Criticism comes with territory for secondary

Hawaii defensive back Rojesterman Farris II nearly intercepted a pass intended for Rice wide receiver Aaron Cephus on Sept. 8 at Aloha Stadium. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser

In the days since Hawaii beat Duquesne 42-21 last Saturday at Aloha Stadium, several people have told me that UH’s defense “sucks,” or described it in some other non-complimentary manner.

Maybe that’s a somewhat understandable sentiment considering UH (now 4-1) was playing against a team from a lower division and favored by around 30 points. Still, I reminded them that the Warriors allowed just one score after the first quarter — the first quarter during which Duquesne jumped to a 14-0 lead because of Hawaii mistakes … on offense, defense and special teams.

A lot of this criticism has been directed at the UH defensive backs; that’s because at their position mistakes are often the most noticeable — and also, perhaps, because UH allowed just 24 net rushing yards (including three sacks of quarterback Daniel Parr for -22 yards) compared to 142 in passing. Well, maybe the UH pass defense wasn’t very good compared to its stifling run defense that allowed less 0.9 yards per attempt and just one first down.

Parr was elusive in the pocket. But even though he was adept at buying time with his feet, open receivers were not always easy to find. He completed 14 of 26 passes (54 percent) and the Dukes’ longest play went for 29 yards.

Cornerbacks coach Abe Elimimian said the secondary met its goals of allowing around 50 percent in completions and limiting long gains.

Those who still want to say the defensive backs were bad will point to three passing touchdowns by Duquesne. Those plays were for 6, 13 and 20 yards.

Zach Wilson‘s interception on Duquesne’s first possession of the second half was the final significant momentum-changer of the game; UH led just 21-14 at the time, Wilson’s pick set up a 43-yard drive, and the Warriors would score another TD to put the game out of reach at the midway point of the fourth quarter.

“He’s not doing a good job,” Elimimian said of Wilson, who has started three of Hawaii’s five games. “He’s doing a great job.”

The corner on the other side, Ro Farris, has impressed former UH and NFL safety Rich Miano. Miano, who was a UH defensive assistant for 13 years, is now an analyst for the Warriors TV broadcasts.

“I look at him and I see a future NFL player,” Miano said.

There was one play on Duquesne’s first series where Farris was beat on a double-move by the receiver. Farris wisely committed pass interference, turning a potential touchdown into a 15-yard penalty.

“There are two kinds of cornerbacks,” Miano said. “The kind who have been beaten and the kind who will be beaten. You’re doing great, then all of a sudden you get beat for a TD and people think he had a terrible game.”

In this case, there was no touchdown. Duquesne punted four plays later.

Hawaii linebacker Penei Pavihi (33) and defensive back Rojesterman Farris II (4) worked to bring down Duquesne wide receiver Nehari Crawford last Saturday. / Photo by Jamm Aquino, Star-Advertiser


What do cornerbacks and left tackles have in common? On the surface, not a whole lot other than being members of a football team. They’re often the smallest and biggest guys on the field.

But the players who stop passes and those who stop pass rushers can empathize with each other for being noticed mostly for when they make mistakes.

“You’re out in space doing well for 68 plays, then all of a sudden a guy makes a double-move on you for a touchdown on the 69th play,” Miano said. “Same for the left tackle. He does his job great the entire game and then one time the defensive end gets in for a sack and a fumble where the quarterback gets hurt.”

They are two of the hardest positions in all of sports at which to succeed — because so often one mistake can lead to a game-changing play, and cornerbacks and offensive tackles are often pitted against players with great physical talent. Cornerbacks and offensive tackles have to learn many of the same fundamentals to be successful, Miano said.

“Believe it or not, there’s a lot of similarity in technique,” he said. “Even more than other positions, your base, your ready position, is critical. You’ve got to be ready to move back, forward, sideways. We talk about it all the time. Guys who teach O-line play. bump-and-run, pressing a guy, using their hands like a defensive player, keeping balance and changing direction.”

Cornerback Zach Wilson at a 2017 practice. / Photo by Craig T. Kojima, Star-Advertiser


  1. Chicken Grease September 26, 2018 8:56 pm

    I think that once the Warriors won—and won bigger than anyone expected—with that Colorado game, Hawaii fans’ Id subconsciously kicked in. Started with realism; maybe our team won’t be able to get to a national bowl this season, but it looks like the Warriors might get to recognizable, respectable recognition this season. Man. Look at McDonald’s (yes, all of us perplexed with “though was going be Cordeiro” sentiment dancing in our heads) numbers. With that FIRST game.

    Then came Navy. Another seeming improbably win. And Warrior fan subsconsciousness is further stroked (all of us, with “man. We sure CAN get to a big name bowl again” this time for YEARS also dancing in our heads, but justifiably kept at bay because as much as we are local, we are REALISTS. And we are happy sinoly with the rest of the nation straining to look over the Pacific to see what greatness is going on.

    We didn’t expect this. But this is great. The run and shoot WORKS in Hawaii. 4-1. Never thought we’d see that any time soon.

    We see . . . that everything works.

    So when we all similarly collectively notice a weak link in the Warriors’ armor again—as we are local—at first, we’re all “cool head. Main thing” (well. Maybe except for booers).

    But when we realize that that Warrior defense (coached by one highly touted, highly “good t’ing we get him, no?” as labelled in the off-season), based on what we had seen so far, should have easily (at least more easily than their puzzling struggle on the East Coast when you consider their near invincibility in thin air Colorado) stopped, nay, crushed the Black Knights’ slow moving offense, well. We fans gain a collective opinion. Everything else is working. Why not THIS all of a sudden, which has worked in good times and bad for just about a decade?

