Understandably sensitive about too much personal publicity, Hawaii Head Coach June Jones likes to remind people that Defensive Coordinator Kevin Lempa works hard as well.
"I give Kevin a lot of credit," Jones said during his weekly press conference. "He's a people guy. The players respond to him. He made the adjustments he needed to make to play good defense in what we did against Rice and against Cincinnati. We won the game defensively against their offenses. We got it done on defense."
Hawaii ranks average or lower on most of the major defensive categories, but with 18 interceptions and six fumble recoveries, the Warriors have done a solid job on takeaways.
Key Warrior Defensive Stats
- Points per game allowed: 26.5, National rank: 63rd
- Rushing yards allowed: 164.8, National rank: 71st
- Passing yards allowed: 211.6, National rank: 52nd
- Total yards allowed: 376.5, National rank: 66th
The Warriors give up yardage, but the goal is to keep things close so that the high-powered offensive attack--and first in the nation in passing is definitely "high-powered"--can outscore the opposition. Considering that Hawaii is seventh in the nation in scoring, that's a philosophy that works most of the time.
Often utilizing his linebackers on blitzes, Lempa's unit has sacked opposing quarterbacks 26 times.
Hawaii will go two- and three-deep during the game on its defensive line. It's not the biggest D-Line Alabama will face all year, but they play hard.
Laanui Correa and Houston Ala start at left and right end respectively. Isaac Sopoaga and Lance Samuseva man the middle. At 315- and 290-pounds, Sapoaga and Samuseva pack plenty of bulk to stop the run. Sopoaga is Hawaii's fifth-leading tackler; Houston has four sacks. Off the bench Travis LaBoy and Kevin Jackson are pass-rush specialists, totaling 5.5 sacks and 18 quarterback hurries between them.
(As much as anything else, the game will be entertaining to tune in on the radio, listening to Bama color man Kenny "Snake" Stabler attempt to pronounce the Hawaiian and South Pacific names)
Hawaii is solid at linebacker. Chris Brown, all 255 pounds of him, mans the middle and is his team's third-leading tackler. A senior, Matt Wright, will start on the strong side. But weakside linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa is the leader of the unit. First on the team in tackles, Tinoisamoa also has several sacks and a pair of interceptions.
The strength of this Hawaii defense is takeaways, and their secondary leads the way. The Warriors starting defensive backs have 10 interceptions between them.
They may not be the most athletic unit in the country, but working against the nation's top-rated passing offense every day in practice, this group of DBs isn't likely to be intimidated.
Despite being undersized, strong safety Hyrum Peters (5-8, 188) is his team's second leading tackler and an all-conference-type player. Junior David Gilmore (6-0, 197) handles free safety.
Cornerbacks Kelvin Millhouse (6-1) and Abraham Elimimian (5-10) have four and two interceptions respectively. Elimimian is Hawaii's fourth-leading tackler.