Beavers kept ’06 Warriors from being school’s best
Hawaii's 2006 football team was the most talented in program history.
It was basically the Sugar Bowl team of 2007 plus Samson Satele, Dane Uperesa, Tala Esera, Ikaika Alama-Francis, Nate Ilaoa, Mel Purcell, Reagan Mauia and MVP Ross Dickerson.
Show of hands of those who agree.
With that settled, we can talk a little about what kept that group from being the BEST ever from Manoa (and undefeated). It was five or six plays over the course of the 11-3 season, with a couple of them coming in the Warriors' 35-32 loss to Oregon State. That defeat ended UH's nine-game winning streak and knocked it out of the polls.
Most of the guys who beat the Warriors are gone. Another, Sammie Stroughter, didn't expect to be around for tomorrow's game. But he got another year after missing most of last season dealing with depression caused by the death of two close friends.
In 2006, Stroughter broke UH's back with an 80-yard touchdown reception, one play after a Colt Brennan interception.
"He's the best player I've ever seen, honestly," said Mana Silva, who was on the Oregon State sideline for that game, a freshman quarterback. Now he returns to Corvallis as a UH safety.
"We have to avoid the big plays on defense. We can't allow Stroughter to get loose. The whole crowd buys into everything he does. One time they started bowing and saying his name," Silva said.
He said the Warriors can expect a much different crowd than at a UH home game.
"Big student crowd over there. They're always standing, no one ever sits down over there. A little different than at Aloha Stadium, where all the old-timers are just listening to their headsets and stuff. It's a little more crazy than that."
UH cornerback Jameel Dowling was on the Oregon team that fell 30-28 at Oregon State in their "Civil War" rivalry game, a week before the Beavers beat the Warriors.
"It was kind of wild, a tough place to play at," he said of Reser Stadium in Corvallis. "We can't underestimate them because they're 0-2."
Silva and Dowling answered identically when asked to describe the Pac-10 in one word.
In addition to Stroughter's big play, a 100-yard kickoff return weighed heavily in the 2006 outcome.
It says something about UH's talent level that Silva and Dowling - two players deemed worthy of Pac-10 scholarships - must battle for starting spots with the Warriors and are role players at this point.
And Hawaii has proven in recent years (despite the finesse reputation of its offense) that, when motivated, it can play as physically as anyone.
But the strong men of 2006 lost to the breakaway Beavers. We also saw the speed difference factor decisively in the Sugar Bowl last year and at Florida last month.
"Good teams have speed, more than anything speed," UH coach Greg McMackin said. "Playing these good teams like Florida and Oregon State does nothing but help us get better because of the speed factor."