  2. H-Man September 27, 2018 1:07 am

    Perhaps it’s unfair, but that’s the life of corners. They are on an island when defending, one-on-one, against a pass. Colorado State burned Hawaii’s defense for 537 yards and 5 passing TDs. Duquesne passed for 142 yards and 3 passing TDs. Yes, the TDs came early in the came, and one late in the game, but to put their passing success in perspective, Hawaii limited the Dukes to 41 net rushing yards. Their running game was shut down, so you know they were going to have to pass in order to maintain drives….and they did to the tune of 21 points….passing. Conversely, Army ran roughshod over Hawaii….303 total net rushing yards. This opened their passing game. While they did not score a passing TD, they used the passing to keep Hawaii off balance and to maintain their drives. Here’s Army’s pass/receiving stats:

    ARMY – Receiving
    Totals 6/10 162 yards 0 TDs
    Holt, Calen 1 63 0 63
    Hayes, C. 2 43 0 28
    Coates, Glen 1 29 0 29
    Hobbs, Artice 1 15 0 15
    Cooper, Fred 1 12 0 12

    The shortest pass went for 12 yards !!! 6 completions and 162 total net yards. Hawaii’s secondary got burned. While credit is given to their success “running the option,” I would say Army won the game because they successfully exploited Hawaii’s pass defense to keep drives going; maintained possession and kept Hawaii’s offense off the field.

    Unfair? Man on an island? Yes, but that is the life of a corner. The good ones make the plays when it counts.

  3. Chicken Grease September 27, 2018 5:41 am

    I would say Army won the game because they successfully exploited Hawaii’s pass defense to keep drives going; maintained possession and kept Hawaii’s offense off the field.

    I dunno why some of us are essentially tricked and amazed like we’re at a magic show at this explanation. My notion that all coaching staff had to do was send in Cordeiro for those last two plays—what did they have to LOSE?! Fresh tried and true run-and-shoot QB (ALWAYS scored in a crunch and—you can’t emphasize this enough: close to the end zone—was outright CONFIRMED when Coach Rolo basically said that the actual play call in those last minutes was on him.

    So Hawaii coaches KNEW by that late point in the game that Army was slow-motioning the game. Put in a QB who could cut through that—McDonald didn’t seem to be doing the job.

    We could have been at 5-0. The marketing TOO would have made Hawaii formidable.

  4. Superstar Advertiser September 27, 2018 5:46 am

    And how did Army control possession? By running the option…There, now everyone here knows it.

    If you want to think your way, just say Army won because they scored more points.

  5. oldtimer808 September 27, 2018 7:47 am

    Everyone can be critical of our defense but this years version is a hell of a lot better than the previous years. My hats off to our new defensive coordinator and coaches. Another aspect of the run and shoot is when the offense is able to score a lot of points, the pressure on the defense is less and helps them to play at a faster level. Army beat us so that is the bottom line and lessons were learned so look forward to the next game. We have a young starting lineup on offense and our young offensive line is doing a good job. The freshman Manning got beat and allowed a sack but he made adjustments in the last game and didn’t get beat again. Go Rainbow Warriors beat San Jose.

  6. Egan Kawamoto September 27, 2018 8:42 am

    Why is everyone talking about Army. The Army game was a good game where we lost. I think most people are down about the Duquesne game. Backs seemed out of position, plays were repeated with success, and seemed like too much cushion was given.
    If you want to complain about the DBs don’t use the Army game.

  7. Chicken Grease September 27, 2018 9:56 am

    Egan. The Army game ahould have been the culmination of what the DBs and the entire Hawaii defense could do! They showed the could handle challenging teams—Colorado (on the ROAD, no less. And let’s not forget the thin air). And beat Navy at home, whose triple option ALSO enriches their own defense!

    All the Army game was was an amalgam. Hawaii should’ve known how to handle enough to be up by at least two TDs by the half!

    I keep saying it—the only explanation (Occam’s Razor [and Spock]: all things being equal, the simplist answer, however improbable, must be rhe solution/conclusion) is that Hawaii LET Army win!

  8. amela September 27, 2018 6:42 pm

    I no kea we winning. Good job to the coaches and players, period.

  9. H-Man September 29, 2018 4:52 pm

    Score still tied 38-38
    San Jose QB JOSH LOVE 23-39 412 yds (In Regulation)
    Hawaii’s secondary gives up big passing yards.
    And both kickers missed “twice.”
    Win or lose, coaches need to fix its pass defense.

  10. Surfah September 30, 2018 10:16 am

    Pass Defense Ranking


    129 Hawai’i 182 108 59.3 1676 9.2 70 14 3 14 104 158.8 279.3

    130 UConn 162 119 73.5 1759 10.9 74 17 1 6 36 198.1 351.8

  11. Carlton September 30, 2018 6:31 pm

    Hawaii has statistically one of the worst pass defenses in the entire nation and Dave is blogging about how good our secondary is. Get some glasses Dave.

  12. Dave Reardon October 6, 2018 3:30 pm

    I believe those statistics are based on total yards allowed, and Hawaii has played at least one game more than most of the rest of the teams in Division I.

    Also, if you are going to rate a pass defense linked to a run-and-shoot offense based solely on the number of yards it allows per game, you lack a basic understanding of the current state of football, as well as simple logic. My eyes are just fine, Carlton.

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