The Rainbow Warriors defense has faced their fair share of struggles this season. At 478.4 yards per game allowed, they're currently ranked 118th in the nation in total defense and 111th in scoring defense having allowed 35+ points so far this season. But, coming off a win over San Jose State and currently in a bye week, head coach Nick Rolovich and defensive coordinator, Legi Suiaunoa both say the unit is showing the growth the team needs as they head into their final stretch of the season.
"I thought the defense came out pretty dialed in today," Rolovich said following practice on Thursday. "You can tell when a team or a position group, or side of a ball believes they can win a game and I think the defense came out that way today."
Rolovich says their improvements are just limited to their first practice since the team's win over San Jose State. He says their progress was evident in their play against the Spartans as well.
"I don't know if they've made a turn but they've made improvements," said Rolovich. "I think we made improvements as a team playing the game the right way."
One improvement in particular that Rolovich was particularly pleased with was in regards to penalties. After averaging more than ten penalties per game through the first six games of the season, Hawaii committed just one against the Spartans last Saturday, on a play that Rolovich says he doesn't classify as a "stupid penalty".
On the defensive side of the ball, Hawaii surrendered their fewest points yet this season against San Jose State in the 37-26 victory. But, Suiaunoa says there's still lots of work to be done and the focus this bye week will be firm fixated on fundamentals and execution.
"We're giving up too many big plays," said Suiaunoa. "Obviously these guys are giving us everything they got but fundamentally we got to be better to where those big plays don't happen."
With that in mind, Suiaunoa says the plan for bye week practices will be to emphasize individual work.
"We've got the corners working with just corners.. the safeties working with the safeties," Suiaunoa added. "Not a lot of group stuff, just guys working individually in position groups in terms of fundamental work. Playing with great eyes, great hands, great feet, great hips. All the things that we believe we need to improve to execute better."
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