|June Jones raves about defense as No. 16 Hawaii reaches highest ranking ever|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 02 October 2007 00:59|
This year, the Warriors are still scoring in bunches, but now they're also stopping people.
Coach June Jones said the 16th-ranked Warriors (5-0, 2-0 Western Athletic Conference) are the best defensive team he's had in his nine seasons at Hawaii.
``I have believed forever, that if you can take the ball away on defense and run our offense, you're going to win a lot of games,'' he said.
With quarterback Colt Brennan recovering from a right ankle injury and tying a school record with five interceptions, Hawaii showed it was more than just a scoring machine in Saturday's 48-20 victory over Idaho.
The Warriors had five interceptions of their own, along with five sacks, and set the tone by holding the Vandals to 303 total yards of offense. Idaho converted just 2 of 15 third down opportunities.
That inflated final score of the Warriors' was the defense's doing, too. Adam Leonard and Myron Newberry each returned an interception for a touchdown for the Warriors. Leonard had 10 tackles, including two for losses. Newberry had two interceptions and was selected the WAC defensive player of the week.
Jones said the defense was gaining confidence in the 4-3 scheme implemented by first-year defensive coordinator Greg McMackin. They are also playing with more attitude.
The Warriors were also fired up by comments made by ESPN analyst Craig James, who reportedly questioned the Top 25 worthiness of the defense. The normally subdued and soft-spoken McMackin was emotional as he shared James' comments with the players.
``I made sure Greg knew what Craig James said,'' Jones said.
With a fired-up defense, the offense could get away with being not as efficient as usual.
Brennan was 30-of-49 for 369 yards with three touchdowns, but his five picks tied the mark set in 2000 by Timmy Chang, the NCAA's career leader in interceptions.
Being sidelined for several practices affected Brennan's performance, Jones said.
``I don't care what you say, when you don't practice as much, it does affect your play'' he said.
Meanwhile, Hawaii has done enough right - and enough highly ranked teams have stumbled - that the Warriors moved reached the highest ranking in school history. The 1981 team, which started 7-0, only made it to No. 18.
``All this is gone for naught, if we don't win week in, week out,'' Jones said. ``If we win week in, week out, then the country will find out we're a pretty good football team.''
The Warriors have ascended in the poll despite playing a list of lackluster teams. Hawaii doesn't have a ranked team on its schedule and has already beat up two Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) teams.
Hawaii's five opponents so far have a combined record of 6-18. Saturday's opponent, Utah State, is 0-5.