Defense wins the day during competitive spring game for Hawaii football

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Cameron Lockridge (left), Cortez Davis (right)

Spring practice for the University of Hawaii football team ended with a highly competitive scrimmage between its offense and defense on Friday morning.

The game consisted of two-and-a-half traditional quarters, while the final half of the third quarter was used for situational purposes. No score was kept, but it appeared the defense, dressed in white, got the better of the offense, which was dressed in all black. Although three touchdowns were scored by the offense, the defense countered by forcing four turnovers.

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Friday’s game marked the end of spring ball for the Rainbow Warriors, who will officially begin their 2021 campaign on Aug. 28 at UCLA. Between now and then, head coach Todd Graham hopes his team will continue to progress in a way it wasn’t able to last year due to COVID-19 protocols.

“Fifteen practices, 11 weeks, we’re still not in the shape I want us to be in,” Graham said. “We hadn’t had enough training to do that. We gotta have a great May and a great June and a great July training and getting in the condition that we need to be in to play at the pace we want to play.”

Starting quarterback Chevan Cordeiro completed 15 of his 31 passes for 141 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, both to Cameron Lockridge.

“It just felt good,” Lockridge said. “It always feels good to get an interception, get a turnover for the team.

“See ball, get ball.”

Consistency was hard to find for the offense on Friday, with the exception of running back Calvin Turner, who accounted for 147 yards from scrimmage on eight touches. Turner was also the team’s primary returner on punts and kickoffs, and broke off multiple returns for chunk yardage.

“I think we have a great chance of being a great team this year,” Turner said. “We have a great chance of having a great offense and just putting numbers and winning the Mountain West.”

Starting receiver Jared Smart, running back James Phillips, backup quarterback Boone Abbott, and starting safety Eugene Ford were all held out due to precautionary reasons relating to separate injuries.

The players that did see action on Friday provided a competitive atmosphere, as both sides continued to chirp after multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

“I don’t enjoy it at all, I think it’s a waste of energy. It happens. It’s one of the things I try to get them to understand. … The smarter player, the smarter team is the better team. The more disciplined team is the better team,” Graham said. “That way, you don’t have misalignments, disadvantages, whether it be the personnel or the mathematics of football and angles and all those types of things. I don’t like that at all, and they know that.

“But here’s the thing that I do like — I love their competitive spirit. It’s just a waste of energy to spend it on the opponent. What I tell them is instead of talking trash every play, just go win every game and then we’ll have a big huge party and we’ll all just talk trash the whole time. That’s kind of the way I just look at that. I think it’s what everybody else does. I think 99 percent of the teams, they spend their time yelling and screaming and officials being emotionally involved with the other team, and the key is to have elite discipline and focus and just take it to ‘em and whip them every single play, then you don’t have to say nothing.”

After the ‘Bows wrapped up their Friday session, a meeting between the team and the school band occurred, where UH’s fight song was played. Graham said the interaction made his day, and he expects to see plenty more of that when the team hosts games on campus for the first time in program history this fall.

“What’s the hardest thing to do in football? It’s win on the road. Winning at home and creating an environment is really, really important. Who drives the energy in your stadium? Your team needs to be explosive and scoring touchdowns, but the band, the cheer, the students, that’s what I’m excited about. It was awesome to have the band and the cheer and the dance team out there today,” Graham said.

“After every game, we’ll present a game ball to that group, and then we’ll also take one and throw it up in the stands for our students just to recognize, hey, they’re a huge part. They’re a big part. I want it to be hostile, I want it to be sportsmanlike but we want it to be really, really loud. And to do that, you gotta give a little bit of effort.

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