A View from Section 110
Where do I start with this installment? This game had more ups and downs then the Giant Dipper at the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz.
Our thoughts coming into the game was that the Spartans would have a good shot at a win or at least being close in the fourth quarter if a few things went their way. Most important of these things were pressuring the quarterback which has been lacking all season. Moniz had been hot throwing the ball all season and is also a threat to run at any given time on designed QB runs or to escape pressure.
We talked about how it would be tough to blitz him but also have someone available to spy him on his runs while still covering all of his weapons that are sent out on pass routes. Well two things happened on their first series.
The Spartan defensive line was able to put pressure on Moniz without any or little help and the defensive backs finally started to play up on the wide-outs and maintain that coverage a little longer than they had in the past few games.
We talked about how Hawaii is and always has been a rhythm passing attack and the defensive coaches needed to find a way to disrupt that rhythm.
On offense, we discussed that they needed to start to throw more short to intermediate crossing routes similar to the Niners west-coast offense days. It is hard to defense and a missed tackle or two can lead to big gains ala Rice and Taylor. It was great to see that play used on the first few pass plays and subsequently throughout the game especially on the game winning toss. The first drive moved a little and showed us that it looked like the offensive mindset was a little different even though they did have to punt.
That was until the next possession after the fumble by Moniz. The coaches went right back to the up the middle run on first down for no gain and a pass to the back of the end zone to our short receivers, one overthrown and the other caught but ruled incomplete.
After watching the replay, they didn't have enough to overturn the call on the field and if it had been called a TD on the field there would have not been enough to change that either.
The penalty on the PAT and subsequent miss is on the coaches. They should have had the team ready to kick as soon as the review was concluded. There still seems to be a problem with clock management on when it starts after an official time out, as there has been all season so someone on the staff needs to be more in tuned with that.
Missing those points early in the game became a theme throughout the first half and those missed opportunities will cost a game down the road and has possibly cost us a game or two this season (UCLA and Nevada). Even with the missed opportunities in the first half, (we thought it should have been 27 or 30-7), we felt very good about the team and their chances going into the second half.
The defense was playing well and the offense was moving the ball. We didn't expect Hawaii would have any more turnovers but we also didn't have any idea we would turn the ball over six times in the second half giving Hawaii short fields and giving them and their huge fan contingent new life.
Going into the fourth quarter and throughout that quarter, it became obvious to us an I'm sure many others that what looked so promising earlier on now was starting to look like just another close home loss to a better team.
That was until Johnson blocked the extra point and Duke toughed out that long return to swing from an eight-point lead to a five-point lead. We all knew that the talent and play calling was there to make a run at it and we did move the ball but then disaster struck again with the nice gain by Rutley only to lose the ball again.
I personally thought that was our last gasp, as did many in the stands that got up and headed up the stairs to the tunnel. We sit right above the tunnel between section 110 and 111 and we did give many a look of , "where are you going, it's not over", even though we were thinking the same thing but if you knew us, we stay till the last tick including the '86 Fresno game, the Rice game and more recently the Nevada debacle.
Johnson's blocked field goal also gave a glimmer of hope. The play of the game besides Duke's two point score was the stop on third and long by what looked like a foot or less. Most of us didn't think we would even see the ball again as had happened so many times this season.
I think that was the point where my brother started saying that we are due, long over-due to pull out a last minute win. We all agreed. That drive was executed very well, and it was nice to see the coaches not try to take more than what the defense was giving them but not playing conservative either.
The first play of the drive was a 10 yard out but after that, everything was 15 to 20 yards between the linebackers and the deep zone.
The only play that was questionable was the deep out to Jones on the second to last play. Falkner doesn't have the arm for that and it was close to a pick. Otherwise, he put the ball where it had to be including the TD pass to Jones in which he lead Jones perfectly allowing him to stay in stride and beat three defenders to the end zone.
Obviously, we have not been in this position for quite some repeatedly had to rush to try to get the 2-point conversion, which was not executed at all.
Hawaii's last drive was all that stood between a magical night and another heartbreak. I think the coaching staff learned their lesson in the NMSU game last season and did not play near as soft as that game. There was some pressure and the coverage was tighter.
On that last incomplete, all we could do was give some well-deserved high fives and let out a big gasp and finally for the first time in a long time, a big smile.
One thing we would like to ask is for is more help in making noise when the team is on defense. A bunch of us get it started hear at the top of section 110 but we need your help. A parent of a player was running up and down the stairs between sections 112, 111 and 110 letting the fans know that there sons have told them that the crowd does fire them up, especially on defense so let's do our best to help them out.
Phil Paulsen is Contributing Editor for Inside Sparta and owner of Phil's Spartan Athletics Message Board.
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