Erickson chasing first victory in Hawaii
The Idaho coach has won two national titles but has lost both times he has coached here
Dennis Erickson was on the wrong end of the first-year-in-the-WAC phenomenon in 1999. He brought Oregon State to the Oahu Bowl, and dam if the Beavers didn't run into a buzz saw and lose to a team that didn't even win one game the previous season. Hawaii, under first-year coach June Jones, completed its historic turnaround with a 23-17 victory at Aloha Stadium.
Two years later, Erickson coached at the Hula Bowl, but Steve Spurrier and Nick Rolovich were no ka oi on Maui, as Rolovich took MVP honors in a 45-28 win.
Tonight Erickson -- winner of two national championships at Miami -- is gunning to wreck Hawaii's homecoming for his first victory in the islands, this time in his second go-round as Idaho's head coach. Like Jones in 1999, Erickson is a former NFL coach pumping life into a comatose program in his first WAC season.
The bookmakers expect the Vandals (4-4) to fall by three or four touchdowns to the red-hot Warriors (5-2), who have parlayed the most productive offense in the country into four wins in a row. But Idaho sees this as a match of equals, as both teams are 3-1 in the WAC and tied for second. The winner can continue to hope for a Boise State stumble and a share of the league championship.
"Having Coach Erickson here is changing attitudes," said linebacker David Vobora, who suffered through 3-9 and 2-9 seasons in 2004 and 2005, including 65-7 and 70-35 losses to the rival Broncos.
The new vibe was evident last week as the Vandals hung with the Broncos midway through the fourth quarter before falling 42-26.
"It was a football game that I thought was played with high intensity on both sides. We had some opportunities to win that game," Erickson said.
Hawaii linebacker and leading tackler Adam Leonard is from Seattle, and remembers when Erickson coached the Seahawks.
"I was kind of a fair-weather fan, so growing up I loved the 49ers. I watched them on TV. You could definitely tell the offense they put in (at Idaho) is like that of a pro team," Leonard said. "So we know they're going to come ready. He's a great coach. We just gotta prepare like we're supposed to."
The UH defense has given up lots of yards and points, but is also developing a mean streak and an opportunistic attitude. The Warriors have overmatched most opponents physically this fall, and UH -- which started out terribly in the turnover department -- has an 11-5 takeaway edge during the winning streak.
"They're mostly known for being a running team. But last week against Boise they passed the whole first half. You never know what they're going to do, but they're a great team. They almost beat Boise," UH safety Leonard Peters said. "I remember (Erickson) as an NFL coach. It's going to be a good game for him and Coach Glanville (defensive coordinator Jerry) to out-chess each other."
Glanville prepared the Warriors defense well enough to slap a shutout on the Vandals, 24-0, last year in Moscow, Idaho.
UH quarterback Colt Brennan, he of the uncanny accuracy and crazy statistics, knows he has to keep taking care of the ball to continue the roll.
"It's just another week for us and we have to make sure we don't hurt ourselves (with turnovers)," said Brennan, who has a streak of 120 passes without an interception. "They're going to be flying around and playing old-school football."
The Warriors would love to play in front of a throwback crowd of 45,000 tonight, like the ones they used to get for a big conference game in the 1980s. Those days are gone, and not even homecoming can make the seats scarce. A gathering approaching 35,000 at the most is expected to be filing in as former UH slotback John Veneri warms up to sing the National Anthem.
Jones said many choose to watch from home, and that's OK.
"We'll show up and play and the fans who are there will have a great time," Jones said. "All our revenues are way up, with pay per view. Our percentages with KFVE right now, already with two games to go we did what we did last year. We're going up in the revenue now -- we get 33 percent of everything from here on, which is quite a bit compared to last year. So a lot of people are watching the games, a lot of people are excited about what we're doing and the ones who show up will have a lot of fun."