Warriors' switch frustrates Owls
|||Mitchell gives Warriors big rush with each carry|
|||New son, position: all good for Kapanui|
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
HOUSTON Take all of the preconceptions about the University of Hawai'i football team, reverse them and the result is the Warriors' 33-28 victory over Rice yesterday.
Hawai'i's Thero Mitchell, Tim Chang and Justin Colbert, from left, celebrate Mitchell's 3-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
The Warriors also overcame the blinding sunlight, which forced quarterback Tim Chang to squint the entire second quarter, and chilly winds, when the mercury dropped into the 40s in the final period at Rice Stadium.
"We didn't come all this way to lose," UH offensive tackle Uriah Moenoa said. "Hey, I don't like the cold. I'm not used to it. I don't have a Samoan last name for no reason."
In conditions in which players could see their breath, the Warriors waited, until the final seconds, before exhaling. The Owls' last drive was exhausted when backup quarterback Greg Henderson, on a fourth-and-3 play from the UH 11, was knocked down by defensive end Houston Ala for a 4-yard loss with eight seconds remaining. Ala had missed the last three games because of a bruised left Achilles' heel.
"He looked great on that play," UH defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa said. "I liked the fact that our defense was on the field at the end of the game, and we stopped (Rice's) offense to win it. We needed a stop and we made one."
"It was one of those days," said Rice wide receiver Marcus Battle, who scored on a 60-yard reverse and, with 4:43 to play, and a 54-yard strike from Henderson. "We just came up short."
The Owls' offensive failings could be traced to Lempa's innovative defensive schemes. With last week's bye, Lempa had two weeks to plot a defense to slow the Owls' wishbone attack. The Owls entered with a WAC-best average of 249.8 rushing yards per game.
The Warriors, who usually align in a 4-3 defense, went with a 4-4 formation, in which safeties Chad Kapanui and David Gilmore opened as outside linebackers. The scheme was designed for the faster linebackers to guard the perimeters on option runs and for Hyrum Peters, the lone safety, to provide the double team on runs and passes.
"They were not going to let us run the ball," Rice coach Ken Hatfield said. "They said, 'If you're going to beat us, you're going to have to beat us throwing the ball.' "
The Owls relied on trickery and breakdowns in defensive coverages to produce three touchdown plays, each spanning more than 30 yards. But the Owls' bread-and-butter is the option, and with the running lanes crowded, their offense turned to crumbs.
The Owls rushed for 256 yards, but only 137 came from running backs.
"We made some yardage running the ball, but we didn't make enough yardage running the ball that we needed to," Hatfield said.
UH's defense received a boost when several seniors delivered emotional halftime speeches. Middle linebacker Chris Brown stood on a chair and yelled, "It's gut-check time. We came here to do one thing, and that was to take care of business. We came here to play the game and win the game."
The mood was lightened when defensive tackle Lance Samuseva implored his teammates to .... smile.
"Everybody looked at him," Brown recalled, "and started smiling. It was cold and it was miserable, but we knew we had to win this game, no matter what."
In football's give-and-take currency, the Warriors' defensive success provided more opportunities for their offense. Rice had possession for only 27 minutes, 18 seconds more than 3 minutes less than their average for the season and none of its 15 drives lasted more than 4 minutes.
The Warriors used their time wisely against the Owls' pass-prevent defense. The Owls dropped their three safeties and two cornerbacks into a deep coverage, choking the Warriors' long pass routes.
"They were playing so far off, we couldn't stretch the field like we normally do," UH wideout Justin Colbert said. "I guess they were so scared of getting beat deep, they gave us the underneath stuff. We had to take what they gave us."
Chang amassed 369 passing yards bit by bit, completing 35 of 64 passes, and distributing the offense to six receivers. Slotback Nate Ilaoa, who missed the last game because of an injured right shoulder, caught a career-high 10 passes for 108 yards. Colbert had eight grabs for 80 yards, Britton Komine had five for 65 yards, and Neal Gossett had five for 61. Jeremiah Cockheran, who, at 6 feet, is UH's tallest receiver, soared for a momentum-turning 8-yard scoring pass at the start of the third quarter. Cockheran, who can dunk a basketball, tight-roped the end zone's sideline.
"I wanted to attack the ball at the highest point," said Cockheran, who is recovering from a groin injury. "If I could do that, I could make the play."
When the Owls dropped their two linebackers into pass coverage, the Warriors countered by calling for draws and off-tackle runs. UH netted 160 rushing yards, led by Thero Mitchell's 75 yards, including two for touchdowns. He also busted loose for a 41-yard run that was set up when left guard Shayne Kajioka raced to the right side and flattened the defensive end. (Kajioka later suffered a bruised sternum after being struck by a Rice player's helmet.)
