Hawaii entered its Week 0 game against Colorado State as a 17.5-point underdog, but the Rainbow Warriors leave Fort Collins looking anything but after a 43-34 win over the Rams. It was a wild game in which CSU almost erased a 30-point deficit.
Much was made of the Warriors going back to the run-and-shoot offense this past offseason. It’s the same system that powered Hawaii to the Sugar Bowl in 2007 under former head coach June Jones. The offensive philosophy is known for getting receivers open by allowing them to read defensive backs and react to them after the ball is snapped. You can see here how wide receiver Cedric Byrd reads the defensive back’s hips turning to the outside, and burns him inside for a deep score:
But what the run-and-shoot does to defensive linemen makes the shovel play a lethal change of pace. Look at this beautiful play, which Hawaii kept running over and over:
Hawaii ran another shovel screen pass. just beautiful pic.twitter.com/Qx7284sA29— Sam Cooper (@SamDCooper) August 26, 2018
Because of the offense’s setup, there’s a ton of space on the second and third levels of Colorado State’s defense. Before the snap, they’re stretched horizontally with receivers all the way to the numbers, and vertically because the safeties have to make sure they honor the significant deep threat the offense poses.
When the ball is snapped and the linebackers and defensive backs are forced the bail out due to vertical routes pushing deep downfield, and the defensive line is flying upfield with ears pinned back to try and get a sack on what they think is a QB who’s dropping back or sprinting out of the pocket.
That’s when the shovel pass strikes. Here’s how it looks from Rolovich’s teams during his last stint in Hawaii as offensive coordinator back in 2010.
This win is special for Hawaii beyond the fact that they ended last season on a five-game losing streak, and showed tremendous proof of concept in general with over 600 yards of total offense. Their home state also had a storm bearing down on it, and the team honored The Islands with special helmets.
They honored it with quite the performance on the field too.