I am reporting live this week from Oahu; specifically from a lanai, while drinking a Mexican Coke, looking over a beautiful beach and enjoying life (The view in the picture is what I am currently looking at). As I am still in Oahu I have not been able to watch the game on DVR as I usually do, so this analysis is off the top of my head. Before diving into the details of the game we witnessed on Saturday I first want to share a few thoughts with you all.
First off, this island is the worst of the Hawaiian Islands, there is no doubt. Only time we went into Waikiki was on Saturday for the game, it is like a sweaty, “bro-y” Seattle. It is truly a miserable place, I hate it. Luckily we stayed out of the city and enjoyed less people and more quiet.
Game day itself was really strange. Aloha Stadium is an absolute disaster, it is basically a rusted out piece of metal that just happens to hold events like football games and swap meets (which I am sure Norm Chow quite enjoys). The atmosphere in the stadium is non-existent; I would actually venture to guess that the swap meet has an atmosphere that exceeds game day in Aloha Stadium.
The game certainly did not go as I had expected. I thought the team would struggle at times, but I thought struggling might result in a score of say, 34-17. In the end, the team got the win which is really all that mattered for a non-conference game anyways and I thought the coaches handled the situation that presented itself fairly well. After a drive or two in the second half I believe the coaches just figured they have to just get out of there with a win. The offense was dreadful for most of the game, specifically the second half. I thought they got in a bit of a rhythm at times in the first half, but then everything went to hell after that. I felt a bit bad for Jonathan Smith, it has to be pretty difficult to call a game when you know your QB can’t hit a wide open receiver and the offensive line is not really generating any running lanes (until late). I am sure there were times when he looked down at his call sheet and thought to himself, “Nothing on this sheet will work”.
But enough about offense, I want to talk about the defense and how well I thought they played.
One of the most difficult points of modern football for me to remember is that defensive success is changing at the same rate offensive success is. With the way the game is officiated, and the new emphasis on pace of play all sorts of numbers that once meant great defense are now different. In the past years I have started looking at one very important stat, explosive plays, mostly because Pete Carroll believes in it very strongly (and he knows what he is talking about in regards to defense). Carroll defines an explosive play as a 12+ yard run or a 16+ yard pass. His staff has done studies that show that if you allow one explosive play in a given drive the offense will score points 75% of the time. The goal for his defense is to limit the other team to three explosive plays in a game; their studies show that if you hit this limit the other team will score on average 8.6 points per game. I will say that pace of play has gone up much since this time, so this average seems a bit low to me now.
Hawai’i ran 97 plays against UW on Saturday, which is a huge number. Of those 97 plays the UW defense gave up just three explosive passes, and one explosive run. UH’s first play of the game was a pass for 21 yards, their 4th play was another 21 yard pass, they went on to score a TD in that drive. At the start of the 2nd quarter UH completed a pass of 29 yards, they did not score as they went for it on 4th down deep in UW territory. Early in the 4th quarter UH had their lone explosive run for 22 yards, they converted a FG shortly after that. 97 plays run in really stifling heat, four explosive plays for Hawai’i, I’ll take that from the defense every day (I’d rather them not get 97 plays though). Just for comparisons sake, UW ran 74 plays and had six explosive plays (3 rush, 3 pass); only two of those explosive plays didn’t result in points, and one of them actually helped seal the game for UW.
By no means am I saying this was a great defensive performance for UW; but given the circumstances of the game and how awful the offense was for a majority of the game the really did a solid job and helped UW win a game that probably should never have been this close. Hopefully this is useful for some out there to understand the importance of explosive plays; I know every UW game I watch I am making sure I am keeping track of them as best I can. It is a great predictor of success in the game itself.
Extra Note: Just had to get this off my chest as it has come to my attention that some out there are saying Chris Petersen is doing things his way and alluding to that being a bad thing. If Chris Petersen came over to UW and did ANYTHING different than what he did at Boise I would call him stupid (he isn’t), he has gone 93-12 doing things his way. Calm down, doogs.