Hawaii tries to silence doubters
If you think Hawaii doesn't pay attention to the national media, ask senior defensive tackle Siave Seti.
"ESPN has doubted us all along," Seti said. "Mel Kiper called us cupcakes. We didn't deserve that."
With a chip as big as the state of Hawaii on its shoulders, the Warrior defense responded by physically dominating a team known for its aggressive style of football.
Hawaii held heralded running back Ian Johnson to just 14 rushing yards after the first quarter and Boise State to 101 for the game, which is a season low for the Broncos.
"We stuffed them, especially in the second half," junior linebacker Adam Leonard said. "That's what we expect to do every time we play."
Boise State did not score in the final 18 minutes and finished with 156 yards less than their season average as the Warriors clinched the Western Athletic Conference championship outright with a 39-27 victory.
"We're undefeated champs," senior cornerback Gerard Lewis said. "We're not sharing anything."
As the season has progressed, Hawaii has become more and more scrutinized as other undefeated teams have been knocked off.
Rumblings of a possible Bowl Championship Series berth have gotten louder as the weeks have gone by, but the Warriors had one goal to achieve first.
"Since last spring and into the summer, all we have preached is being WAC champs," Leonard said. "Now that we got it, we can start focusing on the BCS."
Their schedule obviously hasn't been up to the standards of most teams in the country, but it's something out of the players' control.
All they have had control of is winning games, and the Warriors have done it 11 straight times this season and in 21 of their last 22.
"It is what it is," Lewis said. "Everyone has an opinion, but we're the ones actually out here playing. Other teams have lost and we're still undefeated."
Lewis and opposite cornerback Myron Newberry helped get Hawaii to this point with big defensive plays in crucial games on the road.
Last night, it was the younger kids stepping up when they needed to most.
"We have a young defense," defensive coordinator Greg McMackin said. "The seniors have given us great leadership and paved the way for some of these other kids to start making plays."
McMackin has stressed "quick change" drives all season and how his defense needs to limit the opposition to field goals instead of touchdowns.
At the end of the first half and early in the third quarter, two Colt Brennan interceptions forced the Hawaii defense to take the field in its own territory. On both drives, Boise State immediately went three and out and only converted three points off both turnovers.
The Broncos had one last chance late in the fourth quarter to pull within a touchdown, but junior Ryan Mouton knocked down a third-down pass and sophomore John Fonoti sacked Taylor Tharp on fourth down to give Hawaii its first victory over the Broncos in eight years.
"We were more disciplined in the second half, but in the end it came down to the players making plays," McMackin said.
"And they made the plays."