Hawaii taking its bowl seriously
The Warriors know beating a Pac-10 school would be big
On the surface it looked like another fairly typical Hawaii football practice yesterday, with some of the usual hang-loose antics.
Who: Arizona State at Hawaii
When: Dec. 24, 3 p.m.
Where: Aloha Stadium
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Tickets: $10$45 (call 808-548-2695)
Backup quarterback Tyler Graunke caught his own deflected pass and, as he swept around end, picked up a blocker ... third-string QB Inoke Funaki, coming in from the sideline. Mental reps can get kind of boring.
Between the laughs though, the Warriors (10-3) say they are grim-face determined to win the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl a week from today at Aloha Stadium, and for various reasons.
"Coach (June) Jones, especially, he's taking this game serious. I think more serious than any other game we've had," junior nose tackle Mike Lafaele said. "It's going to be the seniors' last game. This group ... this is a real special class."
The opponent is Arizona State (7-5), and a win over the Sun Devils would even UH's record this year against BCS schools at 2-2.
"If we beat a Pac-10 school we get respect," sophomore outside linebacker Tyson Kafentzis said. "Hopefully all the WAC teams win and we get respect. Boise, San Jose, us ... we all have a great chance of winning our bowl games. And Nevada too."
A Western Athletic Conference sweep would help Hawaii regain the spot in the Top 25 it lost when UH fell to Oregon State to end the regular season Dec. 2. As Lafaele notes, that would give the Warriors a jump start headed into 2007.
"Hopefully we can do it. I think it would mean a lot to us for our momentum for next year," he said. "We have a lot to stand up for next year, for ourselves and our families."
Especially Kafentzis. His father and four uncles are former UH players. So is his brother, Landon; and before Landon became a Warrior, he was a sworn enemy of the Sun Devils as an Arizona Wildcat.
"I got to watch a couple (Arizona-Arizona State) games when he played over there and those were great games. My brother's got two reasons for us to win," said Kafentzis, who returned to practice Friday after missing a couple of sessions with a sore ankle. "My dad and my uncles will all be watching too. We all get to end the season with a bang."
Graunke is from Tucson, Ariz., so he also was raised to loathe ASU.
"I always hated the Sun Devils. Big Arizona fan growing up," Graunke said. "My parents had tickets to pretty much every sport ever since I was born. We were huge Arizona Wildcat fans. I hate the Sun Devils. But they're a good team and I'm excited we're playing them."
The sophomore will probably spend most of this game watching from the sideline, but said he's ready if something should happen to junior WAC Offensive Player of the Year Colt Brennan -- or, if Jones just wants to mix things up for a series on the nation's most productive offense.
"Anything can happen on any given play. You never know, Coach might put me in for a couple plays that I can execute. We're going to try to exploit their weaknesses however possible," Graunke said.
Jones said the Warriors are following the same routine they have for the three previous Hawaii Bowls (2002-04) they've played in.
"Just like our other bowl games. We stick to our practice schedule and we do what we do and get ready to play," he said. "We're doing it exactly the same.
"We've got a lot of veteran guys, so the focus is good."
Sometimes coaches use bowl practices to give underclassman backups a head-start on new starting roles. Not so with UH this week, at least on defense.
"I think (defensive coordinator Jerry) Glanville really wants the first group to get their reps," Lafaele said.
Short yardage: UH is playing its second Hawaii Bowl in a row against a school where athletic director Herman Frazier worked. In 2004, Hawaii played UAB, where Frazier was the AD prior to taking the Hawaii job in 2002. He was a track and field national champion at Arizona State and worked in the ASU athletic department 23 years. ... The Warriors have today off for graduation and return to practice tomorrow at 7 a.m.