Can’t say I’m surprised, since this is the stadium where fans booed during a game when the home team beat Alabama.
This time it was due to displeasure with playcalling in Hawaii’s 43-29 victory over Rice tonight at Aloha Stadium. Yes, you read that correctly … a 43-29 VICTORY.
Yes — UH, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2010 — was booed by its home fans in a game in which it never trailed, during a season in which it has never trailed. It wasn’t as pretty as the score indicated, but Hawaii is now 3-0.
Playcalling is not an exact science, and sure, it might seem to make sense that when you’re having success passing the ball you should keep passing the ball. But if you lose your mind over a couple of running plays that don’t work maybe you’re forgetting that the object is to win the game — and protecting a lead doesn’t always mean calling a high-risk, high-yield play on every down.
Although there are times when the run-and-shoot offense can succeed with nearly all passing plays, those times are rare and becoming rarer. Sometime you do have to run to set up the pass, just like sometimes you have to pass to set up the run. When a play doesn’t succeed it doesn’t always mean it was a horrible call.
There are strategic reasons for running when you are ahead in a game. The more clock you burn, the less time your opponent has to mount a comeback. If you are fortunate enough to have a retirement plan, you are advised to take fewer risks with it the closer you get to cashing it in. Same when you are leading in a football game.
“I know there’s some grumbling out there,” coach Nick Rolovich said. “I only wear (a headset) on one side. They don’t like a run play, I get it. But that’s the thing we think is (the right call) to win the game.”
Perhaps some of this displeasure is not just from what Twitter commenter John Martinez termed “PTSD from NC” (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from Norm Chow‘s run-run-play-action-pass predictability). This is something completely different. This is playing with a lead, late in a game. And this is having confidence in a defense that for the most part proved it deserved it tonight.
“We’re winning football games … if we’re 3-0 and people are going to be upset about things, I don’t know,” Rolovich said. “I’d love to win 100-0.
“We knew the defense would come up and make some stops. We knew they’d do that for the offense,” Rolovich added. “I’m proud of how the defense came up and made plays when we got a little stale on offense.”
Before you voice displeasure with the yield of 446 yards, consider the huge fumble-force and recovery by Penei Pavihi and Zeno Choi that led to the score putting Hawaii up 28-13 in the third quarter.
That was followed by a Hawaii goal-line stand to start the fourth quarter. The Warriors tried to run up the middle and Fred Holly was stopped for a safety.
Don’t forget, though, that this is the same Fred Holly who rushed for 100 yards and two touchdowns tonight.
Cole McDonald has now thrown 111 passes this season and 120 in his college career without an interception. Four more touchdown passes tonight gives him 13 on the season, and 14 including his backup duty as a freshman last season. He completed 22 in 33 attempts against Rice.
Hawaii had no turnovers, compared to two for Rice. (Zach Wilson intercepted a pass in the final minute.)
Overall, it was a pretty decent offensive showing although Rolovich and McDonald both admitted to lapses in execution.
“We need to execute more and come back strong (next week at Army),” McDonald said. “The defense stepped up big time. I think this game was a defense win.”
Solomon Matautia led UH with 14 tackles.
“We know what our offense can do. We try to get stops and turnovers,” the linebacker said. “All we do is try to get the offense back on the field.”