After enjoying the first full offseason of recruiting, spring training, and fall camp under the watch of Todd Graham as head coach, the countdown to kickoff is quickly approaching for the University of Hawaii football team as the Rainbow Warriors will open their 2021 season this Saturday at UCLA.
The ‘Bows hit the practice field this morning just four days away from tearing up the turf at the iconic Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
Saturday will serve as the first steps towards a mission of posting a fourth consecutive winning season for the program, which hasn’t been done since 2004. If UH can get that ultra important first victory on the road against a power-5 opponent, it will certainly provide a significant statement for Aloha State football moving forward.
“This is a big opportunity for Hawaii football. I’m pretty sure that all the boys on the football team, we look up to times like this. We want to play in games like this so we’re definitely going to try our best and come out with the win and try to represent our hometown the best that we can,” said co-captain, linebacker Darius Muasau.
This will be UH’s second trip to the Rose Bowl in the last five seasons. UH fell to the Bruins, 56-23, in 2017.
UH’s last road/neutral win against a Pac-12 opponent was a 38-20 victory over Washington State in 2009 in a game played at Qwest Field in Seattle, Wash. Since then, UH has lost nine straight.
UH is 4-12 in its last 16 games versus Pac-12 opponents since 2010. The wins have come against Arizona (2019), Colorado (2011, ’15) and Oregon State (2019). UH’s last eight wins against Power 5 conferences have come against the Pac-12.
“We live for these moments right here. As a college player to play on live television and especially for me and a lot of the guys on this team, UCLA and schools like that, those bigger type schools were schools that passed up on us. So we got a chip on our shoulder and we’re going to come ready to play. We’re hungry and we’re just gonna have fun and let loose on Saturday,” added safety and co-captain Khoury Bethley.
UH begins its second year under Todd Graham, who led the Warriors to a 5-4 record and a win over Houston in the 2020 New Mexico Bowl. He was the first UH coach to post a winning record in his debut season since June Jones (9-4) in 1999.
UCLA, which went 3-4 in 2020, is coached by Chip Kelly, who begins his fourth season with the Bruins and has a 10-21 record at the school.
Kelly won the only head-to-head match-up against Graham as his Oregon squad defeated Graham’s Arizona State team, 43-21, in Tempe in 2012.
“It’s why you coach. It’s why you play the game. That’s why you schedule those games. I like that we’re playing probably the best team on our schedule week one, good. That makes you better. It makes you get better in a hurry,” said Graham. “We got one mission. Win. Period. Somehow, someway I believe in these guys that we’re going to figure out a way to get it done.”
UH will kickoff the season on Saturday at 9:30am HST on ESPN. The Rainbow Warriors (5-4 in 2020) are seeking their first win over the Bruins in the schools’ fourth all-time meeting. This season marks the fourth time in the last five years that Hawai’i will open the season with a true road game. UH has won the previous three – 2020 at Fresno State, 2018 at Colorado State and 2017 at UMass.