Military called in to help UH attendance
Ticket sales have trended downward since the opener vs. USC sold out
The season-ticket base for Hawaii football continues to shrink, but reinforcements from the armed forces might help the Warriors avoid another season-low turnout for tonight's game at Aloha Stadium against Utah State.
As of last week, UH had sold 20,449 season-ticket packages, continuing a downward trend over the past several seasons.
The crowd has gotten smaller for each of UH's three home games after the season-opening sellout (50,000) against USC.
But a little bit more than 26,300 tickets for tonight's game had been distributed by 2 p.m. yesterday, UH spokeswoman Lois Manin said. And since a "Military Night" promotion allows fans with military IDs to get two tickets for the price of one (and four for two, etc.), there could be a significant number of walk-up purchasers today.
There were 28,196 tickets distributed for UH's game against Fresno State two weeks ago, but a 1 p.m. start and live TV contributed to no-shows adding up to a turnstile count of 23,157.
A lower percentage of non-attendees can be expected for tonight's traditional 6:05 start -- even though the Warriors (3-6, 3-4 Western Athletic Conference) and Aggies (2-6, 1-4) are struggling through disappointing seasons.
Hawaii coach June Jones expressed faith in the UH faithful earlier this week.
"We have good fans," Jones said. "Hopefully they'll come out Saturday to see two exciting teams."
If the Warriors win out (after a bye next week they play Wisconsin and San Diego State), they avoid their first losing season since 2000. Jones said this rebuilding team bears some resemblance to the one five years ago that went 3-9.
"I think it does. I told the kids that," Jones said. "The kids have stayed plugged in and worked hard every week, but the wins just haven't been coming. There are some similarities, but this is a more talented football team."
The Aggies will be hard-pressed to stop a Hawaii passing attack that averages 379.8 yards per game, third in the nation. Freshman receiver Davone Bess leads the WAC with 10 touchdown catches, and is second in the nation in receptions. Sophomore quarterback Colt Brennan has passed for 1,708 yards and 14 touchdowns in the last four games.
"We're doing a lot of good things, but not enough to win games," Jones said.
UH is just 1-3 at home this season and Utah State is 0-4 on the road.
"They will be a hungry team that is trying to finish and prove themselves like we are," Aggies coach Brent Guy said.
Senior defensive end John Chick said the Aggies are close to turning things around.
"It's been very frustrating knowing it's our mistakes that take us out of games rather than the other team being better than us," he said.
Hawaii linebacker Solomon Elimimian said the winning team will be the one that executes better.
"We're probably better than their team, but the better team doesn't always win," he said. "The team with less mistakes win."
Utah State quarterback Leon Jackson III is one of the WAC's most exciting offensive players. But it is unlikely he can carry the Aggies enough to make up for UH's depth.
"Hawaii is a very good team. They gave Fresno State and Boise State a run for their money, so we will have to play good," Jackson said. "They're a pretty intense defense and they like to cause confusion. They remind me of Utah's defense, and they controlled the game."
Brennan knows Jackson from high school days, when they played for Southern California powerhouses -- Brennan at Mater Dei and Jackson at Long Beach Poly.
"This is a kid who isn't having a great year because he's young right now, but this kid can play. He's very talented, very strong arm," said Brennan, who attended camps with Jackson. "Physically his talents are everything you could need. It's going to be a great test for our defense. I don't think we faced another quarterback as talented other than Matt (Leinart) and Drew Stanton."
Utah State is in its first year in the WAC.
"The WAC has been more fun," Aggies defensive tackle E.J. Reed said. "It's much more competitive than the Sun Belt. We play against better players. Even going to Alabama (a 35-3 loss) was fun."