Chow Hoping Warriors Will Build on Positives
By Rodney S. Yap
Prior to facing top-ranked USC on Saturday, University of Hawai’i Warrior football head coach Norm Chow talked about preventing “explosive” plays.
Ironically, the Trojans exploded for a 75- yard touchdown pass from Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Matt Barkley to All-American wide receiver Marquis Lee on its first play from scrimmage. It was the start of a 35-point first half for the Trojans in a season-opening win over Hawaii before a sold-out Los Angeles Coliseum of more than 93,000 fans.
“We gave up way too many explosive plays,” Chow said at his weekly press conference on Monday. “Obviously we played a very good football team. The game plan going in was to try not to allow too many explosive plays, to stay on the field on offense to not give them very many opportunities and to play to the end. We told our guys not to look up at the scoreboard and to play until the last play was played. I think the first two obviously we didn’t accomplish.”
Later in the second half, Lee exploded for a 100-yard kickoff return. The Trojans out gained UH, 353-83, at halftime and finished with 475 yards compared to Hawaii’s 264 yards. Individually, Barkley completed 23-of-38 passes for 372 yards and four touchdowns.
“Their quarterback (Matt Barkley) is a talented young guy now,” Chow said. “He’s liable to win the Heisman or at least come close to winning it depending on the kind of season they have. They have great running backs and they have terrific tight ends. You know, the names are familiar to me because I was in the league when they were coming out of high school and they’re five-star, four-star guys.
“We played one of the best teams in the country. Are they the best, I don’t know. We have not seen Alabama and those guys. To measure up to USC, I think that’s the lesson that we learn. And I think our guys understood that they could play them. At halftime we told them as far as we’re concerned it’s 0-0 and we played half way descent in the second half. Had we not given up that long touchdown run and held them, maybe the score would have been different. They are outstanding, you have to give them a lot of credit for what they do.”
In addition to adjusting to a new offensive scheme for the first time in nearly 15 years, the Warriors turned the ball over four times and endured some early struggles before finding its rhythm in the second half.
“We didn’t control the ball until the second half,” Chow said of the offense. “The first drive of the second half is how we wanted to play. We had the ball for five minutes, we put points up and we didn’t allow them to have a chance at the ball. But I’ll tell you what we did do, and that was to play all the way to the end. And I’ll show you some tape if we ever have time. The score was 49-10 and our guys are hustling around doing the best they can do. So it doesn’t feel good to not win. This is a business where it’s either real high or real low. We are still struggling with it, we looked at the tapes but I think we have things to build on. We learned a lot of lessons about not only our players, but ourselves as coaches. It was our first shot at being together so we just have to take the positives and move on.”
Hawaii quarterback Sean Schroeder, making his first college start, completed 24-of-39 passes for 208 yards, one touchdown and a pair of interceptions. After a rough first half, the junior helped lead UH to a pair of scoring drives in the second half.
“Offensive line-wise we had a hard time protecting,” Chow said. “We made a couple of bad protection errors. Our running backs missed a couple of blitzes and they paid. I mean, Sean (Schroeder) took a licking. But he’s still up and I think we’ve found ourselves a quarterback and we feel very good about Sean Schroeder.”
“He’s a tough buggah now, he took a licking,” Chow continued about Schroeder. “But he got up and he got up and he didn’t complain about it. He just wanted to keep playing. He was jittery at the start. We missed a couple formations that we should have gotten right. He hadn’t played since high school and he’s a college graduate. But once he settled down in the second half I thought he controlled the tempo of the game. I think he did a nice job with that. He made some nice throws. Our goal every game is to be at least 40% on third downs, which is not as easy as it sounds. We finished at 43.8% and it was him, he made a lot of nice throws. Even in the drive where we scored that touchdown, there was a third and three and even a couple of third and longs where he threw the ball right in there and made the play. That tells you a lot about a quarterback.”
“We need to build on the positives because we have a long way to go,” Chow said. “We have a long season to go and hopefully we won’t play a team with that type of talent for the rest of the year.”
On UH’s next opponent Lamar…
I know that they have a new coaching staff. We are looking for the film…The fact that we don’t play next week allows them to not give us the tapes until next week. So we are trying to find some things. We know they play the odd front which we can work on because our next three games are all against odd fronts. We know that they have a lot of talent. They’ve got guys kinda like we do, maybe a couple bounce-back guys, a guy that started from Oklahoma State. But right now the emphasis is on us. Tomorrow we’ll spend our time correcting our mistakes and then we’ll get going on Lamar on Wednesday. I do know they got beat this past weekend, but we have not seen tape. We’ll try to get a hold of some copies at least so we can get started.
