When the University of Hawaii football team hits the field Saturday night against the Naval Academy, the game will also serve as a homecoming for a handful of Midshipmen headlined by head coach Ken Niumatalolo.
The Polynesian Football Hall-of-Famer is a proud Radford graduate and former UH quarterback.
He enters his eleventh season strolling the sidelines for the Middies, and is already the all-time winningest coach in the program’s proud history.
The 53-year-old became the first coach to ever lead Navy to eight straight wins against arch-rival Army in his first eight tries, but is 1-1 against his alma mater.
On Thursday, KHON2 Sports Director Rob DeMello caught up with Niumatalolo at the team’s practice at Punahou, and the coach made it very clear that the game will be an emotional experience.
“Yeah, I got to watch myself. I know the last time when I was going down the road passing by Ice Palace and Jack in the Box, I got teary eyed just thinking of how I grew up over there too and lived in Halawa for a little bit and ate at that Jack in the Box many times. Just going down that road just brought back so many memories coming there when I was at UH, and I’m going to try my best to keep that out but you’re human. It’s hard not to because it’s home,” Niumatalolo said.
Although the emotions will certainly be flowing on Saturday, that will not get in the way of the game, as he is preparing his team for what he feels will be one of the physically toughest teams on the schedule.
“These kids won’t know. They weren’t around, but in 2009, we came here and Hawaii kicked our butts and they played really, really well. The kids here love football. They’re tough kids. They’ve always been a tough out, so our guys recognize it. We better strap it on and get ready for a good game,” he said. ”Rolo’s still got all his run-n-shoot stuff, but he added a lot of different components in the run game and the Cole McDonald kid is a really good runner too, so it just adds a little different dimension to it. They didn’t have their best player on defense (Jahlani Tavai) and unfortunately he’s coming back for our game, so it’s going to be a tough game for us.”
Niumatalolo will bring three players on his roster from Hawaii, and offensive coordinator Ivin Jasper, who is a former UH quarterback himself.
Navy players from Hawaii
Adams Amosa-Tagovailoa // offensive tackle // senior // Ewa Beach, Hawai’i / Campbell
Keoni Kordell-Makekau // slot back // sophomore // Ewa Beach, Hawai’i / Iolani
Alema Kapoi // defensive tackle // sophomore // Kapolei, Hawai’i / Kamehameha
Hawaii vs. Navy
What: Hawai’i (1-0, 1-0) vs. Navy (0-0, 0-0 AAC)
When: Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018
Time: 5:00 p.m. HT
Where: Honolulu, O’ahu
Stadium: Aloha Stadium (50,000)
Television: CBS Sports Network (Spectrum Ch. 2475/HD 1247 and Hawaiian Telcom Ch. 83/HD 1083) with John Sadak (play-by-play), Randy Cross (analyst) and Amanda Balionis (sidelines).
Radio: ESPN 1420 AM. Bobby Curran (play-by-play), John Veneri (analyst), Mark Veneri (sideline). Chris Hart and Gary Dickman will host the “Countdown To Kickoff” at 3:00 p.m. HT. Neighbor islands can listen live on KNUI on Maui, KPUA on the Big Island, and KTOH on Kaua’i.
Video Streaming: cbssports.com
Audio Streaming: ESPN1420am.com/Sideline Hawaii app
Live Stats: HawaiiAthletics.com
Series Information: UH leads 2-1
Bank of Hawaii is the game sponsor for “Military Night” and will distribute 5,000 clear bags to fans and award 70,000 Hawaiian Miles to a lucky member of the armed forces. The the theme is “Back in Black” and fans are encouraged to wear black UH apparel. F-22 Hawaiian Raptors out of Joint Base Pearl Harbor will commence a fly over during the National Anthem. The Navy League Key Spouse awards will be presented during pre-game. The UH Band will honor the military with God Bless America sung by Samuel Hesch. Active, DOD civilians, reservists, and retired members of the military will receive 50% off regularly priced tickets in select areas by log in or sign in on www.govx.com.
The game is a match-up of former UH quarterbacks turned head coaches between Hawai’i’s Nick Rolovich (2000-01) and Navy’s Ken Niumatalolo (1987-89). Rolovich is in his 3rd season (11-16) with the Warriors while Niumatalolo is in his 11th season with the Midshipmen (84-48).
Niumatalolo, who was a member of UH’s first major bowl team in 1989, began his coaching career as a Hawai’i assistant on Bob Wagner’s staff from 1992-94. Rolovich’s first coaching job at a four-year school was on former UH head coach Greg McMackin’s staff from 2008-11.
Two of the teams’ three previous meetings have occurred at Aloha Stadium with UH winning both games in 1999 (48-41) and 2009 (24-17). For the 2009 game, Niumatalolo was in his second season as Midshipmen head coach while Rolovich was UH’s quarterback coach and primary offensive playcaller.
UH is 2-0 in home openers under Rolovich with wins over UT Martin (41-36) in 2016 and Western Carolina (41-18) in 2017. Overall, the Warriors have won their last three home openers dating back to 2015.
UH is 4-1 in non-conference home games under Rolovich with its only loss against BYU to close out 2017.
UH is 12-14 all-time against the academies – 7-13 vs. Air Force, 3-0 vs. Army, 2-1 vs. Navy. The Warriors, who will also travel to Army on Sept. 15, last faced two academies in the same year in 2013 (L at Navy; W vs. Army).