"When we decide to use it, our running game can be pretty effective," Mitchell said. "We can pound it out when we get behind our big O-line."
UH's blockers welcomed a break from pass-blocking.
"Running isn't really our thing," UH center Lui Fuata said, "so when we get a chance to run, we get excited. The O-line wants to block. On running plays, that's our chance to deliver hits."
Mike Bass, who rushed for 55 yards on a team-high 12 carries, acknowledged, "It was the night for the RBs."
"That's right," said running back John West, whose locker was next to Bass'. "It was time for the RBs to get paid."
|How they scored|
|At Aloha Stadium|
|UHThero Mitchell 4 run (Justin Ayat kick)||11:04||7||0|
|RICERobbie Beck 4 run (Brennan Landry kick)||4:52||7||7|
|RICEBeck 32 run (Landry kick)||3:11||7||14|
|UHFG Ayat 28||0:03||10||14|
|UHJe. Cockerhan 8 pass from Tim Chang (kick failed)||8:49||16||14|
|UHBritton Komine 17 pass from Chang (Ayat kick)||7:52||23||14|
|RICEMarcus Battle 60 run (Landry kick)||6:45||23||21|
|UHFG Ayat 21||3:44||26||21|
|UHMitchell 3 run (Ayat kick)||7:50||33||21|
|RICEBattle 54 pass from Greg Henderson (Landry kick)||4:47||33||28|
|HAWAII 11 plays, 80 yards, 3:56 elapsed time. Thero Mitchell 4 run. Justin Ayat kick. Big plays: Tim Chang 11 run on draw play, Nate Ilaoa 31 middle shovel pass from Chang. Time: 11:04. Score: Hawaii 7, Rice 0.|
|RICE 8 plays, 76 yards, 3:37 elapsed time. Robbie Beck 4 run. Brennan Landry kick. Big play: UH offside on third down, gives RIce a first down; Vincent Hawkins 37 pass from Kyle Herm. Time: 4:52. Score: Hawaii 7, Rice 7.|
|RICE 3 plays, 48 yards, 50 seconds elapsed time. Beck 32 run. Landry kick. Big play: Marcus Battle 16 pass from Herm to UH 32. Time: 3:11. Score: Rice 14, Hawaii 7.|
|HAWAI'I 6 plays, 40 yards, 1:13 elapsed time. Ayat 28 field goal. Big plays: Neal Gossett 15 and 16 passes from Chang, Justin Colbert 13 pass from Chang. Time: 0:03. Score: Rice 14, Hawaii 10.|
|Hawaii 9 plays, 57 yards, 4:41 elapsed time. Jeremiah Cockerhan 8 pass from Chang. Kick failed. Big plays: Mike Bass 9 pass from Chang; Cockerhan 16 pass from Chang to Rice 5; Chang completes five straight passes. Time: 8:49. Score: Hawaii 16, Rice 14.|
|Hawaii 3 plays, 21 yards, 49 seconds elapsed time. Britton Komine 17 pass from Chang. Ayat kick. Big play: Lono Manners recovered fumbled kick off by Sean White at Rice 21. Time: 7:52. Score: Hawaii 23, Rice 14.|
|RICE 3 plays, 65 yards, 1:07 elapsed time. Battle 60 run. Landry kick. Time: 6:45. Score: Hawaii 23, Rice 21.|
|Hawaii 8 plays, 72 yards, 3:01 elapsed time. Ayat 21 field goal. Big plays: Ilaoa 12 pass, Komine 12 pass from Chang; Mitchell 41 run to Rice 5. Time: 3:44. Score: Hawaii 26, Rice 21.|
|Hawaii 7 plays, 48 yards, 2:33 elapsed time. Mitchell 3 run. Ayat kick. Big plays: John West 11 run; Colbert 13 pass from Chang; Colbert 11 pass from Chang to Rice 5. Time: 7:50. Score: Hawaii 33, Rice 21.|
|RICE 4 plays, 64 yards, 1:02 elapsed time, Battle 54 pass from Greg Henderson. Landry kick. Big play: Greg Gatlin recovered fumble by Ilaoa at Rice 36. Time: 4:43. Score: Hawaii 33, Rice 28.|
|Yards gained rushing||175||256|
|Yards lost rushing||15||29|
|Net yards rushing||160||227|
|Net yards passing||369||183|
|Total offensive plays||92||69|
|Total net yards||529||410|
|Average gain per play||5.8||5.9|
|Time of possession||32:42||27:18|
|San Jose St.||4||3||246||252||6||6||360||448|