Monday | September 25, 2017
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College: For UH, first fix is fixable – limit mistakes

When UCLA beat Hawaii 56-23 on Saturday, the Rainbow Warriors gained 515 yards while the Bruins produced 505.

Conversely, when Hawaii beat Western Carolina 41-18 the previous week, the Catamounts outgained the ‘Bows 482-453.

Yes, a statistical oddity; in most cases the winning team gains more yards than the losing team. But those strange numbers also emphasize that the outcome of college football games are decided by which team makes the fewer mistakes as much or more than by who is better at moving the football up and down the field.

In both cases did the winning team have a significant talent advantage? Sure … but in neither case was it so overwhelming that the team from the lower level of competition (FCS for Western Carolina, Group of Five for UH and Power Five for UCLA) couldn’t make plays against the squad with the more prestigious pedigree. And in both cases, the underdogs were on the road.

Here’s another weird stat: Hawaii had fewer first downs than its opponents in its two wins (18 to 20 at UMass, 23 to 30 against Western Carolina), but UH and UCLA moved the chains 25 times each on Saturday.

But one of the Warriors’ biggest problems Saturday was their inability to finish drives. They got to the UCLA 34- and 32-yard lines on their first two possessions, but did not score on either (punt, missed field goal). A third drive late in the first half ended at the Bruins 24 (turned over on downs).

Meanwhile, UCLA’s offense continued where it left off the previous week when it came back from a 34-point second-half deficit to beat Texas A&M 45-44.

Quarterback Josh Rosen directed the Bruins to touchdowns on their first four possessions against UH, with three of them on TD passes by the Heisman Trophy candidate.

Hawaii’s defense was simply overmatched by one of the nation’s best passers leading an offense that has his team ranked No. 25 in the nation today. On the rare occasions UCLA needed a third down, the Warriors failed to stop the Bruins seven of nine times.

If UH was going to have any chance it needed to keep up offensively, score-for-score, and come up with a turnover or two on defense. This actually looked possible early on since the Bruins defense wasn’t overwhelming and the combination of Diocemy Saint Juste running the ball and Dru Brown throwing to a variety of receivers gave Hawaii five first downs on the first two drives before they fizzled.

But fizzle they did, and it was UCLA that came up with the big defensive play; the interception of Brown returned for a touchdown by Darnay Holmes came on the next play from scrimmage after the Bruins fourth TD, and made it 35-7 with 2:34 left in the first half.

That turnover was the biggest and most noticeable mistake Hawaii made on offense, but there were many others that contributed to the early TKO.

Once again they were hurt by penalties, this time 8 for 80 yards. The infractions included a debatable 15-yard offensive pass interference call on third-and-2 at their 49 that killed a drive with the score 21-7.

But UCLA was flagged 10 times for 83 yards, and the Bruins were unhappy about what they thought should’ve been a targeting call against Hawaii (especially when UCLA was flagged for targeting later in the game).

Fortunately for UH it has a week off to prepare for the start of Mountain West Conference competition. On Sept. 23, Hawaii travels to Wyoming, to take on another quarterback named Josh, and another quarterback considered among the best in the country.

Josh Allen’s start of the season hasn’t been as spectacular as that of Josh Rosen. But Allen did pass for 328 yards and two touchdowns in the Cowboys’ 27-0 win against FCS school Gardner-Webb on Saturday. That came a week after Allen and his teammates were roughed up by Iowa 24-3.

With the bye, the Warriors can focus on Allen and the rest of the Cowboys who host Oregon this Saturday — and, of course, on correcting the mistakes from a 56-23 loss that weren’t all due to a disparity in talent.

 

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