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Tulsa's pace will tax Warriors' defense

By Stephen Tsai

LAST UPDATED: 3:07 p.m. HST, Dec 17, 2010

For the Hawaii football team, the goal on defense is to get up to speed.

"We know one thing; this will be the fastest offense we'll see," UH associate head coach Rich Miano said of Tulsa, the Warriors' opponent in the Dec. 24 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, "and we're preparing for that."

The Golden Hurricane average an offensive play every 23 seconds. In several drives this season, Tulsa has called a play from a no-huddle formation and snapped the ball within 13 seconds.

"Tulsa executes at a fast tempo," UH defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. "Good execution, plus the fast tempo, creates problems."

Aranda said Tulsa's pace prevents defenses from substituting, which then causes fatigue.

"Big plays come when (defensive) guys are worn down or tired," Aranda said. "They get confused. ... When guys are gassed, they don't communicate. You get one guy doing this and one guy doing that, and that's when you get into trouble."

Miano said: "When you're tired, your mental recognition goes down, and you tend not to see things clearly and not make calls. We've got to communicate with each other, and we've got to get aligned. Being mentally sharp is as important as being in shape physically. This team will test you."

To prepare, the Warriors' defensive starters were matched against the top two offensive units during 7-on-7 and team drills. When one play was finished, the other unit would line up quickly for another play.

"We wanted to go rapid-fire against our No. 1 defense," UH head coach Greg McMackin said.

In another drill, the scout team offense tried to run two plays every minute. While the play was called using placards, the defensive players had to turn their backs to prevent stealing signals.

"Then (the defensive players) had to figure out which call to make," McMackin said. "Tulsa has a fast-paced, no-huddle offense, so we have to have a quick-react, no-huddle defense. The way to do that is to practice fast."

Because this is final-exam week, the Warriors have not had fully attended practices. But early Monday, in a mandatory meeting, the players were shown a video of Tulsa's offense. It appeared the plays were edited; they were not.

"We have to be in shape for this game," safety Mana Silva said.

Wednesday afternoon, the scout-team offense was summoned. The scouts were shown the 30-play itinerary for yesterday's session. Every play was different.

"We learned a lot real quick," said Joey Cadiz, who played running back, tight end and slotback for the scouts.

The scouts admittedly took pride in trying to tire the defensive starters yesterday.

"It was about tempo," said Corey Nielsen, the scout team's quarterback. "It was fun getting after them a little bit. It's more of a mental thing than a physical thing."

After the drill, some defensive players thanked Nielsen.

"It was good to get a quicker look because Tulsa runs a no-huddle offense," defensive end Paipai Falemalu said. "We're adjusting. The coaches kept on us."

Defensive tackle Kaniela Tuipulotu added: "We're getting our lungs back. We'll be OK."

At the end of the 2-hour practice, the Warriors ran sprints the width of the practice field.

"Our guys are in great shape," McMackin said. "Tommy (Heffernan, the conditioning coach) has kept them busy. He's making sure they're going to be able to play at a very fast pace."

Aranda said: "The guys were gassed, but they pushed through it. They know what's coming on Christmas Eve. They're getting up for it."

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