ConAgra Foods Hawaii Bowl: Hawaii vs. Tulane

Kiper: Las Vegas Bowl preview

Mel Kiper Archive

Tuesday, March 8

Can Tulane slow high-octane Hawaii?

HAWAII BOWL | TULANE (7-5) VS. HAWAII (10-3)
Wednesday, Dec. 25 (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET)

The ConAgra Foods Hawaii Bowl features Hawaii's high-octane offense, two talented quarterbacks and a persistent Tulane team.

Under the direction of outstanding head coach June Jones, Hawaii found a way to pull out several thrilling victories on the way to a 10-win campaign. The Rainbow Warriors feature a run-and-shoot attack that posted 31 or more points in 11 of 13 games. They fell short of 30 points just twice -- against bowl-caliber opponents Cincinnati (a 20-19 win) and Alabama (a 21-16 loss).

J.P. Losman
Tulane's J.P. Losman threw for 2,468 yards and 19 TDs last year.
Tulane, on the other hand, persevered through a 2-3 start and a late-season loss to a 1-11 Army squad to earn a postseason bowl berth for the first time since 1998's undefeated campaign (under current Tampa Bay Bucs backup QB Shaun King). Key victories for head coach Chris Scelfo's Green Wave came against Cincinnati and Southern Mississippi.

If you prefer offensive shootouts and fireworks, this could be the right venue for you -- although Hawaii will aim to pressure Green Wave QB junior J.P. Losman, while Tulane's stop troop managed to create some big plays and turnovers this season.

Both quarterbacks can air it out. Hawaii sophomore QB Timmy Chang threw for 4,350 yards, completing 55.6 percent of his aerials and tossing 25 TD strikes (but he was picked off 22 times). Losman, who transferred to Tulane from UCLA, did a solid job taking the reigns from Patrick Ramsey (currently with the Washington Redskins). Losman, who has the physical skills to attract plenty of attention from the NFL brass next season, completed nearly 60 percent of his aerials and tossed 19 TD passes.

Losman accomplished this despite the injury loss early in the campaign to Tulane's top pass-catching option, WR Roydell Williams. Losman relies heavily on the multifaceted skills of underrated junior RB Mewelde Moore, a versatile 6-foot, 198-pounder. Moore's overall numbers dropped from last season, but he remained Conference USA's top all-around back. He led the Green Wave with 1,022 rushing yards while also paced the squad with 46 receptions for a 10.1-yard average.

When Chang is under center for the Rainbow Warriors, he'll spread the field to a host of receiving options, relying on the running-back trio of John West, Thero Mitchell and Mike Bass to provide the necessary running threat when they decide to utilize the overland attack. These three combined for 1,067 yards rushing, averaged 6.5 yards per carry and scored 15 TDs.

Seven Hawaii receivers had 28 or more catches, with five players hauling in 42 or more. Justin Colbert led the way with 83 catches for a 13.8-yard average and six TDs, while dangerous Britton Komine finished with 56 receptions for a 15.2-yard average and 10 TDs.

Up front on the offensive line, Hawaii is keyed by highly regarded senior OG Vince Manuwai, a complete performer who consistently performs at an All-American level. Manuwai is a potential first-round pick in the April 26 NFL draft.

On defense for Hawaii, definitely keep an eye on junior DE Travis LaBoy, senior MLB Chris Brown, senior OLB Pisa Tinoisamoa and junior CB Kevin Millhouse.

BOWL OVERVIEW
Not only are the Rainbow Warriors on their own home turf, but they also stretch a defense to its breaking point with a run-and-shoot attack featuring top-flight QB Chang. He has a ton of quality options, both in the receiving and running games. Manuwai is a rock up front, dominating play on the interior at offensive guard. The key for Tulane will be to create turnovers and thwart Hawaii's scoring opportunities. Remember, Chang threw 22 interceptions.

When Tulane has the ball, QB Losman must match Hawaii's output -- he'll need to have a hot hand from the outset. RB Moore figures to get touches early and often, as both a runner and receiver. But rest assured that Hawaii's defensive staff knows that if they contain Moore, the Green Wave offense could bog down. Keep in mind also that even with Moore's overall production, he still averaged just 4.0 yards per carry.

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