Halfway through the 2013 season, the Rainbow Warriors certainly didn’t mind an off week to collect themselves and their thoughts after a difficult first six games. While the second year of the Norm Chow era was expected to be a step forward, the UH football team is still searching for its first win. With six games still to be played, it’s an appropriate time to evaluate where the team is and where it can go.
While the defense brought back a solid core and showed promise in the team’s first two games against USC and Oregon State, it’s that same unit that has let the Warriors down the past three games. The Warriors have scored 101 points in the last three weeks, notching 37 against Fresno State (lost 42-37), 27 against San Jose State (lost 37-27) and 37 against UNLV (lost 39-37). That should usually translate to at least one victory.
The biggest problem has been the big deficits UH has had to overcome in all three contests. Though each game has finished with a close score – the Warriors have lost the three by a total of just 17 points – the offense has had to fight back each time.
They fell behind 42-3 against Fresno State before scoring the game’s final 34 points. They held an early lead against San Jose State, but gave up 24 straight points to trail by 20 late in the third quarter. They trailed 36-17 in the fourth quarter against UNLV and clawed back to take a one-point lead before the Rebels won the game on a 44-yard field goal as time expired.
Winning football games is all about keeping manageable deficits. Just like a baseball pitcher in the playoffs, objective number one for a defensive unit is to keep its team in the game. Sacks, interceptions, defensive scores are all great, but they’re bonuses. More than anything else, they must simply give their offense a chance.
The trouble has been limiting aerial assaults. The defense has done a fairly good job stopping the run, giving up just 3.6 yards per rush on the season, but teams are piling up yards through the passing game, averaging 7.8 yards per pass play and over 300 yards per game.
On the positive side, quarterback Sean Schroeder wrestled the starting job away from Taylor Graham, though it required an injury to the strong-armed Ohio State transfer to put him on the sideline. Graham was not living up to preseason expectations in his limited action before injuring his shoulder. He completed just 46 percent of his passes, averaged 127 yards and threw two touchdowns with four interceptions in his three starts.
Schroeder has played in five games and started two, completing 57 percent of his passes for 1,137 yards, 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He has been the team’s most effective signal caller, though it must be noted that much of his success has come when the team is playing catch up against some softer defenses.
The UH defense, which we initially thought was the team’s strength, needs to regain its early form and slow down opposing quarterbacks. The UH offense – whoever may be under center – has to be more efficient and more competitive early in games. Fighting back from big deficits certainly hasn’t been the Norm Chow way and I’m sure he’ll be looking for his team to buck that trend when they get back on the field next Saturday against Colorado State.
At this point, trying to project a win total is meaningless. As a New York Giants fan, I know that 0-6 isn’t fun for anyone. There’s no point in looking at what other teams are doing or looking any further down the schedule than the immediate future. One win.
That should be all Coach Chow and the Warriors are focused on. Just flip that zero to a one, revive some confidence and try to improve this program one week at a time.
SHIGEMATSU: An interesting note reported Friday by the Star-Advertiser’s Stephen Tsai in his Warrior Beat blog was that Kapaa High School graduate Sean Shigematsu was practicing with the first team offense at left guard. The junior lineman has been primarily used at tackle in both his Kapaa and UH career, so keep an eye on that change moving forward.
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