PHOTOS BY CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Quarterback Colt Brennan sprinted across the UH practice field yesterday, and Warriors coach June Jones joked with assistant Dennis McKnight. Hawaii plays Washington on Saturday.
All eyes on BCS prize
That was a short party.
It was back to work for undefeated and 11th-ranked Hawaii yesterday.
Certainly, there was some merry-making after Friday's 39-27 victory over Boise State for UH's first outright Western Athletic Conference championship. But it didn't last long for some of the Warriors.
"To be honest with you, the party was that game. It was awesome," UH quarterback Colt Brennan said. "I went out after I got some food after the game and I hit the wall and I had to go to bed. I think now we've got just one more week left and it's time to get ready for Washington."
Brennan and linebacker Solomon Elimimian were named WAC players of the week. It was the fourth honor this season for Brennan and the third for Elimimian.
It doesn't get old for them, but it's also a reminder to stay the course. Washington comes to town, and the Huskies are better than their 4-8 record and they would love to dash the Warriors' dreams of 12-0 and a happy New Year in New Orleans or some other BCS site.
The 10-point favorite Warriors host the Huskies at sold-out Aloha Stadium on Saturday.
"It feels good to start getting some (team) recognition," Elimimian said. "Then again we don't want to have a big party and this week lose to Washington. That's going to be embarrassing. That's just going to prove everybody right. 'Hawaii's not a great team, losing to a 4-8 Washington.' Their quarterback's a great quarterback and they've got a great running back. We were happy, but at the same time it can be gone in a second."
Coach June Jones took a brief respite at his favorite tavern after the game, signed some books on Maui over the weekend and returned to work.
"After the game I went to Murph's, (celebrated) a little, then back to it," Jones said at his weekly news conference yesterday.
They've seemed to play to the level of some weaker opponents. Brennan said he was more nervous before the Boise game than he'd been prior to any other since his debut two years ago against USC. But, for the most part, the Warriors haven't been too down or too up, and probably won't start going crazy or lethargic now.
Yesterday was like any other Monday. Meetings, conditioning, classes, meetings. Back to work.
"Today," Elimimian said, wearing a WAC championship T-shirt but focusing on the upcoming opponent. "I think today is like 'We gotta play Washington now.' The coaches have their game faces on now. Every game from now is going to be the most important game of the season."
That's been the mantra since September, but now the stakes are higher. When Fresno State played tough opponents week after week, coach Pat Hill compared it to poker, saying he was all-in on every hand. Jones uses the analogy of the NFL postseason; that makes Saturday's game against Washington a conference championship, and if Hawaii wins, it goes to the Super Bowl. Just change Super to Sugar, and there you have it.
"It's a great steppingstone, probably, to the competition we'll have if we do beat Washington," Brennan said. "I think it's set up really well. Washington is a good football team. They kind of remind me of our first year (in 2005). We had all the talent, but we just didn't put it together yet. We played with a lot of good teams that year. We've got to get this victory and then we can start thinking about what's in front of us and show what we can do."
Friday's sellout crowd played a huge role in beating Boise State, Jones said. He wants an encore from the fans.
"The crowd was into the game and hopefully they'll be into the game this week," he said. "It's obviously helpful to the players to have that kind of crowd. It changes the momentum at different times of the game."
Washington finished at the bottom of the Pac-10 at 2-7 and have lost eight of their last 10 games. Jones remains wary, though.
"They played the hardest schedule in the country and had Ohio State at halftime and lost to USC by (a field goal). They beat Cal at home, at their place, so they're pretty good. They beat Boise, probably more handily than we did. They can play," Jones said.
UH shut down dual-threat Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick at Reno, but Jake Locker is a different animal, Jones said.
"This guy's faster than anybody we've played, including any running back we've played," he said. "(And) their running back (Louis Rankin) is probably the best running back we've played, too. That guy's scary on tape."
If Washington beats Hawaii on Saturday, it will be because the Huskies put on a light's-out performance and not because the Warriors walk in expecting an easy win, Jones said. He promises no letdown.
"No. I can tell already from today," Jones said. "Everybody understands. If we don't win the game it's not going to be because we're not ready to play, I'll tell you that."