QB Shows Poise In Awful Effort

An improved Taylor Graham could mean good things for UH | AP photo

Taylor Graham faced the media with his firm jaw set and his eyes focused, projecting an image of anger and confidence.

Such a display was not surprising after the season-opening performance that was both awful and expected. To his credit, the junior quarterback accepted responsibility for his role in the loss, brushing off any suggestion that his four-year layoff had anything to do with his poor performance.

“I don’t buy that as an excuse,” he said. “I’ve just got to get better at honing in on things.”

He’s right.

Graham completed just 16 of 41 passes for 208 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. At times he looked terrible, throwing balls into tight coverage or at the feet of his receivers. At other times he showed the talent to help push the team past the point of mediocrity. The difference, as he said, was his inability to identify options. So there’s hope.

Technique is often the first victim of pressure and poor performance.

Graham is a classic drop back passer who stands tall, throws over the top and so far seems skilled at throwing deep. Even under the duress of seven sacks and many more hits and hurries, his arm angle remained in the correct position and his technique sound. His timing with his receivers will come with repetition and defensive recognition from film study, but bad form is a much tougher fix.

Coaching couldn’t shorten Tim Tebow’s long, slow delivery, nor Denard Robinson’s foot-in-the-bucket throwing motion. Staying cool under duress is impressive. Especially in a game like this.

The offense was awful. The receivers dropped passes and couldn’t separate from defenders, the offensive line collapsed under any meaningful pressure, the running game was nonexistent and the play calling swung from the interesting to predictable, with runs into the line and safe, over-the-middle passing.

After USC went up 3-0 in the first quarter, Hawaii responded by running the ball five times for nine yards in its next eight offensive plays. Had UH had the services of running back Joey Iosefa and an experienced offensive line, it may have been different. But they didn’t, and it wasn’t. The results were expected: another failed drive and a punt.

Thankfully, the defense was superb.

The three sacks and nine tackles for loss were impressive, but more important was the general disruption of the Trojans’ offense caused by the UH defense.

USC quarterbacks Cody Kessler and Max Wittek weren’t often in physical danger but rarely had the chance to set their feet and throw to an open receiver. USC has its own offensive issues, but credit a great push by the defensive line and tight play by the secondary for freeing up the linebacking corps.

“That’s why we have the 300-pounders up there,” said linebacker Brenden Daley, who totaled 10 tackles, including four for a loss and one sack.

The one-sided effort did nothing to prove the Norm Chow experiment is capable of winning in the lead position, something his critics were quick to point out upon completion.

One of the best tweets of the day said Hawaii played like it had no offensive coordinator – a dig at the sudden dismissal of coordinator Aaron Price three weeks before the season opener.

Would things have been different against USC with Price on board? Not likely. The banged-up Trojans still boast a talent advantage over UH, and schemes can’t overcome talent.

Chow is a noted developer of quarterbacks, but a head coach often does not have time for such personal position development – June Jones being an exception. We’ll see what he can do with Graham.

Hawaii’s next opponent is Oregon State on the road. Typically, this means a loss, and it would be a major surprise if things turned out different. But if the defensive can remain effective and healthy, an experienced Graham could mean a surprisingly successful Mountain West season.

Of course, success is, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder.