For fans who weren’t at Aloha Stadium on Friday when No. 3 Saint Louis defeated Pac-Five 73-6, it may seem like some piling on was going on.
For me, a neutral observer, it wasn’t a run-up-the-score scenario. It was simply a matter of an extremely talented, senior-heavy, numbers-deep team facing a relatively inexperienced team with low numbers. Here’s what I think.
1. Saint Louis began to use reserves in the second quarter and continued to do this to the end.
2. A running clock was activated in the second half and stopped, as stipulated by rule, only for official time outs (usually penalties).
3. The Crusaders kept their no-huddle offense going, but often ran the ball. All three touchdowns in the the second half came on rushes. They finished with 20 pass attempts and 17 rushes. Adam Noga had 150 yards on five carries.
The only semblance of a question is this: Should any team forsake its offensive and defensive blueprints when a game gets lopsided? Offensively, I think any coach would be wise to train second- and third-string players to play with the first string when that situation arises. Saint Louis can huddle instead of no-huddling, but how does that help their reserves prepare for the future?
Saint Louis’ no-huddle offense is not a a hurry-up offense like Oregon (or the Philadelphia Eagles). I don’t know if Pac-Five’s substitution patterns were altered by this, but remember, they don’t have a deep bench.
Defensively, a lot can be adjusted. Saint Louis didn’t go vanilla. They still blitzed at times, but remember that Pac-Five throws the ball on most downs. That stopped the clock on every incompletion in the first half. Second half, time just kept ticking on no matter what. Anthony Canencia threw 35 passes and was sacked numerous times, which figured into his team’s 22 rushing attempts.
Overall, I don’t enjoy lopsided matchups. This year, the ILH is talent heavy, senior heavy compared to other leagues. Compared to D-II teams in its own league. The BIIF had separate schedules for its D-I and D-II teams for years, but went back to a blended schedule this season. MIL has played a blended schedule for a long time.
In the ILH? I’m not sure it’s worthwhile anymore since Pac-Five has lost players (five starters and more) to St. Francis, which began playing varsity ball this season. In a separate format, ‘Iolani — a D-II team that holds its own against D-I programs — could still schedule the Big 3 (Kamehameha, Punahou, Saint Louis) in preseason or bye weeks.
(Note: The ILH will require a back-to-back D-II champion to move up to D-I for at least one year. That new rule was enacted this academic year.)
When D-II plays D-I in the ILH, it’s not a question of heart. It’s pure, simple numbers. Size differences. Depth. Injuries. Depleted rosters.
I’ve expressed some concern about a tiny program like St. Francis having to face each of the Big 3 this fall on the football field. The ILH has been progressive about similar issues in the past. They had Division II and III classifications for many sports going back as far as I can remember. (That would be the 1970s, when I was a kid.)