UH defense gets true-blue test next
Playing against Boise State on the road is a much bigger challenge than UNLV at home
Saturday's encounter with Boise State tailback Ian Johnson could change this drastically, so enjoy it while you can, Hawaii football fans: The Warriors are ranked 26th in the nation in rushing defense today.
Hawaii is also No. 2 in passing offense. That's nice, but it's not news anymore, since the Warriors have often been near the top in throwing the ball since June Jones' arrival as coach in 1999.
Sure, UH is just two games into the 2006 season (and its pass-defense numbers aren't the greatest). But 26th is still heady stuff for a team that was dead last among 117 teams in the key stat of stopping the opposing ballcarriers two years ago, and 98th at the end of last season.
Playing the 25th-ranked Broncos at Boise is a bigger challenge than UNLV at home, but the Warriors' defensive domination -- as well as offensive proficiency -- in Saturday's 42-13 romp over the Rebels can't be ignored.
UH's average yield on the ground is 82 yards after stuffing UNLV's running game to the tune of 39.
Hawaii ranks one notch behind Auburn in rushing defense, and one ahead of Notre Dame in total defense at 324.5 (62nd nationally). The Warriors are 45th in scoring defense at 19.0 points per game.
For anyone with a sense of UH football history, the Hawaii defense is merely headed back to the place it belongs, when the Manoa trademark was swarming defense. The Rainbows had the softer nickname, but they had the harder guys playing defense than during the Warriors years -- until maybe now.
"We're just trying to get back in the '80s, when they were known for defense over here at UH," said safety Leonard Peters, who batted down three passes and intercepted a fourth Saturday. "Not just the offense, like June Jones and the run-and-shoot ... even it out with Coach Glanville."
Glanville was on the hot seat coming into this season since the Warriors didn't improve defensively as much or as quickly as many had hoped. Jones, who coached under Glanville in the NFL, says he wasn't worried.
"I know what kind of coach Jerry is and the kids have bought into it and they played hard," Jones said. "They hustled, hit, and played hard."
And the Warriors did it without one of their best players, inside linebacker Solomon Elimimian. He was out with a knee sprain.
UH players credited their coaches and the scout team. It was Preparation Saturday for the Warriors, as a bye after falling to Alabama on Sept. 2 gave them more time to work on UNLV's split-personality shotgun option.
"It's just the players," Glanville said, flashing a wry smile. "The players played hard. I don't even know what we were doing."
Glanville and his position coaches broke it down to the basic premises of stopping the run by fulfilling option responsibilities, containment and swarming to the ball. It seemed like the Warriors knew the Rebels' plays better than they did.
After Colt Brennan completed his first nine passes to put UH up 14-0, Glanville mixed in blitzes and it was over for the Rebels almost before it started. Even cornerback A.J. Martinez got into the act with two tackles for loss.
When the offensive players weren't busy piling up yards and points, they enjoyed the show.
"Oh man, it's great," senior right tackIe Dane Uperesa said. "I know the character they have. A lot of people say they're the weakness. Not true. We have to catch up as an offense."
Brad Kalilimoku, who replaced Elimimian on Saturday, was a starting inside linebacker in 2004 and last year when the Warriors were among the worst in the country at stopping the run. He led UH with eight tackles last night, and almost all of them were near or behind the line of scrimmage.
Kalilimoku believes the Warriors can continue to climb the charts and win with defense, even at the blue turf of Boise, where UH has never won, where the Warriors allowed 589 yards and 69 points in 2004.
"It's a new team," he said. "And it's a great feeling."
» The Warriors are among the NCAA leaders in several individual categories.
» Colt Brennan is second in total offense with 338.0 yards per game and 29th in quarterback efficiency.
» Ryan Grice-Mullins is fifth in receiving yards per game at 110.0 and 16th in receptions with 6.5 per game.
» Davone Bess is third in catches with 9.0 per game and 14th in yards with 99.0.
» Nate Ilaoa is second in yards per carry with 10.08 and 68th in yards per game with 65.5.
BACK TO TOP
Five big plays from Hawaii's 42-13 win over UNLV Chosen and described by the Star-Bulletin's Dave Reardon
1. First Blood
UNLV 0, Hawaii 0; 13:04 remaining, first quarter; Hawaii ball, first and goal at UNLV 7.
Following a 4-yard run for a first down by Nate Ilaoa, UH lines up three receivers on the right. Two go into the end zone and Ryan Grice-Mullins slips into the flat. Colt Brennan tosses the ball to him at the 6 and Grice-Mullins does the rest for his second TD of the season.
The Warriors also scored on their first possession in the opener against Alabama, but this time they finish the job in the red zone and don't have to settle for a field goal.
"That was sweet. We didn't have an incomplete the first two series. That's how we should always roll."
2. Padding The Lead
Hawaii 7, UNLV 0; 7:28 remaining, first quarter, Hawaii ball, first and goal at UNLV 7.
Davone Bess lines up in the right slot, heads straight to the end zone and cuts to the corner, a step ahead of defender Daryl Forte. Brennan lofts the ball over Forte and into the hands of a leaping Bess.
Hawaii takes a 14-0 lead, and the cushion allows defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville to open up the playbook with an array of blitzes. By the end of the night, UH piles up nine tackles for loss, three sacks and eight QB hurries.
Hawaii coach June Jones:
"Sometimes when I'm watching (Bess) I turn into a fan. It takes a while before I realize I have to get back to what I'm doing. ... One or two series changed (UNLV's) whole thought process."
3. Runaway Colt
Hawaii 21, UNLV 0; 6:13 remaining, second quarter; Hawaii ball, 2nd and 6 at UNLV 14.
Brennan is quickly flushed out of the pocket. He moves to his left and then takes off downfield. He cuts back toward the middle of the field and dives toward the goal line, landing about a foot in front of it.
Brennan keeps on the next play and gets the final yard, padding the Hawaii lead to 28-0. He nets 27 yards on the ground in addition to his 296 passing, and the Warriors end up rushing for 236 of their 583 total yards.
"I was just trying to pick up a couple of yards. But there was lots of open space, so I cut back and came up just a little short of the goal line."
Hawaii 28, UNLV 0; 3:30 remaining, second quarter; UNLV ball, third and 7 at Hawaii 25.
Rebels quarterback Rocky Hinds sets up to pass. Hawaii outside linebacker Amani Purcell comes straight through the line untouched on a blitz as a potential blocker whiffs. He pursues the fleeing Hinds and nails him for a 12-yard sack.
This may have been the last real chance for the Rebels to get back into the game. It was their deepest penetration into UH territory in the first half.
"I was just in the right spot at the right time. Glanville did a good job with us. We were prepared. We're here to play and we showed the Warriors can play defense, too."
5. Peters' Pick
Hawaii 28, UNLV 0; 14:31 remaining, third quarter; UNLV ball, first and 25 at UNLV 16.
Peters, who knocked down three passes in the first half, goes up high near the left sideline to grab one of many errant throws by Hinds. He angles toward the middle of the field and speeds into the end zone.
UH's fifth unanswered touchdown came on the first play of scrimmage of the second half. It eliminated any hope UNLV had of using halftime adjustments to battle back.
"It felt good. I hadn't been in the end zone since two years ago. I should've caught those other two, but I'm compensating for my rib."