the win. That’s a good sign, we didn’t do that last year. I’m also happy about the lack of penalties. We only committed two for the game, which is something to be really proud of."
Third, Greg Alexander and Greg Salas were superb. Alexander threw for over 300 yards and tacked on another 76 on the ground, the latter a career high. His scrambling ability and improvisation will be a major asset down the road.
As for Salas, seven catches for 180 yards and one score were big for the Warriors. His 66-yard catch and run were crucial in setting up the game winner-His play earned him WAC offensive player of the week!
Lastly, it is just the first game. There are always jitters in that first game, even when the opponent is an FCS team (just ask Virginia, Iowa, Duke, Indiana, East Carolina, Wyoming, etc.). And, that very young and inexperienced defense now has a game under their belt before heading into Pullman on Saturday.
Were there negatives? Of course! But why dwell on those?
Football season has arrived and the Warriors are 1-0—Right now, that is all that matters!