Even in losses this season, the Rainbow Warriors offense has been explosive, able to move the ball downfield even in blowout losses. But this past Saturday’s game against San Diego State was different, as the Warriors offense struggled while their defense performed admirably at times.
“We need to be able to start faster and move the ball and take some shots,” said wide receiver Dylan Collie earlier this week after practice. “I think it’s just understanding who we are at all times and never forgetting the purpose of why we run the offense that we do. It’s a matter of the leaders stepping up and being the guy saying, ‘alright, let’s get this thing going and rolling and get it moving quickly.’”
While Hawaii’s offense has to do some soul searching, it appears that the Warriors defense has turned a corner, to an extent. And the ultimate test for this defensive unit will come this weekend against UNLV, which features a trio of quarterbacks armed and ready to torch opposing defenses.
“You got to practice efficiently. That’s part of the game defensively,” said Warrior head coach Nick Rolovich. “You can’t practice everything; you got to make sure your rules are sound and you're prepared for everything … They have different style quarterbacks, right? So depending on who plays, it poses different problems for our defense.”
The “different style” quarterbacks Rolovich referred to were Kurt Palandech, Johnny Stanton and Armani Rodgers.
Rodgers, who missed UNLV’s last game against Fresno State, looks set to make his return against the Warriors tomorrow. And if he’s available, the Warriors defense must remain disciplined.
“I think we’ve done enough throughout the year to prepare and you look at Rodgers - he’s not just a good runner, he’s a very good runner, he’s throws the ball pretty accurately,” Rolovich said. “So do you have to be ready for the quarterback run game? Yes … they got some ability, I think their coaches and coordinator does a nice job switching things up and getting the quarterback involved in the run game.”
Against the Aztecs last weekend, the Warriors defense had their moments. But due to the team’s lack of consistency on offense, Hawaii’s front-seven wore down and allowed San Diego State to run rampant, racking up 334 yards on the ground for the game.
Allowing that many rushing yards is a recipe for disaster for any defense, and the Warriors know they can’t let that happen again. The answer? Putting a stop to UNLV’s quarterback scrambles.
“They’re pretty athletic,” said defensive end David Manoa. “So we’re just trying to prepare ourselves for some of the reactions we’ll get come Saturday. Bur yeah, kind of just be on alert for the possibility that we’ll be running around a lot.
It’s no secret that this is a must-win game for a Hawaii team looking to earn a bowl invitation in a month’s time, but there’s no need to think ahead and not focus on the task at hand against the Rebels.
“These guys, they understand. They can do the math,’ Rolovich said. “But if we start putting too much pressure on us having to win three out of four, I’m not sure we could play loose to win football games. I think we’d press a little bit, so we’re not talking about that too much.”
Rolovich and his team will look to do their talking on the field tomorrow against the Rebels. Kickoff is set for 12 p.m. HT at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
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