Chang says Warriors 'have to be good' against Great Danes

Sep. 9—After an 11-hour, six-movie flight from New York's JFK International Airport to Honolulu, the football team that wants to be known as UAlbany tried to make a splash.

After an 11-hour, six-movie flight from New York's JFK International Airport to Honolulu, the football team that wants to be known as UAlbany tried to make a splash.

The Great Danes checked into a hotel, then checked out the waters off Waikiki Beach.

"We heard it helps reset your circadian rhythm, " quarterback Reese Poffenbarger said. "It helps you get grounded."

The Great Danes arrived four days ahead of today's game against Hawaii to adjust to the humidity, six-hour time difference and interim leadership of associate head coach Jared Ambrose. The hope was head coach Greg Gattuso, who has been ill, would travel on his own on Wednesday. When the team learned "that wouldn't be the case, " Ambrose said, "we had to adapt. You have to move forward. We tried to keep it moving."

Ambrose, who also serves as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, is overseeing the entire program but will not favor either "side of the aisle. We're all under the same logo. You coach every kid as if they're your own."

Defensive coordinator Bill Nesselt has autonomy in constructing the defensive game plan and calling plays. "He earned the right to have that responsibility, " Ambrose said.

Nesselt, who was the special teams coordinator last year, directed a 4-3 defense that amassed 10 sacks against Fordham in the opener and then held Marshall scoreless for the first 38 minutes, 10 seconds.

Ambrose will continue to enjoy a field-level view of the Poffenbarger-led offense. This season, Ambrose has called the plays from the sidelines instead of the coaches' booth. Asked about the offense's name, Ambrose offered a description : "Players win games. Every coach tries to put themselves into the game and make his influence—his scheme—be the differentiating factor. I truly believe your players are the difference in every game, and it's your job to put them in the best place to succeed."

Within the parameters of Ambrose's multiple-look offense, Poffenbarger—"Johnny Football " because of his "gunslinging " style—can improvise to fit the situation. Poffenbarger's accuracy (57.7 %) off a quick release—zero interceptions in 78 passes and no fumbles—is a byproduct of facing an aggressive pass rush each practice.

"They teach me I've got to get the ball out or we're not going to move the ball, " Poffenbarger said. "They put so much havoc and stress on a quarterback."

Poffenbarger said he embraces Ambrose's advice of "Don't think about the rush, feel the rush."

Unlike UH's first two opponents, the Great Danes have games that already are on video. Vanderbilt and Stanford were playing their season openers against the Warriors, providing few pregame clues of their schemes and personnel. On Sept. 2, the UH coaches gathered to watch and evaluate the Albany-Marshall game on ESPN +.

"They almost beat Marshall, " said Chang, referencing a slip and a sack ending the Great Danes' drive for the go-ahead touchdown in 21-17 loss. "We have to be good. We have to be on our (stuff )."

Brayden Schager has thrown for 351 and 355 yards to open the season, and slotback Pofele Ashlock has had back-to-back games of 100-plus receiving yards to earn consecutive Mountain West Freshman of the Week awards. But injuries on the offensive line and in the backfield have limited UH's running backs to 31 yards per game and 2.6 yards per carry. The backs have not scored a touchdown.

If cornerback /returner Cam Stone is unavailable for double duty, JoJo Forest and Caleb Brown will rotate as the wide-side corner, and Hines will get first shot as a punt returner. Hines, Nick Cenacle and Chuuky Hines are candidates to return kicks. Noah Kema will start at middle linebacker or on the strong side in place of Isaiah Tufaga, who is suspended for the first half after being assessed a targeting penalty last week.