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Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Saturday, November 22, 2003


Slumping offense
has UH searching
for answers


FIRST, there is the Quick Answer, which is that this baffling lack of production by the vaunted Hawaii offense isn't my dad's fault. My father never watches UH play football live, because he believes every time he watches, Hawaii plays badly. (The only two games he's seen in person since the Termite Palace days have been Boise State in 2001 and the Hawaii Bowl last year; the last TV game he dared peek at was USC, and I made him do it.) He's very superstitious about this.

And so, no, he was religiously avoiding the television during the Tulsa, San Jose State and Nevada games.

So Dad is off the hook.

The Smart Answer to these offensive woes is, What? Dick Tomey had lots of games in which his team scored seven or fewer offensive points. And nobody was complaining then. And they never had nearly as many passing yards or NFL Draft picks (and the nickname wasn't nearly as marketable, and UH was never on national TV). Why, the very fact that you're complaining shows how far the program has come, how much expectations have been raised.

(Although, to be fair, Tomey had four players drafted in 1982 and again in 1987, and ESPN wasn't really ESPN yet, in those days, and Fox hadn't been invented, and if UH wasn't moving as much officially licensed product, perhaps it was because people were spending their hard-earned money on actually buying an average of more than 40,000 tickets a game for 14 consecutive years. But I digress. Back to the Smart Answer ...)

As I was saying, what are you, some kind of person who would prefer Fred vonAppen and more 0-12? So stop questioning authority and buy an "H" hat and get with the program.

Besides, the players aren't executing. All of them.

Yes. Well, let's try to find the Real Reason, which probably isn't quite so simple or clear-cut. Real reasons seldom are. Let's start with the fact that the offense itself isn't a cure-all. Every offense is capable of scoring a touchdown on every play if executed perfectly. That's how offenses are designed. Nobody ever drew up a play for a 5-yard loss.

Then, you get five years' worth of film of anything, and good coaches (and sometimes even mediocre ones) can get a few ideas on how to figure it out.

Defenses don't seem to be quite so surprised these days, not by the game-planning, not by the scheme, not by the plays called. Opponents are playing smarter, with more confidence, jumping on tendencies they've spotted on film, tackling better on the screens and shovels and short passes and surviving on the long ones.

June Jones' offense, in top form, puts opponents in a position where their mistakes will hurt them. Hawaii's only offensive score at Nevada, the long touchdown pass to Chad Owens? The safety went the wrong way, and Owens was open and Timmy Chang hit him. That's what I'm talking about. That's a UH staple.

At Nevada, we saw it happen once.

At best, you can say opponents are playing well enough on defense to get away with allowing a long pass or two. At worst, Hawaii had one touchdown at Nevada, and it was a gift.

Bottom line here: Opponents are giving out fewer free passes, and UH is converting fewer of them.

Also, let's admit that the run-and-shoot works a little better with a first-round draft pick once-in-a-generation talent at receiver and a guy experiencing the kind of "zone" even Michael Jordan has only heard stories about at quarterback.

So now, the players aren't executing. Of course they aren't. That's why plays don't work. Guys don't execute. (That's why even millionaire coaches have heart conditions.) You want to know why a play -- any play -- didn't work? Somebody didn't execute.

But it's a double-edged sword. Chances are, unless you completely outphysical someone like an Ashley Lelie or a Travis LaBoy, your plays work because the other guys don't execute. That's why you have coaches, so that your team executes more often.

And the other guys -- gaining confidence on second-and-7, reading tendencies on third-and-10 -- are executing more often.

So yes, you would have to say that this is the Real Reason the UH offense has struggled this year. But no, in the fifth year of this system, with five years' worth of The Greatest Recruiting Classes in the History of the School (this would have to be the best group of players Hawaii has ever seen), and with an $800,000 coach, there is no good reason.

Luckily, here comes 0-11 Army, and Hawaii's offense should get healthy tonight, score bunches of touchdowns and roll.

If not now, when? If not tonight, then something is wrong.

But then, someone reminded me, I've been saying that all season, been giving the same last-chance speech before every game.

Hey, that's right. I have.



See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com

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