Honolulu, HI—Heading into last week's season opener with Colorado, they were focused on stopping running back Rodney Stewart. Now going into week two at Washington, Hawaii's defense has another equally dangerous running back on their hands, maybe even more so.
"I'm really impressed with their running back," defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said after Tuesday's practice. "I think (Chris Polk) may be the best running back we face all year long."
As a sophomore in 2010 Polk ranked 17th in the nation with 103.2 rushing yards per game. In 2009 he became the first Huskies freshman to ever rush for 1,000 yards. Last week against Eastern Washington he gained 125 yards on 26 carries.
"We expect them to run the same kind of offense as Colorado," linebacker Aaron Brown said. "The same kind of [running] plays, the Power-O, the toss-sweep; so it's going to be a physical game."
Brown, who is from nearby Puyallup, Wash., is expected to start Saturday's game at Husky Stadium (9:30am HST) after being suspended for one week. His presence is a welcome addition to a Warriors defense that limited Colorado to 17 net rushing yards.
"Good. I think we can work back to where we need to be," Aranda said when asked about Brown. "There's been so much movement at the linebacker position that really we're behind schedule. The talent is there but we've got to get on schedule, so that's what we're aiming to do."
Against Colorado middle linebacker Corey Paredes moved to Brown's weak side spot and George Daily-Lyles started in the middle.
"I think we have our swag back," Paredes said on Tuesday. "We definitely had guys show up (against Colorado). George did the job and Art (Laurel the strong side linebacker) played an awesome game with his interception. But you know it feels good to be back out there with AB. He's an awesome player, he's good support on my weak side (and) it just feels good to be back in the middle able to make plays left and right."
Up front Hawaii's defensive line did a great job of shutting down Stewart and Colorado's running game. Defensive end Paipai Falemalu earned WAC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his six tackle, two sack performance and Vaughn Meatoga had a field day with 6'8" offensive lineman Ryan Miller.
"It's not just us," Falemalu said on Tuesday. "We pick up blocks sometimes and the linebackers they do their job. They come and fill pretty quickly and the secondary, they all come help us (and) support us on the run. So it wasn't just the D-line it was pretty much the whole defense."
Besides Polk, Aranda said Washington's quarterback Keith Price "is dangerous when he gets outside the pocket," and that receiver Jermaine Kearse "reminds me of Boise State's (Austin) Pettis from a year ago. I think he's a dangerous receiver, great hands, great routes, so there's some challenges there that we have to meet."
In last week's 30-27 win over Eastern Washington, Price was held to just 102 passing yards. But he threw three touchdowns and completed 68 percent of his passes.
"(Price is) a good quarterback and he makes a lot of his plays off of scrambles and stuff," Paredes said. "So we got to cage him in. He's a good runner. He can run the ball and when he gets outside you cannot come off your receivers because he can hit them when you try to pull (off). So the D-lines gonna do a good job of caging him in and we got to (watch) our receivers. It's going to be a good game, they're a good team."
Even though his unit was good, if not great, in holding Colorado to 240 total yards, Aranda said: "We're gonna ask them to get better, so that's going to be the challenge this next week... Husky Stadium is a tough place to play and it's going to be loud and it's going to be a different environment.
"We're going to have to do our jobs, everybody."