POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Nov 12, 2011
LAST UPDATED: 05:23 a.m. HST, Nov 12, 2011
HAWAII5-4 overall, 3-2 in the WAC
NEVADA5-3 overall, 3-0 in the WAC
Six years ago, Nevada head coach Chris Ault invented an offense. Every year, Hawaii coordinator Dave Aranda reinvents his defense.
Both styles will be matched tonight when Nevada plays host to UH in an ESPNU game.
Ault’s pistol offense — with the quarterback aligned 4 yards from the line of scrimmage and the lone running back 3 yards directly behind him — has spawned many imitators. The Warriors use the same formation for symmetry, especially with the running back’s blocking assignments, but not in scheme. The pistol is primarily a running attack. The Warriors prefer to pass.
On defense, Aranda’s schemes have numerous influences. The line movements come from the Philadelphia Eagles; the four-across zone coverages from Nebraska. Aranda has melded the schemes into the Warriors’ best rushing defense (117.8 yards per game) in nearly two decades.
|LSB||5||Billy Ray Stutzmann||6-0||175||So.|
Outlook: This season, the Warriors have struggled to complete passes on streak sideline routes of at least 20 yards. Last week, they were zip-for-six on such plays. But like a basketball team that doesn’t attempt 3-point shots, enabling defenses to collapse the zone, the long passes, even if not completed, are a necessary function of the Warriors’ four-wide offense. “It keeps the defenses honest,” Moniz said, as well as offers limited risks. A long pass can result in a completion, pass-interference penalty, incompletion or interception. Two of the four are beneficial, one is not harmful, and an interception of a deep pass can be viewed as a punt. Opening the quick-strike underneath routes is important for an offense whose quarterback absorbed 10 hits last week (and 46 in the past four games) and likely will be without right wideout Royce Pollard, who averages a team-high yards-after-catch average of 6.01. Ostrowski regains his starting job in place of Justin Clapp (broken ribs, collapsed lung). Ostrowski is a reliable receiver, catching 84.4 percent of the passes on which he is the primary target. Leonard, who started eight games at left guard, makes his first career start at left tackle.
Outlook: After missing the first half of the season while recovering from surgery for a fracture in his right foot, Tavita Woodard (above) is contributing more as a defensive end. Woodard, who transferred from Eastern Arizona, was recruited as a pass-rusher. But in the past two games, he has been effective as a perimeter run-stopper. Woodard, who is 6-4, has gained 8 pounds since the summer surgery and now weighs 258. “I feel more comfortable with the run now,” Woodard said. “The pass rush is coming along, too. I had a talk with Coach Tony (Tuioti, who tutors the defensive linemen), and he’s letting me loose.” Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said Woodard is comparable to Kamalu Umu, who led the Warriors in sacks in 2010. “I’d take 11 Umus right now,” Aranda said. “Tavita is big, fast and strong. He’s going to be a real special athlete.” Woodard might provide another threat for a defensive line that has produced 13 of UH’s 28 sacks.
Outlook: The Warriors expect Chun to be healthy enough to play. He was scratched from last week’s game because of tendinitis in his left (non-kicking) leg. Against Utah State, the Warriors opted to go for it on fourth down twice because of Chun’s unavailability. The Warriors are hopeful the thin air (Reno’s elevation is 4,500 feet) will boost Hadden’s kickoffs. Visiting teams’ kickoffs are averaging 5.74 yards longer in Reno.
Outlook: The Pack knew it had to replace quarterback Colin Kaepernick, now with the San Francisco 49ers, but it did not know it would be a double move. Tyler Lantrip started the first four games, all on the road, before ceding to Fajardo, an accurate passer (70.8 percent) and even better runner (6.5 yards per carry, 10 touchdowns in 65 non-sack rushes). Fajardo is best throwing on the run, and his favorite target is Matthews (51 catches, 16.5 yards per catch), although seven other receivers are averaging double-digit yards each reception. Fajardo has the strength to roll outside of the left hashmark and throw across to Matthews near the right sideline. Ball is a mix of power (benches 350 pounds) and speed (4.41 seconds in the 40), and Lampford Mark (6-1, 200, So.) is even quicker (4.39 in the 40). The Pack relies on zone reads and misdirections, with formations designed to create overloads. Fajardo is the first option in the running attack. There are numerous plays where the Pack assign two lead blockers when Fajardo rushes.
Outlook: After going three games in a row without relinquishing a reception of at least 25 yards, the Wolf Pack were burned for 10 of those pass plays in the past two games. That prompted the Pack’s cornerbacks to focus on coverages during the extra practices created by last week’s bye. “To see the balls completed over our heads, that’s not characteristic of us,” cornerbacks coach James Ward told ESPN Radio 94.5. “Our guys have really focused on making plays down the field.” Frey is the shut-down corner who has started since the middle of his freshman year. He also has Hawaii ties. His uncle is Wendell Owens, a backup point guard on the UH basketball team that played in the 1994 NCAA Tournament. Wooten, a quarterback in high school, was the nickelback last year. Roy is a high-motor lineman who repels double teams. He has 14.5 backfield tackles and eight sacks.
Outlook: Only two UH punts have been returned this season. Don’t expect that total to increase this week, with the Warriors expected to sky-punt to Matthews, who averages 16.5 yards per return. He scored on an 86-yard return this year. After kicker Anthony Martinez suffered an injury last month, Hardison, a UNLV transfer, filled in, converting seven of 10 field-goal attempts, including two from beyond 40 yards.