Full Court Press
in red zone
ALL the bad things about the run-and-shoot were on prominent display in Hawaii's 28-20 loss at Nevada this weekend.
You could ask Warriors head coach June Jones about the inability to score touchdowns from in close, the inherent problems a fast-strike, high-risk offense inflicts on your defense and the punishment a quarterback suffers dropping back to pass 45 times a game; just don't expect a concession speech.
Instead, the answers are well-rehearsed and well-researched. He can quote statistical data from his days in the National Football League that prove the validity of the offense from any point on the field, refute the critics with carefully crafted sound bites and make you feel like a fool for even bringing it up.
But after watching Saturday's game against a Wolf Pack team that was blown off the field by Mountain West opponents Brigham Young and Colorado State, the old arguments about the pitfalls of the run-and-shoot ring true.
Four times Hawaii pushed its way inside the Nevada red zone in the first half alone with only one resulting in a touchdown. And that was on a spectacular 1-yard completion from Tim Chang to Channon Harris.
The other three trips, cut short at Nevada's 1-, 4- and 13-yard lines, produced two short field goals and one blocked attempt. Not exactly what you need to win, especially on the road.
Nevada survived these first-half body blows and came out in the third quarter with a knockout punch of its own. Ironically, two long scoring drives where the rush ruled the day were punctuated with touchdown passes of 7 and 9 yards from Nevada quarterback David Neill to wideouts Jermaine Brown and Nate Burleson.
Neavda's ability to run the ball effectively left the Warriors vulnerable to the pass. Granted, Hawaii's secondary isn't going to win any national awards, but when you have to respect the run first, it makes the passing game more dangerous still.
This isn't the case with the run-and-shoot. In fact, teams that bend but don't break against this finesse offense have a distinct advantage from in close. It's much easier to scheme the run-and-shoot when the back of the end zone serves as an extra defender.
Running the ball from in close doesn't pose as big a threat because there are only five offensive linemen blocking seven defenders in the box. The line doesn't run-block that often and isn't as efficient at it, which isn't a good thing when the defense can pack it in across the line of scrimmage.
There's also only one running back, eliminating the element of surprise or a lead blocker to clear the way. If the Warriors do run, everybody knows who's getting it.
THIS OFFENSE is extremely tough on the defense as well, especially at altitude. As an example, Hawaii's final scoring drive of 12 plays, 84 yards took 3:58 off the clock. It ended with Chang finding Chad Owens in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown.
Nevada's second scoring drive of the third quarter, which began after Chang was intercepted at the Wolf Pack 8-yard line, was 18 plays, 92 yards and it lasted a lengthy 8:16. As defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa would later say, it was his worst nightmare.
This is not to say the Warriors should shelve the run-and-shoot. But perhaps adding a tight end and an extra running back whenever Hawaii gets in close wouldn't be a bad idea.
It would force teams to make adjustments and perhaps give the Warriors the versatility needed to finish off drives with touchdowns rather than field goals. You could ask Jones about it, but he'll give you an answer he wants you to hear.
Paul Arnett has been covering sports
for the Star-Bulletin since 1990.
Email Paul: firstname.lastname@example.org.