"It was highly important," said Rivers, who had 594 receiving yards and five touchdowns as a true freshman in 2003. "That was what allowed me to step in as a freshman and play because I knew the routes, the reads. The only thing that was different was the terminology. Once I got that down, it was pretty much downhill from there."
The Warriors' pass-happy scheme relies on the receivers to identify how opposing cornerbacks will defend them and adjust their routes based on the defense. Further complicating things is that the quarterback and receivers must see the same things and make similar adjustments.
That understanding doesn't come easily, but Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan is in his third season running the offense, while receivers Rivers, Ryan Grice-Mullen and Davone Bess all have at least three years in the system, as well.
"You definitely can't be no dummy in this offense," said Grice-Mullen, who has a team-high 1,335 receiving yards on 100 catches. "It's definitely tough that first couple months."
Hawaii's Sugar Bowl opponent, Georgia, hasn't played an opponent that makes as many adjustments as the Warriors' receivers will. And even if they did, Georgia coach Mark Richt said it would be difficult to determine how many adjustments were being made simply by watching an opponent on film.
"A lot of times, you don't know if it's just coincidence … or whether they're adjusting as they read coverage," Richt said. "It's very difficult to see, but I think a lot of people have some of that element in their passing attack. But not to the extent that Hawaii does."