It was Nick Kapule‘s night, not Tua Tagovailoa‘s.
There are countless ways to tell a story, but sometimes raw data is better than anything. Take a look at how each drive ended in the first half of No. 3 Punahou’s 33-20 upset of No. 2 Saint Louis on Thursday night at Aloha Stadium:
4) punt from own end zone
5) missed field goal
7) time runs out in first half
The Saint Louis first-half offensive data is not something we’re used to seeing from Tagovailoa, the senior lefty quarterback and Alabama commit who threw just one pick in five games previously. He was thrown off balance by a three-pronged Punahou defense that: 1) pressured him; 2) didn’t let him escape; and 3) covered his receivers like blankets underneath and over the top.
The Punahou first-half offensive data points to a combination of Kapule’s incredible short-game accuracy along with the time his O-line gave him and the bevy of potent receivers who found a bit of space to get open and made the most of it with athletic moves.
Yes indeed, it was Kapule’s night. He went 29-for-45 for 308 yards and two TDs. But, as we all know, one night does not make a season and anything can happen the rest of the way. It’s possible that the Buffanblu and Crusaders could meet as many as three more times — in the ILH playoffs and the ILH overall championship game and in the state tournament’s inaugural Open division.
And, no doubt about it, this was not Tagovailoa’s night. Instead of throwing for 447 yards and five TDs and a 2-point conversion as well as running for three touchdowns like he did the first time these two teams met in a 64-44 win on Sept. 9, he went 12-for-26 for 118 yards, two interceptions and no touchdowns.
“They’re a good team,” Tagovailoa said about the Buffanblu (5-1, 4-1). I feel we just didn’t execute on our part. They were well prepared as far as our passing. This is just a steppingstone, you know. You’re going to win some. You’re going to lose some. This is the best time for us to have lost. We’ll be coming back the next game with a chip on our shoulder. They adjusted. It’s nothing we haven’t seen in film, and at the same time, we weren’t picking up our blocks, and that’s all due to me. I didn’t call certain blocks to protect myself. We just gotta learn from this and keep moving forward.”
After falling behind 23-0 at halftime, Tagovailoa engineered two scoring drives to start the second half, but the momentum gained started to slip away due to two lost fumbles.
Here’s a look at how the teams’ second-half drives ended:
6) touchdown as time runs out
1) field goal
Limiting Tagovailoa was Punahou’s plan.
“Hat’s off to Saint Louis,” Punahou defensive assistant Anthony DeBold said. “They played a really, really hard game. You can’t contain a guy like (Tua), but you can limit what he can do so he doesn’t hurt us. We just came together as a group effort, the coaches and staff, to really get behind the game plan by (defensive coordinator) Agenhart Ellis, and we played really, really good team football. The defensive pass rush did a great job and didn’t lose contain. That was huge.”
According to Kapule, the Buffanblu’s offense got a huge boost from the defense’s success.
“First of all, for me on offense, it is all about my teammates and my O-line,” he said. “But the defense gave us that motivation and that energy to finish drives and do our job, so that’s what we did. We fed off the defense doing well. Because the defense did well, I felt like we did well.
“Saint Louis is a great team. They have great coaches. We have great coaches. It’s always a battle. It’s always good to play Saint Louis. We were really hungry. We were mad the last time when we lost, so we kind of played with a chip on our shoulder tonight and came out successful.”
Crusaders head coach Cal Lee knew his team was not the better of the two on this night.
“I just thought Punahou played well,” he said. “Give them all the credit in the world because they did a nice job. We couldn’t stop them. They did a nice job defensively. They played better. They put pressure. They had good coverage in the back end, so we’ve got a lot of work to do to get better.”