Funaki has the moxie to be the starter
GAINESVILLE, Fla. » Football players will almost all tell you they do it for their teammates, the guys next to them.
That's usually true. But another fact to which the smart players never admit is there are some for whom they try harder. It's normal, part of being human.
And that brings us to Inoke Funaki.
The Hawaii junior is much admired by teammates for his toughness, personality, athleticism and smarts. Yesterday, he happened to be the only one of three quarterbacks playing against Florida to put points on the scoreboard.
Yes, I'm aware he did it against the Gator backups, while Greg Alexander and Brent Rausch toiled against the speedy and stout front-liners. I also realize Funaki was less than perfect, and like the other two, contributed to Hawaii's six turnovers.
And I like the way Alexander and Rausch handled yesterday's disaster afterward. Alexander took full responsibility for making bad throws. Rausch reacted with fury he promises to direct toward making things better.
But Funaki has something special the others might develop with time or might not. He can get his Warriors teammates to overachieve, or at least not underachieve. He can pull this group together, out of the funk of being on the wrong end of 56-10.
That, and his ability to make something out of nothing, should qualify him as the starter Saturday against Weber State.
I'm usually not big on "he deserves it." That can mean anything, or nothing. In this case, though, it's clearly true. Funaki has done everything asked of him, including training the new guys to beat him out.
I tried to get him to say it himself yesterday, that he should start. No dice, he's too smart, too much of a team player.
"That's not for any player to decide," Funaki said, emphasizing he still supports the other quarterbacks.
People who watch closely will tell you he is limited in his passing ability. But Funaki makes plays, always has when he's had a chance.
"The best quarterback was Inoke Funaki," Greg McMackin said yesterday. "And he made things happen because of his mobility. I'd rather that he stayed in there and threw it, but if he runs around and makes plays then he's sitting good."
McMackin isn't giving up on Alexander or Rausch, even temporarily, nor should he. During the postgame interview, he opened and then closed the quarterback competition within the space of 5 minutes -- he remembered he should review the tape before making such decisions.
"The quarterback may have been doing exactly what he does and the receiver may have been making a wrong move," McMackin said.
That was obviously not the case, though, when Alexander overthrew a wide-open Aaron Bain on what was the turning point of the game. Instead of to Bain for the game's first score, the ball went into the hands of Florida safety Ahmad Black.
"That can't happen, especially in the red zone against a team like Florida. He was there, I just missed him," Alexander said.
Someday, this may be Greg Alexander's team, or Brent Rausch's. Many see Tyler Graunke as its savior, if he can stay out of his own way.
But the right guy to lead the Warriors as their starting quarterback -- at least for the week ahead -- is Inoke Funaki.