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Tuesday, September 23, 2014         

WARRIOR FOOTBALL


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'One of those days'

No. 2-ranked Boise State thumps Hawaii, racking up a school record 737 yards along the way

By Stephen Tsai

POSTED:


BOISE, IDAHO » Thirty minutes after Hawaii's deflating 42-7 football loss to second-ranked Boise State, Warriors defensive coordinator Dave Aranda walked out of the locker room and toward a setting sun.

"It was one of those days," said Aranda, rubbing his shaved head. "Soon, it will be over with. It's time to put this day to bed."

It was on Bronco Stadium's blue turf where several of the Warriors' wishes came to die.

In what was billed as a Western Athletic Conference showdown, the Warriors — unable to get to Boise State's quarterback or to protect their own — lost for the first time in seven weeks, fell out of first place and entered a bye week wondering how everything good turned to dust in 3 hours, 3 minutes. The Broncos are 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the WAC. The Warriors are 7-3 and 5-1.

"I've been in games, where no matter what you try, it's not successful," Aranda said. "This was one of those games."

Led by quarterback Kellen Moore, the Broncos rolled up a school-record 737 yards.

Moore, a left-handed junior, was 30-for-37 for 507 yards and three touchdowns. He did not play in the fourth quarter for the fifth time this season.

He also was not sacked; then again, he has been sacked only twice in 218 pass plays this season. If this were a game of two-hand touch, he would be unscathed.

"He just avoids you," UH defensive end Kamalu Umu said. "When we got a good pass rush, we couldn't get him. He was always one step ahead."

In their third game of the season, the Warriors were left gasping against Colorado's no-huddle offense. Colorado's head coach used to be Boise State's head coach. The Warriors connected the dots in forming a defensive strategy.

"We thought they would try a no-huddle (offense)," Aranda said.

But the Broncos' version is like no other. They use pre-snap shifts and motions to keep defenses scrambling. Adding further deception, Moore is skilled in play-action moves and bootlegs.

The Warriors' counter-plot was to try to deny the primary receiver. Thing is, Moore is a speed-reader.

"You take away his first read, and he'll go to the second read, and the third read and the fourth read," UH linebacker Aaron Brown said.

Moore found speedy Austin Pettis on a 43-yard scoring play, speedier Titus Young on an 83-yard touchdown play, and slot receiver Tyler Shoemaker whenever he needed a big play.

"I love the quick tempo," Moore said. "You get completions. If you screw up, you have about 5 or 6 seconds to think about it, then you move on. It's just attacking on offense. You have to keep getting after that defense."

There was the metaphorical scent of blood when two of the Warriors' best open-field tacklers, cornerback Jeramy Bryant and rover Spencer Smith, suffered first-quarter injuries. Bryant had difficulty inhaling after he was hit on the ribs; tests did not show a fracture. Smith, who missed the past six games because of a fractured right forearm, started. But he left after appearing to aggravate the forearm.

When the Warriors tried to drop defenders into pass coverage, that opened the way for almost-forgotten running back Jeremy Avery.

Avery was the Broncos' starting running back in 2009, but ceded the job to Doug Martin in training camp. But Avery ran for 92 yards — no negative-yard rushes — and scored three touchdowns, the first coming on an end-around when the Broncos were in the wildcat formation.

"No matter what we did," Aranda said, "we couldn't make any plays. We tried a couple of different things. A zone. A man. A pressure. We weren't executing."

The Warriors' defensive miseries found company in the offensive woes.

The problems started during pregame warm-ups when right slotback Kealoha Pilares, the Warriors' No. 2 receiver, experienced tightness in his left hamstring. He initially suffered a strained hamstring while warming up during halftime of last week's game against Idaho.

"I tried to sprint, and I felt I tweaked it again," Pilares said. "It felt sore. I knew I couldn't go 100 percent."

McMackin decided not to allow Pilares to play.

"I didn't want to take a chance on screwing him up," McMackin said. "During warm-ups, it started tightening up on him. I said, 'Heck, with it. A game isn't worth screwing up a guy's future.'"

In addition to being a sure-handed receiver, Pilares is an effective blocker and route-runner. Pilares often is able to draw away a second inside defender from left slotback Greg Salas, the team's leading receiver.

"In this offense, everyone works together," Pilares said.

Without Pilares, the Broncos ran a layered scheme against Salas. Nickel back Winston Venable would bump Salas off his route, then release him to a safety in zone coverage.

"They had a guy re-route me, and another guy on (deep coverage)," Salas said. "It was very frustrating."

Salas was the intended target three times — twice by starting quarterback Bryant Moniz, once by backup Shane Austin. Salas had two catches for 10 yards. He entered averaging 137.3 receiving yards per game.

The Broncos forced the action with pressure from their defensive linemen. Out of a four-man front, the defensive ends often were aligned wide of the offensive tackles. That kept Moniz boxed in the pass pocket, where he had little scrambling room.

Moniz was sacked seven times. He finished 17-for-28 for 127 yards and no scoring passes.

"There was a lot of pressure," Moniz said. "They made it tough for us to get into a rhythm."

What's more, the Warriors suffered communication problems because of the loud crowd. In those situations, the Warriors go to a silent snap count. Center Bronson Tiwanak shouts out a blocking scheme to the guards, who pass it on to the tackles.

Because the tackles need to watch the snap, Tiwanak said, "it's hard for them to get out (of their stance) quickly."

Moniz said: "The crowd made it hard to get a good jump off the snap."

Combined with the relentless pass rush, the Warriors were forced to shorten their pass routes. That meant the Broncos could bring up the safeties to further crowd the passing lanes.

"They were very aware of Salas," offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said. "They gave (us) a lot of stuff to the outside guys."

The Warriors' passing attack usually is more effective using the slots to open the way for the wideouts. Missed passes and protection problems put the Warriors in difficult down-and-distance situations.

The Warriors converted three of 14 third-downs. But in eight of them, the Warriors needed at least 8 yards for a first down, an imposing goal for a team averaging 3.4 yards per play yesterday.

"We didn't play third down well at all," McMackin said. "They outplayed us in all phases."

Running back Alex Green, one of the few bright spots — he scored on a 54-yard run to help UH avert being shut out for the first time since 1998 — said: "They did a really good job of containing us. The D-line played hard and got to the quarterback a lot. It was hard for us to make plays. We couldn't do what we usually do."






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