Traffic collisions. Building demolitions. The 2015 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. There's something captivating about watching something completely self-destruct. I was similarly captivated when I looked over Hawaii's offensive statistics from last season. And, by Oski, were they offensive. 17.6 points per game (good for a national ranking of 118th). 316 yards per game (121st nationally)--Cal averaged 60 more yards per game in the passing game alone. 34 turnovers (126th). 30.73% third down conversions (121st). How could this have happened? What on earth was Hawaii doing out there to produce such a putrid offense? To answer that question I watched their first two games of the season. Nearly all of the tape from Hawaii last season has (rightly) been burned, so these are the only two games I could find in their entirety. And this was when Hawaii wasn't that bad! This is before the death spiral, QB switch, mid-season firing of the head coach, and all those other ingredients that make for a ruinous season. Still, deep flaws were plainly evident early on. From the opening game it's clear this was not a good team.
(Welcome to the first in a series of periodic posts I'll be doing this season. This is not exactly a preview of the Hawaii offense for this season. Hawaii has a new coach and a new offense. As such, it doesn't make sense to analyze and critique their offensive strategy in these games. Instead of a traditional offensive preview (which is coming soon), I'm highlighting a few patterns I observed from this team. In these periodic posts I'll highlight some key elements to watch in the upcoming game.)
After watching the first few series of the Colorado game, I thought Hawaii didn't look too bad (although that is to be expected of anyone playing Colorado). The offensive line is clearly the strength of this team. They consistently create 2-3 yards for the running back and they protect well enough that the quarterback is not running for his life on every play. Compared to the rest of the offense's performance, those minor accomplishments are glowing strengths.
However, the Hawaii offense has a major weakness. It has a regular tendency to shoot itself in the foot. No. That's too generous of an assessment. Hawaii doesn't merely shoot itself in the foot. It shoots itself in the foot, shoots again, shoots again, and keeps shooting. Eventually no foot remains and there is just a hole in the earth below where the foot used to be. Hawaii then shoots a few more times. Just to be sure.
Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce the Hawaii offense:
What a disaster. The RB runs into the QB and completely botches his pass protection assignment. As a result, a linebacker obliterates the QB from the blind side. And the RB doesn't even go over to help up his QB. That's cold.
The poor QB there is Ikaika Woolsey and this was his first series of the game. Later in the season he took over as Hawaii's starting QB and he barely fared better than what we saw in the above clip. He ended the season completing fewer than 50% of his passes and there's a chance we may see him as Hawaii's starting QB in Australia.
Fortunately for Woolsey, he had his revenge on his RB during the next possession.
Even Kevin Riley would be proud of how badly Woolsey overthrew his RB on this screen pass. This was maybe a two-yard pass and the RB didn't have a chance.
As we saw in these first two clips, members of this offense frequently weren't on the same page. Sometimes it looks like they weren't even reading the same book.
Here's another example:
The QB thinks the WR is running a curl route, the WR thinks he's supposed to do a double move before proceeding downfield (although he takes a long time on that double move). One or both of them is wrong and that could have easily turned into a pick-six.
Miscommunication reared its head from time to time in the two games I watched, but the biggest and most consistent problem is that Hawaii's receivers could not catch the ball. Five of their top six receivers return this season, so these same problems should reappear this week.
That often resulted in plays like this.
This happened over
Part of the problem is that the receivers could not get good separation, which allowed DBs to feast on easy pass break-ups. Like this:
Equally problematic was that if a receiver miraculously managed to catch they ball, he would drop it as soon as an opponent as much as sneezed on him.
Unless you are the world's biggest Hawaii homer, it should be abundantly clear that this team is deeply and fundamentally flawed. These receivers cannot catch the ball. These passes aren't Jared Goff's 50-yard long bombs that they can't catch. Many of these are simple 2-yard, 5-yard, and 7-yard passes. Beyond straight drops, the receivers have a tendency to deflect balls into the waiting hands of linebackers and DBs. Defending this offense is as simple as sitting back and waiting for it to self-destruct. If our defenders want to hasten that self-destruction, they will find that gently touching the Hawaii receivers seems to dislodge the ball from their possession with tremendous ease. Given that the receivers have trouble gaining any kind of separation, no matter the route, breaking up passes is usually a simple task. Barring a miraculous turnaround by the new head coach, these problems that appeared so frequently last season should reappear this season.
If our defense has trouble against this offense, we are entering a world of pain this season.