Hawaii vs. UCLA: Warriors Routed By Bruins, 44-10
The Hawaii Warriors had an afternoon to forget in a season-opening loss to the UCLA Bruins.
Hawaii was plagued by old issues against the Bruins.
Call it hopeful, call it optimistic, or call it naive, but I honestly believed that the Warriors were going to the Rose Bowl to not only cover the spread and make it a game, but to beat the Bruins and shock the college football world in Week 0. After ending last season on a high note, adding talent during the recruiting cycle and having a full off-season, I thought that we had a recipe for success. Unfortunately, that was not the case on Saturday. From the first snap, which made me say, “Whoa… UCLA’s defense is fast” until the last merciful kneeldown, UCLA took it to the Warriors in all four phases of the game: Offense, defense, special teams and coaching.
Going into the game, I made a list of things I’d be watching for:
What will the receiver rotation look like?
I was interested to see who would step up and assert themselves as a solid starting receiver. The answer I got from Saturday was… no one. ared Smart (one catch, nine yards) and Aaron Cephus (one catch, 49 yards) started at the two wideout positions, Calvin Turner Jr. (five catches, 50 yards) started in the slot, and Caleb Phillips (two catches, four yards, one TD) started at tight end. Turner Jr. caught a pass for negative yardage on the first possession and then did not touch the ball again until 41 seconds left in the first quarter. He had no rushing attempts and I don’t think he ever lined up in the backfield on Saturday.
Nick Mardner (three catches, 35 yards) was in the rotation early and he had the first positive play of the season, picking up 16 yards on a drag route four offensive possessions into the game. To be fair, the receivers didn’t have much of a chance to get going as Chevan Cordiero faced pressure all day and struggled to get the ball out. When he did, we saw numerous drops. In the end, Hawaii finished with 243 yards through the air and a touchdown, though the majority of that came against the back-ups with the game already out of reach.
— Sideline CFB (@SidelineCFB) August 28, 2021
Coach Graham’s use of timeouts…
Last season, I was very critical of Todd Graham’s use of timeouts. He consistently burned through timeouts in defensive situations (short yardage situations on third and fourth down) and, most times, the other team ended up scoring or picking up the first down, anyway. As a defensive minded coach, that unit should be ready for those situations without having to call a timeout. Not only does that take away a timeout which could end up being critical in a late half or game situation, it also gives the opposing offense time to think and scheme up a play to convert.
On Saturday, Graham burned through all three first-half timeouts in the first quarter. The first was burned on offense before the first play of the second drive, which is as big a waste as you can imagine since your offense should know what the first play is. The second was burned when the defense faced a third-and-7, but UCLA picked up 14 yards on the next play. The last timeout was burned on fourth and goal at the one-yard line, after which the Bruins punched it in for six point.
Yes, a goal line stand would have been massive for momentum, but do we not practice defending those situations? Do we need to burn a timeout in order to make a defensive stop? Obviously, the timeouts did not come into play in Saturday’s game, but one of these days we will need to stop the clock at the end of the game and we won’t have any timeouts.
Tempo of the Hawaii offense…
During his introductory press conference, Graham spoke about how he was going to implement an exciting, up-tempo, spread attack that would stretch the field both horizontally and vertically. Last season, I gave him a pass because of the lack of an off-season and the difficulty it posed for the installation of a new offense. I was excited to see the new up-tempo attack on Saturday, but instead we saw a Norm Chow-style no-huddle that continuously took the play clock under 10 seconds and even received a delay of game penalty at one point.
The goal of most up-tempo attacks is to try to get the snap off within 20 seconds of the last play ending. The question I have now is whether the plays take too long to come in from the coaches or if the current personnel simply isn’t capable of running an up-tempo offense.
Third down efficiency…
At times last season, the Warriors struggled to convert on third downs, especially third and long. They were much more efficient when they were able to use the running game or quick passes to set up more manageable. It seems as though there is still room for improvement as the Warriors went 4-for-15 on third down conversions against the Bruins, which included going 0-for-7 with nine or more yards to go. The running game was shut down with just 26 yards total for the game and UCLA came up and tackled well in the quick passing game.
The best example of where things went wrong is in Dae Dae Hunter’s receiving line, since he caught a team-high seven passes out of the backfield for 19 yards. Because Hunter also managed just 20 yards on seven rushing attempts, that put the Warriors in a lot of situations where the Bruins were able to pin their ears back and get after Cordeiro. At times, they blitzed six and Cordeiro was forced to get the ball out to the hot receiver, where UCLA did a good job tackling. At other times, the Bruins let their defensive line create pressure while they dropped seven, resulting in coverage sacks.
Can the Warriors stop the run…
Last year, the Warriors got shredded on the ground. On Saturday, the Bruins ran for 243 yards and four touchdowns. In my game preview, I talked about the importance of open field tackling and you can’t find a better example of the work left to be done than Zach Charbonnet’s 47-yard touchdown run, when the Michigan transfer broke six tackles on his way to a Top 10 play on SportsCenter later in the day. Dorian Thompson-Robinson is overrated as a quarterback and had numerous misthrows, but once the Bruins realized they could run the ball with ease, DTR’s inconsistency did not matter.
Zach Charbonnet has been incredible today. UCLA is rolling Hawaii.
— CFB Blitz (@BlitzCfb) August 28, 2021
Are we as fans disappointed in the performance? Of course. Is it time to panic and throw in the towel on the season? Hell no. UCLA is a Power 5 team and on Saturday they looked like it. You saw the separation in the trenches as the Bruin defensive line’s speed and power created problems for the Hawaii offensive line all day, and the UCLA offensive line opened holes big enough to drive a car through. They are experienced and also got quality transfers that contributed immediately. Linebacker Ale Kaho, an Alabama transfer, had a sack and a blocked punt while Charbonett ran for 106 yards and three touchdowns on just six carries. UCLA will be a legitimate PAC-12 South contender and most likely the toughest team UH will face all season.
That being said, I don’t think the Warriors played up to their potential and I know they aren’t happy with the performance. The Warriors looked completely unprepared at times and failed to make the in-game adjustments necessary to keep things competitive. Once again, the offense struggled to get going and first year offensive coordinator Bo Graham was outs-chemed by veteran defensive coordinator Jerry Azzinaro all day long. The Warriors accounted for -3 yards total in their first three drives, which continues the ongoing trend of getting off to a slow start.
This week, the Warriors host the Portland State Vikings at T.C. Ching Field, an on-campus stadium that will be the temporary home of Hawaii Football until a new stadium is built. Seeing as our disastrous rail-system has taken over a decade to not even be finished, I won’t hold my breath on when the new stadium will happen, but that’s a rant for another day.
Looking forward to seeing the Warriors regroup and bounce back against the Vikings. As always, let’s go Bows!