ANNAPOLIS, Md. » The cannon boomed to finalize Navy’s 42-28 victory over Hawaii at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on Saturday.
It was not the loud explosion but a series of subtle implosions that signaled the winless Rainbow Warriors’ ninth loss of 2013.
For all the good — running back Joey Iosefa’s 191 rushing yards and quarterback Sean Schroeder’s 29-for-33 passing — the Warriors too often treated themselves poorly.
"You can’t make mistakes against a disciplined football team like that," UH coach Norm Chow said.
Two field-goal attempts sailed wide from chip-shot range. The Warriors lost fumbles on a punt return and kickoff return. They committed a roughing-the-passer penalty that nullified an interception. They were penalized five times for being offsides — four of the infractions against a nose tackle; one on third-and-4 with UH trailing by a touchdown with 2:28 to play.
"We have to be a little more disciplined," defensive coordinator Thom Kaumeyer said.
With precision as cool as the 51-degree temperature, the Midshipmen parlayed UH mistakes into points.
After Donnie King lost possession on a punt return, the Midshipmen, who rushed all four plays on their opening drive, called for a play-action pass. When the Warriors schemed against the dive option, Keenan Reynolds threw 26 yards to wide-open Geoffrey Whiteside for a 7-0 lead.
Later, on third-and-10 from the Navy 43, Reynolds scrambled for 31 yards. UH was called for face-guarding on the play, a personal foul that turned it into an aggregate 46-yard gain. Four plays later, Reynolds scored from a yard away, his first of four rushing touchdowns, to move the Midshipmen ahead 14-7.
In the third quarter, the nullified interception allowed Navy to retain possession and eventually led to fullback Quinton Singleton’s 12-yard touchdown run.
After UH drove 99 yards for a touchdown to close to 28-21, Navy took two plays and 40 seconds to respond, with Reynolds dashing 67 yards for a score.
"We knew that quarterback was a special guy," Kaumeyer said. "He does such a good job in reading the option."
Navy’s triple-option offense — which had a nine-year stint at UH — is an enigma that appears easy to operate but complicated to defend. There are two key plays. In the midline option, Reynolds can hand off to Singleton on a run up the gut or keep the ball and follow the fullback. In the load or sprint option, Reynolds can run or pitch to a trailing back. It is a strategy of mismatches.
"You have to stay in your gap," Kaumeyer said. "If you step away, they’ll attack the place you used to be."
That was apparent on Reynolds’ 67-yard run. The right slotback moved inside, a usual indication of an inside run, only this time Reynolds sprinted to the edge and turned upfield.
"We chased the fullback, and they ran right where we were (earlier)," Kaumeyer said. "That offense is the ultimate test to discipline. They’ll work it and work it. If they get 1 yard, they don’t care. They’ll keep doing it until somebody breaks down (on defense), and they’ll get a big play."
The Warriors, meanwhile, displayed patience on offense. Navy ran a blanket zone, with two or three defensive backs in deep coverage.
"They play that type of defense that’s hard to make big plays," UH coach Norm Chow said. "You’ve got to work your way down the field, and I thought we did a pretty good job of that."
Schroeder tried not to force deep passes. Off three-step drops out of the shotgun or rollouts, Schroeder looked to receivers in the flats or to tight end Clark Evans whenever pressure developed.
"The guys were making catches and the O-line was protecting well," said Schroeder, who hit 15 of 16 passes in the first half. He finished with 88 percent accuracy for 246 yards and three touchdowns. He was not intercepted.
The Warriors received a boost from Iosefa, who entered with two carries this season. He suffered a fracture in his left foot while training in July, an injury that kept him from playing until the Warriors’ fourth game of the season. But he lasted only one series in that game, and underwent a procedure in which a screw was inserted into the foot.
On Tuesday, Iosefa received full clearance to play.
"The No. 1 thing," running back coach Chris Wiesehan said of Iosefa’s layoff, "was he hadn’t been hit all season. We wanted to make sure he protected the football and not put it on the ground."
Iosefa did not miss a beat, grinding out yardage.
"He’s a power back, for sure," left guard Kody Afusia said. "I would put a hand on (a defender), just to get him a little out of the way, and (Iosefa) would hit it hard. He smashes it in there. Even if we miss a block, it doesn’t matter. He’ll make ’em miss an arm tackle."
Iosefa carried 35 times, tying a school record. He averaged 5.5 yards per carry. He also caught two passes.
"He was the hot hand," Schroeder said. ‘We were going to ride him."
Iosefa had a streak of six consecutive carries during a first-quarter drive. Later, he carried five times in a row.
"I wasn’t even worried about my foot," Iosefa said. "The more I worry about my foot, the less concentration I have in the game. I put it on the side. I had concentration. I played with confidence."
With defenses cramming the tackle box, Schroeder had receivers in single coverage. But the Warriors were shut out in the third quarter — they have been out-scored 90-28 in that period this season — and they could not catch up to the Midshipmen.
In the end, Schroeder’s statistical line brought no comfort.
"This one hurts," Schroeder said. "It hurts being 0-9. It’s a team sport. That’s what it’s all about. I’d be happy if I threw for zero yards and we got the win. That’s why we play this game, to try to get the win. We’ll keep on pushing, keep on fighting."