Foes have been defenseless against UH offense
NEW ORLEANS » If there were a magic pill a coach could give his unit to handle the side effects of facing the run-and-shoot, Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez's problems would be over with very quickly.
Unfortunately for the defensive wizard of Athens, there is no such medicine as he prepares his team for one of the more potent offenses in the country. No matter what he draws up on the chalkboard, you can bet Hawaii head coach June Jones has seen it and will dissect it and figure out a way to counter it in Tuesday's Sugar Bowl at the Superdome in New Orleans.
Several UH players and coaches were asked this week if there were any one defense that teams tried the most to counter what Hawaii can do offensively, and to a man, they said no. Quarterback Colt Brennan said the offense is designed to counter punch any formation dreamed up to stop it.
"We kill zone or man -- it doesn't really matter what anyone tries to do," Brennan said. "If you sit back in zone, we just throw it underneath and try to make them miss. If they go man, we've got the kind of vertical game that will make a defense pay for it with big plays all over the field."
UH quarterbacks coach Dan Morrison was a bit more diplomatic than his protégé, but even he conceded that Jones only needs a few minutes to decipher what the opposition is trying to do. Whether the formation is a standard Cover 2, Tampa 2, Cover 3, man, zone blitz, you name it, Jones has a way to offset it.
If you rush only three or four and put seven or eight into pass coverage, Brennan can sit back in the pocket and wait for somebody to break free.
If you try to pressure the quarterback by sending five or six people in Brennan's direction, his quick release out of the shotgun formation forces defensive backs to make sure tackles to avoid the dreaded monster they call YAC (yards after catch).
"We know they're going to get their yards," Martinez explained. "But what we don't want to do is allow a 10-yard pass play to become 40 or 50 yards because we didn't make a tackle in space. You have to pressure the quarterback or he's going to pick you apart."
BRENNAN HAS DONE a good job of that most of his career. Out of 1,546 attempted passes, he has thrown only 39 interceptions with an astonishing completion rate of 70.7 percent. You can talk all you want about yards and touchdowns, but Brennan's strong points are quick release and uncanny accuracy.
So how do you defend him properly? What defensive formation works best? These are questions Morrison is glad he doesn't have to answer.
"The one thing about this offense, because we throw so much," Morrison said, "they've seen virtually every zone dog blitz coverage disguise known to mankind. There's a certain knowledge base that they have that it doesn't take them long to sort of sort it out and start to make some adjustments. And June really helps them with that from the sidelines, too."
So what's a coach to do? Well, you can either try to outscore Hawaii or send every man and his mother on a blitz to hope to disrupt Brennan's timing. But as he will tell you, don't try to make a living beating it.
"I love this offense," Brennan said. "Because the only way it can be stopped is if we don't execute it. And that's the truth, man. We've seen everything there is to see."
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org