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Calm before the fight could be good for UH


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POSTED: Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Did Hawaii lose to San Jose State before the game even started?

That's the contention of some. The Spartans apparently got under the Warriors' collective skin during warm-ups Saturday, when the visitors edged a little too close to the home team. Chirping galore before kickoff, leading to plenty of lips flapping during the game and scuffles after the whistle.

That's football these days, where smack is what you talk as much as what you dish out physically. You have to brush it off or retaliate within the rules.

Hawaii was tagged with multiple personal fouls and totaled 115 penalty yards. Now, this isn't the only reason the Warriors lost (six turnovers does bear repeating, yet again), but it certainly didn't help.

"Those are crucial penalties that took away first downs," coach Greg McMackin said at his Monday postmortem. "That's selfish."

He said there would be plenty of extra running and maybe a shoulder roll or 10 for the offenders today.

It's no coincidence that the Warriors' most contentious game so far this season was its first against a WAC foe. UH picked up an image with some in the league over the years as a band of showboating bullies, and payback is an itch every team in the conference wants to scratch - starting with Fresno State on Saturday.

You know Pat Hill's nationally ranked team and the denizens of Bulldog Stadium are rabid in anticipation. Consecutive losses to the Warriors, including a 68-37 trouncing at their place in 2006, are far from forgotten.

Emotion wins football games. It loses them, too.

Hill, with his crazy BCS-buster schedules, knows more than anyone that team temperament factors into victory and defeat, making champs look like chumps and back again, sometimes within the space of three games.

A coach has to tune his squad to the perfect pitch. He must take it to a place where it can perform with passion and controlled rage without losing discipline, without being baited by its opponent into costly actions.

At times Saturday against San Jose State, Hawaii (especially the defense) was in the perfect place emotionally.

After the Spartans took advantage of UH being in overdrive with a successful trick play on the first series, the Warriors settled down without losing their fire and limited SJSU to 237 yards, including an incredible 10 three-and-out series.

That made the outcome all the more frustrating for McMackin.

"We have a disciplined team. I'm not going to allow guys jumping into the end zone and I'm not going to allow guys punching guys in the face," he said.

Players who want to do that are in the wrong sport, he added.

"Put those guys in a dang cage and let 'em fight."

That's funny, because serious MMA combatants consider discipline a hallmark of their sport. Jiu-jitsu practitioner and MMA trainer Joji Yoshida said he and his fistic friends conclude the Warriors waste psychological and physiological ammo with their emotion-laden pregame ha'a dance, and should scrap it.

"From our standpoint, if you get too pumped up you can't perform," Yoshida said. "Maybe for football it's different. But in MMA, you want total calm before your fight."