UH run brings back memories of 1992 season
THE first time Hawaii won 11 games in a single season, possibly the next head coach at Nebraska was the offensive coordinator and a man whose shoe is in Canton was the kicker.
That 1992 season that culminated with a 27-17 win over Illinois at the Holiday Bowl is similar to Hawaii's current run at 11 wins, a real possibility now that the final road game of the season is secure.
Former head coach Bob Wagner won the first three games of '92 by a scant seven points, and we're not talking about Charleston Something and a weather-vane school from Colorado. This was at Oregon, at Air Force (a day after Hurricane Iniki sacked Kauai) and at home over BYU.
In those days, Hawaii faced the likes of Marshall Faulk at San Diego State, Trent Dilfer from Fresno State, Tulsa's Gus Frerotte and Pittsburgh's Alex Van Pelt. Dilfer -- who will start this afternoon for San Francisco -- almost pulled off a miracle for the Bulldogs the fifth week of the season, before Hawaii found a way to win, 47-45, to keep the WAC championship dream alive.
A shade less than 15 years after that successful campaign, Hawaii's had several brushes with BCS fever and lived to tell the tale. Friday night's improbable comeback win is the third close call on the road in '07 that includes OT victories over Louisiana Tech and San Jose State.
The Rainbows secured a share of their first WAC title all those years ago with an inspired thumping of Wyoming. Now, the Warriors can go one step beyond by beating Boise State and capturing UH's first outright championship on Friday.
FOR THE PLAYERS to look too far ahead would be foolish. Head coach June Jones has kept the big picture fuzzy enough all season by focusing on only a small part of the wide screen. But if the Warriors do manage to break the Broncos for the first time since Boise State entered the WAC, they have a shot at mid-major infamy.
Should that mission be accomplished, beating Washington the final week of the regular season could lead to a BCS bid worth in the neighborhood of $5 million. UH athletic director Herman Frazier would love to spend a buck or two on upgrading the program. Not that he's cashed the check just yet, mind you.
But you can bet he was pulling for Michigan and Cincinnati to manage an upset or two yesterday to widen the BCS window from 12 to 16.
Remember, if a team from a major conference wins the league title, but is ranked lower than Hawaii in the BCS poll, then the Warriors get an automatic bid by finishing in the top 16.
That would be a given if Hawaii is the only unbeaten team in America come December. And as wonderful as that Holiday Bowl win was all those years ago, it would be eclipsed if Hawaii landed a spot in the Sugar or Fiesta bowl.
The timing is right. The setting is ideal. The opponents are perfect. The Friday Night Lights are upon you, Coach Jones. Don't let this opportunity pass you by.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org