Hawai‘i Defensive Coordinator, Kevin Lempa, opened the Na Koa meeting by thanking Nā Koa for its support of the charter flight to and from Michigan saying it saved 24 hours in travel time.
Then, looking askance at the video frame on the screen he said “…and now reality!”
The first defensive play of the game was spectacular as safety Damien Packer slid back into the flat to intercept a pass. Then, as Lempa foretold, “… and now reality!” Granted the defense had a tough time against the Wolverines and Lempa told the crowd, “I would be shocked if Michigan is not in the top four at the end of the season.”
Still there were bright spots. Lempa loved watching the swarming to the ball which indicates the team is listening and playing together. Hawaii missed nine tackles, an improvement over the 19 missed tackles against Cal in Australia. If you can’t tackle, you can’t play defense, Lempa pointed out.
He beamed at the play of Trayvon Henderson and Jeremiah Pritchard. Henderson, a senior who missed the 2015 season due to an ACL injury is playing very well. After biting on a fake by a Wolverine receiver, he recovered quickly and nearly made a great one handed interception. Henderson displayed some frustration slapping the ground after the miss to which Lempa stressed “you must anticipate success and make that play!”
Freshman Pritchard was playing high school ball last year and played extensively in the Big House over the weekend, at times taking on Michigan’s All American tight end.
The defense’s biggest problem was alignment of the linebackers and defensive backs. On wide plays the defense needs to set the edge, but we did not catch them in time. We did not take the best angle on plays, and against a team like Michigan you have to be perfect Lempa said.
Lempa called Michigan’s Big House the biggest stadium he had ever been in, and although loud, the sound was not concentrated onto the field, probably because of an open construction style.
Lempa loved having the game in Australia as it gave them a chance to recruit some sizable players. We go out and get good people, then good players.
Sizing up Tennessee Martin, Hawai‘i’s home opener, Lempa reported the Skyhawks have a 6’5″ 240 lb. receiver, a good quarterback and a good running back.
He said we must control the line so it is a good thing we are getting back Penitito Faalologo, Meffy Koloamatangi, and Malachi Mageo. Mageo gets better everyday and has proven himself to be a leader.
Good, solid line play on offense and defense is key. Lempa said the goal every week is to stop the run. Once you do that and force your opponent to pass you can do so much more with pressure tactics.
By Gareth Sakakida.