What we learned from Hawaii, U-M's first opponent

Mark Snyder
Detroit Free Press

Michigan’s first 2016 opponent, Hawaii, got a head start on the rest of the country while playing in another country. The Rainbow Warriors opened their season Saturday afternoon in Sydney, Australia, (Friday night in the U.S.)

Hawaii's Ikaika Woolsey in action during the College Football Sydney Cup game against California at ANZ Stadium on Saturday in Sydney, Australia.

Though the Rainbow Warriors lost, 51-31, we were able to learn a few things about the team under first-year coach Nick Rolovich, who visit Ann Arbor on Sept. 3.

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•1. After weeks of hinting he’d mix between the run and shoot of former Hawaii coach June Jones and the pistol approach, Rolovich used a spread offense with inside runs and some quick passes. Quarterback Ikaika Woosley finished 17-of-34 for 234 yards with a touchdown and an interception. The run game was more effective, with 38 carries for 248 yards and three touchdowns.

•2. While tailback Paul Harris was the dominant offensive player last season, rushing for more than 1,000 yards, he was an afterthought in this game. The early work when the game was still competitive came from tailback Diocemy Saint Juste, who rushed 14 times for 118 yards, including a 53-yard touchdown. The touchdown showed a burst into the hole and a few impressive cuts to juke defenders on the second and third level.

•3. Rolovich isn’t afraid to take chances. Hawaii opened the game — and the season — with an onside kick. It failed as Cal quickly covered it, digging Hawaii an immediate field-position hole. But Rolovich knows he’s taking over a 3-10 team so chances make sense.

•4. Hawaii’s defense apparently remained back in the islands. Cal attacked on the ground when necessary and its top two rushers each were over seven yards per carry. But Hawaii was helpless in the secondary, allowing Cal QB Davis Webb to throw for 441 yards and four touchdowns. There was no resistance at all, which looks like a major opportunity for U-M’s new quarterback and talented receivers.

•5. The ball was pretty slippery on Hawaii’s side. With five turnovers, including four fumbles, it didn’t matter how Hawaii’s offense performed because there were too many surrendered possessions. For Michigan’s aggressive, attacking defense, that looks like a spectacular opportunity to create chaos.

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