'A lack of focus': Defense a concern for Rainbow Warriors

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Two hundred and twenty-three points.

That's how many points opposing offenses have put on the scoreboard through six games this season against the Rainbow Warrior football team.

Through those six games, the Warriors defense is surrendering an average of 37.2 points per game. That ranks 117th in the nation out of a possible 130 teams.

"We need to raise our standard of what we think is OK," said Warriors head coach Nick Rolovich after practice on Tuesday, "if we keep doing the same thing, we can't expect different results."

A major factor for Hawaii's struggles have been because of it secondary, which has been given up big plays throughout the season. Against Colorado State, the Warriors allowed 10.1 yards per play to the Rams, essentially a new sets of downs every time the ball was snapped.

Last week against Nevada, Wolf Pack running back Kelton Moore averaged 11.4 yards per carry, which wouldn't have been that catastrophic if he didn't carry the rock 19 times for 216 yards.

Blown assignments, particularly in the middle linebacker and safety positions, are haunting the Warriors. And Rolovich knows that one player's mistake is all it takes to change the dynamic of a game.

"I think first you address if it's one guy who makes a mistake and it goes for 60 yards, that hurts everybody," he said. "It's back to everyone to do their job; do what you're supposed to do on each play and play as hard as you can, and the plays will come."

On the bright side, Hawaii's defense has begun to generate a consistent pass rush in recent weeks, now with 15 sacks on the season which is good enough for T-22nd in the nation with the likes of Auburn, Arizona State and Miami.

But creating turnovers has become the focus for the Warriors defensive unit, and they nearly turned the Nevada game on its head on a few occasions by forcing fumbles.

"I was proud that we got three or four balls out, ripping them out. I know guys were out of bounds, a couple guys were down got an interception, I think that emphasis last week started showing itself, showing itself in the game," Rolovich said. "And we can't stop on that front either.  But this is about being responsible to each other. Not us, not necessarily even the program or the state. It's to these guys first, to the guy next to them."

Holding the defense accountable falls on the shoulders of defensive coordinator Legi Suiaunoa, who is looking for a change in attitude this week against the San Jose State Spartans.

"I think these boys, they work hard enough to where we need to get some confidence back and obviously, some success at this point of the season," Suiaunoa said. "That's something that would help this team out tremendously."

With pride on the line this Saturday for Homecoming, the Warriors will have to play like they have their backs against the wall. Because in many ways, especially after losing four straight games, the team is in must-win mode.

"As a team, and obviously as a defense, the word coach (Rolovich) uses this week is discipline. We're not executing very well right now and a lot of it, at times, has been a lack of focus … we lose track of that. We're giving up too many big plays at the wrong time during games. There's never a good time to give up a big play … but right now, for us on defense, we're just worried right now about getting back to the basics."

The Warriors will take on the Spartans this Saturday at Aloha Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

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