The Warriors had just put away Navy, 59-41 and the doom-and-gloomers were doing their dooming and glooming. “They started 2-0 last year, too,” they gloomed.
Well, last year was different because the Warriors’ first two 2018 opponents (Colorado State and Navy) are way better than last year’s opening twosome (UMass and Western Carolina). And next week’s game is at home against Rice. Last year’s third game was at a little place called the Rose Bowl against UCLA (and its NFL first-round QB Josh Rosen).
This year’s Warriors — after two games — are better than the 2017 version. Consider:
> Better discipline: In the first two 2017 games, the Warriors committed 20 penalties. This year, UH was assessed 10 penalties in the opener but only one last night. And this was with Navy’s Malcolm Perry trying to coax a UH twitch with his irregular cadence.
> Passing interest: On Saturday mornings, former UH QB Bryant Moniz held tutorials in the spring. The sessions were free and open to everyone but … c’mon, it was the offseason and very early. Cole McDonald showed up. McDonald always showed up — for player-run practices, for McDonald-run practices, for anyone interested in just playing catch. That mattered to newcomers, such as slotback Cedric Byrd. Bonds are developed in the offseason. McDonald and Byrd are now housemates.
> By the numbers: It is way, way, way too early to make comparisons. So, let’s make a comparison: In 2006, Colt Brennan had one of the best statistical seasons in NCAA history. His pass efficiency rating was 182.8. McDonald’s efficiency rating is 200.98. McDonald has not thrown a pick in a UH uniform.
> Speed & Quickness: In an extraordinary act of generosity, the 2007 All-WAC included a “best receiving unit” honor. It went to the Warriors’ quartet of slotbacks Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullins and wideouts Jason Rivers and C.J. Hawthorne. They were very deserving, of course, and they did well. But as unit, the 2018 receivers are faster than the 2007 group. Bess was a superior talent who had a nice little run in the NFL. But Bess was not a blazer. John Ursua, JoJo Ward and Byrd are blazers. The trio would make a terrific 6-foot-and-under relay team, but they also are fearless. They have taken some hits, and still managed to hold onto the football.
> Unbreakable D: Eyebrows are arched when discussing the quality of a team that is relinquishing 37.5 points per game. But there’s an old theory — OK, it’s June Jones‘ theory — that it’s a plus when a defense can stop an option team four times in a game. Navy had 11 possessions last night; they had to forfeit the ball through downs or punts five times. DC Corey Batoon has proven to be resourceful and innovative. Last week, UH opened in a 4-2-5 and got a strong play from unheralded D-end Kaimana Padello. Last night, the Warriors went with something that could be described as a 5-5-1. This time, defensive end Manly “Pumba” Williams started, providing an at-the-point attack. It was his first start. Williams finished with six tackles, including two sacks.
> Well coached: Mark Weber has done an outstanding job with an offensive line that starts two true freshmen. Michael Ghobrial has been wonderful with the special teams. Ghobrial helped develop Ryan Meskell into a dependable kicker. He taught — and taught — the new rules, such as it’s OK to fair catch a kickoff. And he got a blocked punt when defensive end Jeffrey Keene soared for the rejection.
> Respect: After the game, Nick Rolovich ordered his players to join the Midshipmen in the playing of their alma mater. Classy move.