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Warriors defense caused Navy to run out of options


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POSTED: Sunday, November 29, 2009

Have you ever tried to get 11 people to do something?

Just one thing each ... maybe a variation or two, depending on special situations, but nothing complicated.

And that's all, nothing more, nothing less.

Sounds easy.

But toss in that the things you want these people to do are sometimes contrary to all of their natural and trained instincts, every fiber of their character. And that if even one person slips up—just once—disaster looms.

That is why the option is so hard to defend. Successful assignment football requires rare discipline and consistency. You are asking aggressive football players to wait, to be a little patient. Don't go to the ball yet, because it ain't gonna be there when you get there. Sometimes it isn't even there at all. Just do your job. That's all.

It seems easy, but you need all 11 to always stick to their assignments, for an entire game. It's true against other offenses, but especially so when you're playing the option—10 guys could be doing the right thing, but if one guy doesn't ... touchdown.

That's why what the Hawaii defense did last night was so impressive.

We knew the Warriors would move the ball against the Navy defense. Talent, matchups and scheme all dictated that.

“;They play vanilla defense,”; said receiver Kealoha Pilares, who caught eight passes for 102 yards and two touchdowns. “;Just go there and get in the hole. The underneath stuff was open all game.”;

BUT IT also seemed a given that Navy's spread option would hurt the Warriors and hurt them bad. We'd seen too many long marches by other teams with lesser running games. Heck, even Washington State ran the ball on UH.

That, however, was in September. The rookies on the UH defense aren't rookies anymore. After last night, we can officially say the Warriors defense has arrived. And in grand style; the Warriors stymied the Midshipmen.

Hawaii held the No. 3 rushing team in the country to 248 yards on the ground, allowing the current UH offense, the run-and-shoot, to outdo the UH attack of the previous generation—coached by former Hawaii quarterbacks Ken Niumatalolo and Ivin Jasper.

“;Coach Mack gave us a great speech,”; said linebacker Blaze Soares, he of 12 tackles, including the game-ending sack. “;They have the kind of offense that would rush for 600 yards, but not this night. A team that would eat up the clock, but not this night.”;

Soares was like a caged animal finally let loose on that last play, with Navy forced out of its comfort zone and needing to pass. Until then?

“;Simple. Certain people take the dive, certain people take the pitch man. We trusted each other to do that. Everyone did the job.”;

For the coaches, no critical questions about adjustments this week. It was tied at the half, and UH won the game after the break. McMackin adjusted with a five-man front, and it worked. Zero points for Navy after the break. Because everyone kept doing their job, and just their job. Like Blaze says, Simple. But also, damned near impossible.

In a sport that normally rewards superhuman effort, going that extra step against the option can get you dusted.

Last night, everyone on the Hawaii defense did what they were supposed to do with rare exception. And that's why the Warriors now have four wins in a row, a victory against a winning team and remain in the hunt for a bowl game.

Reach Star-Bulletin sports columnist Dave Reardon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), his “;Quick Reads”; blog at starbulletin.com, and twitter.com/davereardon.