Warriors show efficiency in run
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
The "run" in run-and-shoot offense always has had an oxymoronic quality for the University of Hawai'i football team, which is second nationally in passing.
But this week's NCAA national statistics show the Warriors are efficient runners, placing second in rushing yards per carry, with an average of 5.51.
The Warriors are second to national leader Kent State (5.56), but ahead of run-oriented teams such as Colorado (5.27), Nebraska (5.24) and Air Force (5.11).
"That's not surprising," UH coach June Jones said. "The reason our yards-per-carry (average) is higher is because we're throwing the ball more efficiently. That opens up the run. What we do is pass to set up the run, where other teams run to set up the pass."
By spreading the offense with four receivers, the running lanes also widen, Jones said.
Right guard Vince Manuwai said the Warriors are such selective runners 71 percent of their plays have been passes this season that the players expect every carry to result in a long run.
"We're always thinking we can score on every run," Manuwai said.
The Warriors rotate Thero Mitchell, Mike Bass and John West at the lone running back position, but each is averaging at least 5.8 yards per carry, led by West's 8.2 average. Twelve percent of West's runs five of 43 have resulted in touchdowns.
Jones, who has used the run-and-shoot for nearly three decades as a player and coach, said the offense always has produced successful rushers. Jones was the quarterback coach for the Detroit Lions in 1989 and 1990 when future Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders averaged 5.2 yards per carry, two points higher than his career average.
"With Barry, we were still running the ball," Jones recalled. "By formation, we were a pass team, but we weren't leading the NFC in passing at that time. Had we been, there's no telling what Barry might have done."
The Warriors have managed to succeed in the ground game despite only having four running plays the draw, dive, long trap and counter trap, which is designed for the slotbacks and rarely pursuing the prototypical running back. With no tight end in the run-and-shoot, the running back is considered to be the backfield blocker.
"We really don't recruit running backs, to be honest," said Jones, noting even West, a Leilehua High graduate who went on to become a junior college All-American, initiated talks with UH. "We recruit blocking backs. Michael Bass was an exception. We recruited Michael Bass because he was special. He was like a Barry Sanders. If we could get him, I wanted him."
He said he recruited Pesefea Fiaseu of St. Louis School "because he's a blocking back first. Those are the guys we need to get."
Jones said even running backs recruited for their blocking abilities also can be successful runners in the run-and-shoot offense.
"If you're playing running back, you have some running skills," Jones said. "Thero is a really good blocker and he has running ability. But I'm thinking of blocking first."
1. Kent State
3. Penn State
4. Miami (Fla.)
5. Kansas State
(tie) Bowling Green
(tie) West Virginia