It was was worth staying up to three in the morning to watch college football, as operating on the Hawaiian Islands was one of the most exciting offenses in the country. It was an offense that made names like Bryant Moinz, Timmy Chang and Nick Rolovich big names in the college football world.
First mastered by Mouse Davis, former Hawaii Warriors coach June Jones brought the offense and Davis to Hawaii and turned a winless team into an eight-win team, the biggest turnaround in the history of college football.
Players flourished under Junes’ offense as Chang broke the NCAA record for career passing yards (since broken). Possibly the coach’s greatest success story, Colt Brennan became a national superstar and a cult hero in Hawaii. Under Jones, the Warriors didn’t present much of a running game as the team was famous for throwing the ball 40-50 times, sometimes even 60-plus.
When Jones left Hawaii for the SMU Mustangs, he left defensive coordinator Greg McMackin in charge. While he kept the same concept, the Warriors saw more success in the running game, even seeing a 1,000-yard rusher (Alex Green). Under McMackin, the Warriors became one of one of two offenses in history to feature a 5,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher, and two 1,000-yard receivers.
But when the Warriors failed to get the same success that they saw under Jones, they removed McMackin as the head coach in favor of Norm Chow, an offensive wizard who also got his start coaching at Hawaii.
The longtime offensive coordinator has left his stamp wherever he has gone, from being at BYU during their successful years, to being the USC Trojan’s play-caller during the Reggie Bush and Matt Leinart days, even coaching Philip Rivers at North Carolina State for a year in between.
His college resume spoke for itself, and the Warriors and their faithful were excited to have a coach that they thought could lead them back to their successful days. After a two-win season in his debut year and an 0-4 start to the season, doubt has already crept into their minds as they now wonder, “what is going on?”
Under Jones and McMackin, the Warriors would spread the ball out and get the ball on the outside, taking into account that the athletes that line up for on the opposite side were mostly better and faster. It was a necessity if the Warriors were to compete.
With Chow, he runs a more conventional style of offense that relies on lining up helmet-on-helmet with the opposition, running the ball to set up the pass. If you look at the Alabama Crimson Tide and other successful SEC teams, it is still that style of play that wins, but they have the advantage of being able to collect some of the best athletes in the country.
The Warriors can’t do that. They will never have the fastest, or the biggest or the strongest, but that didn’t matter under the run-n-shoot offense because the system was built to allow the ‘little’ man to succeed.
Maybe it’s too soon to give up on Chow. Their usually stagnant offense put up 37 points against the ranked Fresno State Bulldogs, putting up 431-total yards on offense and scoring five consecutive touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters before just coming short.
Maybe the devolution from high-powered attack to simple approach could pay dividends in the future, but until the Warriors can bring in some big-names recruiting wise, they will always trail behind other teams.