Jones: UH sharp in 7 practices
For a first-time visitor to practice, it would be hard to tell yesterday that Hawaii was nine days away from the biggest football game in school history.
In 8 days... Hawaii (12-0) vs. Georgia (10-2)
» When: Jan. 1, 3:30 p.m.
» Where: New Orleans
» TV: KHON Ch. 3
The Warriors finished their final home workout of the year with a relay race won by the defense. Cornerback Ryan Keomaka anchored; he sprinted to the finish and was lifted by the rest of the green shirts as if he'd just picked off a pass to win the Sugar Bowl.
It didn't meet with coach June Jones' complete approval, as the last thing he wants is more pulled muscles before the team leaves tomorrow evening for New Orleans and its Jan. 1 date with Georgia at the Louisiana Superdome.
"No racing!" Jones yelled from the other side of the practice field.
It was too late. But it wasn't enough to ruin the head man's good mood after seven consecutive days of what he judged as excellent practices.
"One thing's sure," said defensive coordinator Greg McMackin, as he walked off the field in his rubber slippers. "We're not too tight."
Mixing work and fun has gotten UH to 12-0, No. 10 in the nation and a BCS bowl berth. Why change now?
"I felt like we all came out here pretty sharp," quarterback and Heisman Trophy finalist Colt Brennan said. "I thought we looked great and the team has a great vibe to it right now. It was a great way to end the week."
Warriors wrap up a hectic week of home practices
Seven is three more days than Hawaii and most other college football teams practice consecutively during the season.
But bowl season spawns bizarre schedules -- there's finals, then no school, but always plenty of other demands with the holidays on the horizon.
Yesterday, the Sugar Bowl-bound Warriors completed the Hawaii portion of their preparations. They now have three days before their next practice, which will be at the Saints' facility in New Orleans.
The seven days in a row of practice made it important that players coming off of injuries take their time getting back into the mix. Avoidance of aggravating old ailments was a priority.
Then, of course, there was the little detail of getting a solid base of prep work for the Georgia Bulldogs, ranked fourth in the nation.
"It's a little bit different," UH coach June Jones said. "I was a little worried if we'd keep the focus going for seven days in a row with a high level of practice. But we had good practices all seven days. They really did a nice job."
Offensive lineman Aaron Kia, linebacker Brad Kalilimoku and defensive lineman David Veikune were minus pads yesterday, but all are expected back in New Orleans. Safety Keao Monteilh's situation is iffy. He hasn't had any live-fire exercise since his shoulder blade fracture forced him to the sideline the last four games of the season. Slotbacks Ryan Grice-Mullins (ribs) and Davone Bess (shin) ramped up their participation.
Quarterback Colt Brennan said he'd expected a chill week, but meetings and other off-field commitments negated school finally being out for the communications graduate.
"It's been crazy. I thought this week would be the most relaxing week. I'd get to come to practice in the morning, relax and enjoy myself," Brennan said. "But it's been pretty hectic, pretty crazy. By far the most hectic week of the year when it was supposed to be the most relaxing week. I'm just glad it's over. I'm glad we can go down there and focus on the football game."
On Saturday, Brennan and other Warriors tried to sate a feeding frenzy of autograph seekers. They did as much as they could for an hour, but many went home unsatisfied. The good news for those still looking for his name on something is Brennan will return to Hawaii after the Sugar Bowl.
"It was still a positive," Jones said of Saturday's signing event. "You can't make everybody happy."
That's true with Brennan's professional representation, too. He can only put a smile on the faces of one agency group.
"The wheels are already turning and I'm already trying to meet with people and figure out what I'm going to do after that last game," said Brennan, who will be a first-day draft pick. "I'm coming back to Hawaii after the game, but I have to get ready for the next step.
"That's a lot of pressure and a lot of things to think about right now. You just have to focus on what's right in front of you and that's the bowl game. And I'm looking forward to come back to the island with a victory."
Brennan left yesterday for Colorado, where his family is gathering to celebrate Christmas. He arrives in New Orleans on Wednesday. Several other team members are also taking detours to be with family for the holiday.
Brennan applauded the week-long efforts of some players who got more reps than usual due to injuries and starters being out for other various reasons.
"I like (receivers) Mike Washington and Greg Salas and, well, Aaron Bain, I think of more as a veteran guy, he's played a lot. Those guys had a great week of practice. Tremendous week of practice," Brennan said. "Mike Washington really stands out. He just came out and killed it all week. It's neat to watch him grow. Those three guys really stepped in and did a great job this week.
"On the defensive side (this past week), I think of guys like (safety) Erik Robinson. (End) John Fonoti, but he's always been a baller."
UH athletic director Herman Frazier said "no one will be displaced," when asked earlier in the week if any players, other team personnel, band members, cheerleaders or dancers would be bumped from the trip for other people who won't be working.
Five players aren't going at UH's expense, due to NCAA eligibility rules. They are transfers sitting out the required year.
Frazier said there had been consideration given to a plan that would mean a total of seven people from the band and cheer and dance squads would be left back, but that plan was scrapped and none of those support groups would be hit.
Also, information had surfaced that friends of athletic department staff and their children would be making the trip, at the university's expense.
Frazier said there are some significant others and children of staff on the manifest at UH's expense. He said that is normal bowl game procedure.
Frazier has a news conference scheduled today to address this subject, as well as questions about the Sugar Bowl finances.
The UH buses leave the school at 2 p.m. tomorrow and go straight to the tarmac at the airport. The Warriors are scheduled to take off at 5 p.m. and arrive in New Orleans around 6:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Hawaiian Airlines is planning an airport send-off.