On not playing several true freshman in the USC game…
We didn’t do it by design. We just felt like we had a chance to try to win the game and we were trying to win that game. We’ll worry about that as time goes on. The second, third, fourth and fifth game is when it’s really critical as for as whether we are going to redshirt guys or not.
On the players’ high spirits despite the tough loss…
Well I told them how proud of them I was of their effort. We knew it would take a tremendous effort and we knew we’d have to have a couple of lucky bounces and it didn’t happen. Their (USC’s) ability to explode with great plays made it tough. They did not grind the ball up against us. They weren’t able to do that, they don’t have to do that. Time of possession-wise we were five minutes more than they were, which is what we felt we had to do if we were gonna have a chance at the game. They don’t have to control the ball like that. They have such an ability to make those big plays. Robert Woods and Marqise Lee are tremendous players and we should have covered them better. We should have probably taken the ball at the first play of the game instead of deferring. But that’s easy to look back and say coulda shoulda woulda.
On the lessons learned as a staff…
Just our ability to work together. For example, we went out way too early to warm up. We need better communications on offense with the offensive guys. It’s hard to see from the sideline. I thought (Special Teams Coordinator) Chris Demarest did a terrific job. We communicated throughout on special teams, anticipating whether we should go for it or kick, that kind of thing. I thought (Defensive Coordinator) Thom (Kaumeyer) did a terrific job calling the defense. I think a couple times he felt badly because he thought he had the right call on but the kids didn’t really execute. You know I’m never gonna blame the players but I thought he had a nice game plan. Plus they got going so quick, it was tough to blitz them. Little things like that, at the hotel and how we’re gonna get our guys ready to play. As an assistant coach I never worried about time outs and all of a sudden I’m thinking we gotta call a time out then I gotta call the time out! So I needed help from those guys and we felt good about that.
On replay challenges…
The challenges are overrated because they (the referees) look at everyone. They look at every call that is being made. It’s not like the NFL where you really have to challenge. When we met with the officials in Las Vegas, the rate of calls that were overturned are minimal. So that’s a concern as well, no question about it.
On standout players of the game…
Our defensive front…we start Moses (Samia) and (Siasau) Matagiese and (Geordon) Hanohano played awfully well, Kamalani Alo played awfully well. We made the change at cornerback after Tony (Grimes) was beat a couple times early. I thought Ne’Quan (Phillips) did well. Leroy Lutu came in and played well. Offensively we stuck with the same offensive line and we thought we would have a chance to play a couple of guys which we weren’t able to do. We thought we would play a couple other running backs which we weren’t able to do. I thought the receivers stood up pretty good. (Billy Ray) Stutzmann and (Scott) Harding played well. Overall I thought we were ok but we are gonna have to look at making some changes. We are gonna keep it competitive, we’re gonna make it competitive to let the guys know they have to preform if they’re gonna get out there on the field.
On the upcoming bye week…
I don’t know the benefits of bye weeks. Over the years, most historically you make the most improvement from week one to week two and to not have a chance to play week two…But we’re gonna use it to our advantage and prepare not only for Lamar, but to take a day or two to prepare for the rest of the season. We have Reno (Nevada) after that and BYU after that but we’ll really focus on Lamar as the week goes on and we have all next week to do that as well.
On the punting situation…
We knew we had to find something and again, Chris (Demerast) did a terrific job. We had some fakes called…the one penalty we had, we had it called back. And you watch the sidelines and (USC Head Coach) Lane (Kiffin) is running up and down trying to call a time out because he knew he was in trouble. And then the officials were running to spot the ball and all of a sudden here comes the yellow flag. Lane (Kiffin) did a nice job of getting to them and we gotta find out the rule and make sure we’re trying to do the right things but Chris (Demerast) did a terrific job with special teams. We just wanna know what the rule was that didn’t allow us to get that first down, because I thought we did a heck of a job of doing that.
On coaching on the sideline for the first time…
It was hard. It was really hard, because I’m not used to that. But I had good help, Tommy (Lee) was upstairs. (USC Defensive Coordinator) Monty (Kiffin) doesn’t do very fancy stuff. Monty (Kiffin) just does what he does so awfully well and it’s hard even though you know what covers they’re running because they do such a nice job of it all.