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September 7, 2010The last thing Army's defense needs this week is Hawaii, a team that rolls up yardage like frequent flyer miles.
Last week the Warriors passed for 459 yards against Southern Cal while putting up 588 total yards and 36 points against what recently has been among the most talented defensive teams in the country.
What did Army's defense do while allowing Eastern Michigan 27 points? "Frankly, we don't feel great about how we played defense last week,'' Head coach Rich Ellerson said Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
"If you talked to the guys afterwards they were physically distraught. They have high expectations for themselves and they didn't think they played well and they're right. They didn't."
"I put part of that on me. I think we tried to do a little too much, I think we were trying to be a little too clever. We had a hard time getting our eyes and feet right. We were struggling. We were tentative, and that's something we can't do. We consider ourselves an attack defense,'' he said. "We want to be on the edge and have them absolutely confident of what they're doing. I'm concerned about getting these guys playing, as opposed to thinking.''
The Black Knights are going to need a little bit of both to handle this unique look.
Because when it comes to an explosive offense, look no further than the horde from Honolulu.
They are not exactly new to putting up big numbers. Perhaps the names Tommy Chang and Colt Brennan ring a bell, a couple of quarterbacks who played on the island and combined to throw for more than 31,000 yards during their undergrad days.
Hawaii used three QBs last week because starter Bryant Moniz was knocked out of the game in the third quarter. The offense didn't skip a beat.
That's not uncommon when a run-and-shoot, no-huddle system gets cranking.
Hawaii scored on three drives that took fewer than three minutes, three receivers caught passes for more than 100 yards each, and the team put the ball in the air 49 times.
For Army to stay with Hawaii, which plays like it has early dinner plans, the ideal situation would be controlling the ball, shortening the clock and keeping its defense off the field as much as possible.
And at the same time maybe balancing the budget.
"If we can shorten the clock that would (help). By the 68th pass rush you get a little slower,'' Ellerson pointed out. "So we have to manage that.''
They can, of course.
Last week four backs ran for 60 or more yards. Sophomore Jared Hassin ran for 68 yards and scored three touchdowns in his Army debut, including the game-winning TD with 38 seconds to play.
Quarterback Trent Steelman played, in Ellerson's words, "good. He missed a couple of throws and a couple of reads.''
His line, however, didn't miss much.
"The offensive line was one of the bright spots, if not the bright spot,'' Ellerson said.
He was not happy with the kicking game (32-yard average in two punts, while EMU totaled 116 return yards on kickoffs).
Nor was he happy with another serious injury. Sophomore linebacker Nate Combs is out indefinitely with a knee injury, joining junior linebacker Andrew Rodriguez, for whom he replaced, as a major casualty on that unit.
Aside from cleaning up some focus on penalties and taking care of the football, Army will certainly benefit being at home. But wars have been lost at home before.
"Their system is unique,'' Ellerson said of Hawaii. "They understand it inside and out. You tell me who to double-team.
"We learned lessons from (the Eastern Michigan) game,'' he noted, "but lessons from that game frankly will go on the shelf. They're going to be important, but important down the road.''
There were many lessons learned last week.
"There are ten thousand things we know now that we didn't know or anticipate,'' he said in comparison to this time last week. "But I'm not surprised at the resilience or their belief in themselves. We're going to be in a fight like that every week, and if we don't think so we're gonna get our hearts broken.
"But I think our guys love that about themselves and like that about their teammates. I'll always wish we were faster, stronger and smarter and all that,'' Ellerson added, "but we are not going to take a back seat to anybody with our competitiveness and our resiliency.''
This week, especially, he would like to add the word defense.
Steve Erzinger who went down during the EMU game and remained on the sidelines for precautionary reasons is good to go on Saturday.
Starting cornerback Antuan Aaron who sat out on Saturday, should have clearance to play against Hawaii. However, it will probably be a game time decision on if he starts or sophomore Josh Jackson. Either way, if Aaron is anywhere close to 100%, look for the junior to see plenty of action.