Although its offense usually gets most of the accolades, defense can still make crucial contributions for the University of Hawaii football team.
Such was the case Saturday when the Rainbow Warriors won 21-7 at UNLV.
UH’s offense was stagnant and shaky much of the day, and that made cornerback Cortez Davis’ 43-yard interception touchdown return the decisive play of the game.
It broke a 7-all tie late in the third quarter. Another interception, by linebacker Paul Scott in the fourth quarter, sealed the win that turned this Saturday’s home game against San Diego State into a battle for the Mountain West Conference’s Pacific Division championship.
The play of Davis is one of the reasons UH is 7-4 and has clinched eligibility for a bowl game and has a shot at its first Mountain West crown.
Cornerback Cortez Davis, who has an interception return for a touchdown at UNLV for #HawaiiFB, talked about his focus the last couple weeks, and how he came to be in the islands from Georgia. pic.twitter.com/MomgX1OrHC
— Hawaii Warrior World (@hawaiiwworld) November 20, 2019
The junior-college transfer has developed a “laser focus to compartmentalize (his) job,” cornerbacks coach Abraham Elimimian said after Wednesday’s practice.
“He was already good in the classroom and good on the field,” Elimimian said. “Now he’s taken it to another level and blocks out all the distractions. Even when he wasn’t in during a particular period (during practices last week), and guys were trying to come talk to him, he’d say, ‘Hey, you know what, I gotta dial in on this now.’
“This game of football is hard,” Elimimian added. You’re always looking for small wins, here and there. He’s getting the small wins by being focused, and that turned into a big win on game day.”
Davis’ attention to detail has also impressed former UH and NFL safety and Warriors defensive backs coach Rich Miano.
“He’s consistently good and becoming occasionally great. People are starting to find out you can’t go after him,” said Miano, who is an analyst on UH Spectrum telecasts. “He’s the biggest addition to this football team (from last year). Tackles well, good coverage skills, quick hips, good straight-ahead and lateral speed.”
And, at a position known for “me” guys, Davis is a “we” guy.
“Defense stepped up,” Davis said of the UNLV game, in which the Warriors yielded just 235 yards and no points after the first quarter. “We tackled really well, covered well in the secondary and we made some crucial stops on third down, which was really important.”