CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii defensive coordinator Greg McMackin's coaching résumé includes a stop at Idaho. The Warriors go after their sixth straight road win against the Vandals on Saturday.
Hawaii assistant has been aroundSTORY SUMMARY »
Like The Man In Black (and most other football coaches, for that matter), Greg McMackin's been everywhere, man.
Hawaii (4-0) at Idaho (1-3)
» Saturday, 11:05 a.m.
» Kibbie Dome, Moscow, Idaho
» TV: Live PPV 255; Replay 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday, KFVE, Ch. 5
» Radio: KKEA, 1420 AM
» Internet: htsportsnet.com
That includes a stop at Idaho. That was before McMackin mentored Warren Sapp and Ray Lewis at Miami, converted the Seahawks defense from a joke into a quality unit and helped Hawaii turn it around in 1999.
McMackin, back for his second stint as UH defensive coordinator, likes the speed of his current linebackers: Solomon Elimimian in the middle and Adam Leonard and Brad Kalilimoku on the flanks -- with Blaze Soares finally poised to strike coming off a hamstring pull. McMackin brings this group and a deep front line and improving secondary to his old haunt near the Snake River for a game Saturday.
No. 19 Hawaii (4-0) is favored by around 24 points against Idaho (1-3), but McMackin said a wily old friend, Steve Axman, knows what he's doing with the Vandals offense. Axman coached with McMackin, Mouse Davis and June Jones with the Denver Gold of the now-defunct USFL. The Idaho offensive coordinator also has a Pac-10 pedigree, with stops at UCLA and Washington.
The Warriors were to practice once more on campus this morning before taking off for Idaho in quest of their sixth road win in a row. They also hope to extend their Western Athletic Conference streak of victories to nine.
The last time UH went to Idaho, quarterback Colt Brennan earned his first victory as a starter as UH won 24-0.
Yesterday, Brennan and the rest of the offense worked on a silent count in anticipation of a loud crowd in the Kibbie Dome. Brennan isn't 100 percent from the sprained ankle that kept him out of last week's game, but he vows to play Saturday.
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Hawaii defensive coordinator Greg McMackin is doing his best to drill any possible overconfidence out of his unit as it prepares to play at Idaho (1-3) on Saturday.
Two years ago, the only other time the Warriors (4-0) visited the Kibbie Dome, they blanked the Vandals, allowing just 153 yards in UH's first win with Jerry Glanville as defensive coordinator.
So far it's UH's only shutout of the new millennium. Of course, McMackin, who was a young Idaho assistant in the 1970s, would like to add one Saturday. The Warriors defense seems capable, having allowed an average of 12 points in the last two games.
But McMackin is quick to point out the Vandals are no Charleston Southern. The Vandals aren't ranked in the Top 25 like No. 19 Hawaii, but they're not a middling Division I-AA team playing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, either.
"Our guys know how important it is to not overlook them," McMackin said. "We see a lot of improvement in them. They don't play like they did two years ago."
Or last year, when the Warriors pounded them 68-10.
It sounds like coachspeak, but McMackin backed it up with some analysis.
"They're getting the most out of their athletes," he said. "They played well against USC (a 38-10 loss) and they were ahead of Washington State. They got their win against Cal Poly, and they should've won last week against Northern Illinois, but that was an accident game. They had all kinds of accidents go against them."
Idaho averages 375.0 yards a game and allows 388.8 -- and those numbers include a game against the top-ranked team in the nation. Perhaps the Vandals are better than their record. But Hawaii is still favored by nearly four touchdowns.
McMackin said the Idaho offensive line is to be respected, especially center Adam Korby and guards Adam Juratovac and Mike Iupati.
"I think they're better than LaTech. They held and grabbed face masks," he said of the Bulldogs. "(Idaho's) offensive front is as good as any we've played yet."
They open holes for Deonte Jackson, who leads the WAC in rushing (537 yards) but is trying to rehab a sprained ankle this week.
"They say Jackson isn't going to play, but I'll believe it when I see it," McMackin said.
The Hawaii DC said he has a healthy respect for the man he'll match X's and O's with, Steve Axman.
The Vandals' offensive coordinator is very familiar with McMackin and Warriors head coach June Jones.
"He was the offensive line coach with June and Mouse and me with the Denver Gold," McMackin said. "He's a very good offensive coach."
Hawaii's defense is ranked 34th in the nation in yardage allowed, but that's including two games against I-AA teams that UH outscored 129-16.
Junior middle linebacker Solomon Elimimian is the Warriors' leading tackler with 41 stops. He made his starting debut as a true freshman at Idaho in 2005, picking off a pass that set up a touchdown in that 24-0 win.
"His speed is a great attribute, and he has great instincts," McMackin said. "Solly's a leader and he's very smart."