Ilaoa sets UH's offense in motion
YOU want to know what Nate Ilaoa means to this Hawaii offense?
Well, let's put the man in motion and find out.
There it was, Saturday night. Ilaoa going, going -- where is he going? Still going. Jogging until he's the widest guy, the San Jose State cornerback nervously shuffling after him, following, looking back at the quarterback, looking at the rest of his guys. What do I do now?
You can't just let him go. You can't move the spy linebacker out there. The corner has to take him, everybody moves over a step. And there Ilaoa goes, wider and wider, in motion, toward the sideline. And then the shotgun snap.
And then Ian Sample, all alone in the zone, catching the ball where the corner had been a few seconds ago. Before he'd gone out after the man in motion, before he'd followed Nate. It was a vacated area. And Sample filled it. Hawaii first down.
You want to know what Nate Ilaoa means to this offense? Send him in motion, and see the reaction. Watch what the defense does.
There he goes.
There they go.
And there's Sample, right behind.
"That actually comes from Bill Walsh's system," June Jones said.
"It's amazing to me what that little thing will do," Jones said.
"It doesn't seem like it's anything, just start him in motion a little bit before the ball snaps. And man! Two guys flinch. I watched it happen in the NFL, so I've always kept it alive."
UH will pull it out again every so often, Jones said.
Yes, but when Walsh did this stuff in the '80s it was still a somewhat new thing to do. Going in motion to set up something else the other way, making a defender take himself out of the play, putting a blocker where he was going to go anyway, but doing it through motion to give a standard play a new, foreign look.
All of this was genius, which was how Walsh got that tag.
But this is 2006. We've seen everything. Putting a guy on the fly shouldn't send a team into a tizzy. Not these days.
But this is Ilaoa, Hawaii's most dangerous player, the tailback, a 255-pound twinkle toes who has 686 yards rushing, 662 receiving, 9.4 yards every time he touches the ball.
Apparently sending him out there shorts a circuit. It screws up the works. It puts glue in their shoes. Defenses spend all that energy stopping the run at the line, spying the shovel pass, trying to stay with the four-wide. Now this. Now Nate. Out there. In space.
It's like Algebra. Just looking at it makes your brain hurt.
"Well, I don't know what it
is," Jones said. "It's different, every team reacts differently to it. Teams that play a lot of zone it can get them out 2 or 3 yards removed from where they're supposed to be."
Like when Sample slipped in behind, settling in the hole where the corner used to be. First down.
Then, later, touchdown.
Easy as that.
Yes, that's what happened on Hawaii's first touchdown of the night, the first-quarter score that made it 10-0, a beautiful, over-the-shoulder pass to Chad Mock, he was open by 2 or 3 yards. Colt Brennan had to put some touch on it, it was so open, it was so perfect. It was almost slow motion. Mock caught it in stride.
Trailing like Walter Mondale was San Jose State's Dwight Lowery, the man who had gone into the game leading the nation in picks. How had this happened? How was he beaten so badly? What move had Mock used? How is it that a would-be All-American is reduced to choking on dust?
Well, it hadn't exactly happened like that. As always, in football, there was more than we'd seen.
Ilaoa had gone in motion on that play.
"The safety and the nickel moved 3 or 4 yards to their left," Jones said. "Which they're not supposed to, but they do. They think something different. They're not coached to do that, but it's hard not to do that when it happens."
It's hard not to do that. He draws your attention. A 255-pound E.F. Hutton in pads.
You've got the best cover defenders out there looking at the big man. You've got the best downfield receivers reveling in their newfound anonymity.
Want to see what Nate Ilaoa means to this Hawaii offense? Send him in motion and watch who the defense looks at. And who it doesn't. Then watch what happens next.