After a nightmare 2006, Bears hope to leave bad news behind
NO, we'd have heard something by now. We would have some idea if Hawaii's opening opponent -- Northern Colorado -- had transferred in six or seven Division I playmakers. It wouldn't be a secret, not in this day and age.
Oh, you still can't blame assorted UH fans for being just a little nervous. For muttering something about any given game, any given day. We've seen it happen. Florida Atlantic. Portland State. You can get knocked off if you aren't ready, even at home. UH has lost highly-hyped season openers to Division I-AA opponents before.
But this is something different entirely.
Northern Colorado isn't a Division I-AA team. It's a team making the jump to Division I-AA. There's a difference. A huge difference.
It's a program that was a Division II powerhouse (back-to-back Division II national championships in the '90s), but is still trying to figure out how in the world the guys at this level make it all work.
The Bears went 1-10 last season. Against Division I-AA competition. And it has been noted, if it's possible to say this, it was not a good 1-10.
The Greeley Tribune quotes one fan: "They got slaughtered last year."
Yeah. Not good.
But it was worse than that. Reading the local paper, it seems hard to fathom how bad last year was for this team. We know the big one. One of their players stabbed someone. Another one of their players.
Thank goodness UNC punter Rafael Mendoza is OK and back with the team and is penciled in to start at Aloha Stadium Sept. 1. UH fans should give him a rousing ovation when he takes the field.
(Former backup punter Mitch Cozad was convicted last week of second-degree assault but acquitted of attempted-first-degree murder.)
We've all heard the story and it was terrible, just terrible. No kidding about it. But it was merely the biggest headline from the Bears' bad news in 2006. Two former Bears players also died last fall. An assistant coach quit in the middle of the season. UNC's 2006 season went beyond the losses. It was a nightmare beyond all nightmares.
Writes Greeley Tribune columnist Tom Wright: "But for now the 2007 slate is clean. No one's been stabbed, in a fight, made a racial slur or had to self-report an NCAA violation."
Yes, all of that stuff.
Now that's a 1-10 season.
This is the team that now has to face not only a Division I opponent, but a ranked Division I opponent on its home field thousands of miles and half an ocean away.
Their No. 1 running back (three carries, 9 yards last year) separated a shoulder earlier in camp. (Not the one named "Mud Flap" because his tattoos resemble the naked-lady silhouettes often seen on the back of trucks. But this could be Mud Flap's big chance to move up the depth chart.)
We've seen Florida Atlantic come in here and win. We've seen Portland State. We know Division I-AA can still be dangerous. But this is a different situation entirely.
Still, the Bears come in here with a revamped roster full of new guys unburdened by the past. And the returnees know after last season it can't get any worse.