Rigors of the season’s second half await Warriors
If June Jones walks right past you -- his patented thousand-yard stare in place -- don't take offense.
After nearly two months of good times on the road and at Aloha Stadium, the Hawaii football team had best buckle up for safety as the dangerous half of the season approaches. That's why you will see Jones' game face from here on in.
Those who braved the rain showers saw a game Saturday night against Utah State that kept the UH coaches walking the floor afterward.
Defensive coordinator Greg McMackin didn't like what he saw as a Utah State offense rated near the cellar in several key NCAA categories coming in, including total yards, spent too much time on the field moving the football. The Aggies had a season-high worth of points (37) and yards (370) against a defense not specifically designed to stop a running quarterback like Leon Jackson III.
Comparisons are always tricky, but if the Warriors want to live in the high-rent district of the BCS, they've got to act like they belong or risk getting booted to the curb. At No. 6-ranked Oklahoma earlier this year, the Sooners saw the Aggies as an opportunity to impress the voters and computers alike. Utah State kicked a field goal and finished with 153 yards in the 54-3 shellacking. The Sooners posted 617 total yards and another 653 on special teams to beat down the Aggies in all phases.
HAD IT NOT BEEN for backup quarterback Tyler Graunke's heroics in the third quarter of last Saturday's 52-37 win, the Warriors might have traveled the same upset road as many other Top-25 teams this season, especially with Colt Brennan walking around on a tender hoof that may get better as the season progresses, but won't get well.
On two good feet, you'd like Hawaii's chances of picking up six wins the rest of the way, including two tough road games with the San Jose State Spartans this Friday and vs. the Wolf Pack on a cold November night in Nevada, both on national TV. Unfortunately for Hawaii fans, Brennan isn't quite right and might not be for the remainder of the season.
Jones likes to use the expression of playing through an injury. That includes not only the game, but in practice and everyday life as well. In the NFL, they treat sprained ankles aggressively. That means you move to the training room until they say it's time to suit up. Not so in college and that could impede Colt along the way.
THERE IS A RHYTHM to this offense you only feel by practicing it regularly. The dance steps don't come smoothly if the guy leading everyone else can't plant his right foot. The fact Hawaii has two byes over the next four weeks might provide enough time to get Brennan healthier in the stretch drive, courtesy of athletic director Herman Frazier.
Because if you haven't noticed, Fresno State and Boise State aren't going anywhere. They play each other in California in a couple of weeks, but don't be surprised if last year's darlings of the BCS ball are unbeaten in conference play when they arrive here in late November.
The only way Hawaii can make that claim is by tightening the defense, executing on offense and making sure the new kickoff rule works firmly in their favor. Jones enjoyed the first six weeks of this season. But from here on in, the Warriors can ill afford any more lapses or face the real possibility of staying home for the holidays.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org