Hawaii Bowl – Dec 24, 2019: BYU vs Hawaii

BYU Cougars (7-5)  vs  Hawaii Rainbows (9-5)

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BYU COUGARS | INDEPENDENT

Coach:  Kalani Sitake

BYU Players to watch:

*Junior DT Khyiris Tonga  (6-4/340)

“He’s explosive and powerful,” HC Sitake said of Tonga. “I love the strength that he has in the weight room and how it shows on the field. I think him losing weight will allow him to be on the field more and that’s important to him.”  Tonga’s size and quickness has made him a pro-prospect. He’s even mentioned declaring after the season is over.

“He would shock the sports world with how athletic he is on the basketball court,” Tonga’s older brother Joseph said. “Especially for how big he is. He’s so quick on his feet, and he’s got a nasty step-back three.” 

“The sky was and is the limit for him,” said Tonga’s father, George. “He has always had the potential to be a great football player as long as he puts in the extra time and effort. Football has and will continue to allow him to open doors for himself as well as others.”

*Junior TE Matt Bushman  (6-5/240)

Bushman is another BYU player that will be headed for the NFL. The only question is will it be after the Hawai’i Bowl, or will he return to play one more season in Provo?

In his freshman year, Bushman put up 520 receiving yards on 49 receptions and was a Freshman All-American. In this sophomore campaign, he only caught 29 passes, but bumped up his ypc to 17.6 for 511 receiving yards. In 2019, Bushman has pulled in 41 passes for 597 yards.

*Junior WLB Isaiah Kaufusi  (6-2/210)

Kaufusi has two interceptions on the year, along with five passes defended. His 53 tackles are fourth on the team. He also has two fumble recoveries.

BYU likes to use a three-man front, keeping their linebackers to drop into coverage. While that scheme has caused a lot of head-scratching with critics, it has also helped to create 22 turnovers on the season.

Against Utah State, BYU’s defense dropped eight into coverage 62 times in 82 plays. That scheme allowed them to get five turnovers from the Aggie offense in a 42-14 win in Logan.

Senior FS Austin Lee  (6-0/200)

“I committed to play at Utah the day they offered,” says Austin, who was a state champion and two-time all-state player at Alta High. “My dad played baseball there. My grandpa played football there. It was the team I grew up cheering for.”

However, when former Utah head coach Kalani Sitake was named head coach at BYU, Provo seemed like the place to land. Last season, the defense finished No. 18 in the country, and Lee finished with 41 total tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble.

BYU’s defense was quite as good this year, not finishing in the top 25. Still, Lee finished third on the team in total tackles (55) with one pick and four passes defended.

**Sophomore QB Zach Wilson  (6-3/200)

In a lack luster performance on Nov. 30th vs San Diego State, one couldn’t be sure if Wilson’s surgically repaired throwing hand had completely healed. Wilson fluttered some passes and was not accurate on others, particularly in the red zone. He also threw two costly interceptions, and fumbled on a flea-flicker play.

BYU fans will be hoping Wilson shows up in Hawai’i like he did in Idaho.

In last year’s Idaho Bowl, Wilson tied an FBS bowl record hitting 18-18 vs Western Michigan. On the season Wilson has completed 175 out of 279 pass attempts, throwing for 2,108 yards with 11 touchdowns.

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HAWAI’I RAINBOWS | MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE

Coach:  Nick Rolovich

Hawai’i Players to watch:

Senior WR Cedric Byrd II  (5-9/170)

Photo: West Hawaii Today

Slot receiver Cedric Byrd II was UH’s lone representative on the Mountain West All-Conference first team. The senior from Los Angeles, Calif., is the team leader in receptions (91) and receiving yards (1,049). He has reached the end zone 10 times and has caught at least four passes in all 13 games this season, ranking 12th nationally with a 7.0 receptions per game average. 

Senior OLB Solomon Matautia  (6-1/230)

After his junior campaign, Matautia was named the team’s Coach Dave Holmes Most Improved Player, accumulating 85 tackles (50 solo, 35 assisted) to be the team’s second-leading tackler.

This season, Matautia continue to show steady improvement. The senior from ‘Ewa Beach, O’ahu, is the team’s leading tackler (68). He also has two interceptions and a sack. 

Senior CB Rojesterman Farris  (6-1/180)

University of Hawaii cornerback Rojesterman Farris II was the first football player invited to compete in the new version of the Hula Bowl in January.

“We’re very impressed by Roe Farris’ potential ability to play at the next level,” said Rich Miano, executive director of the reboot all-star game. “We want to make sure he has the opportunity and exposure by getting in front of NFL scouts one last time before the NFL Draft. He’s worthy. He’s a good player.”

Back in October, it was announced the Hula Bowl would return after an 11-year hiatus.

*Junior OC Taaga Tuulima  (6-2/290)

Tuulima, a junior center from ‘Ewa Beach, O’ahu, was picked as the team’s Offensive Most Valuable Player at the team banquet. He has played in all but 20 snaps all season, allowing only two sacks. 

Senior DE Kaimana Padello  (6-0/225)

Padello (Mililani, O’ahu), an all-Mountain West second team pick last season, was leading the team in sacks (3) and tackles for loss (7.0) before an injury forced him to miss the final three games of the regular season.

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Sofi Hawai’i Bowl
Hawai’i 28, BYU 24
Aloha Stadium
Honolulu, HI
Dec 24, 2019 | 8 p.m. | ESPN

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2018 SoFi Hawai’i Bowl
Louisiana Tech 31, Hawaii 14

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