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Ability to make plays was key to Hawaii's rout


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POSTED: Sunday, September 13, 2009

SEATTLE » Like Greg McMackin said, play-calling is overrated. Well, when you're up against Washington State it certainly is.

If the Warriors played the Cougs every week, McMackin could let the student managers call the plays. Or the tuba player. Or the graduates of his wife Heather's football 101 seminar (the one Mack thinks some of us sportswriters should attend).

It was all about play-making for Hawaii yesterday at Qwest Field, which was in effect a time machine that transported us back to 2006 for a half. The Hawaii fans sang the “;na, na, na, na, hey, hey, hey”; song as the clock ticked down.

Who can now argue with the unorthodox move of offensive coordinator Ron Lee relinquishing the play chart to quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich?

Greg Alexander put up Colt-like numbers. Receivers constantly found the open spots and broke away for big gains. UH scored five TDs as WSU committed five first-half turnovers, including a morale-killer in the Hawaii end zone.

This seemed like a starters-in-streetclothes-at-halftime game for UH. For us, it was a file-your-story-at-halftime game.

BUT THIS wasn't Northern Colorado, Charleston Southern, New Mexico State or Idaho. This was a Pac-10 foe, supposedly with Pac-10 talent. So the Cougars had the ammo to fire back, at least a bit, in the second half. They did, closing to within two scores. Then the Warriors woke up and put it away with plenty to spare.

What does it tell us that UH couldn't shake an FCS team until the end but toys with a Pac-10 outfit?

“;Frankly, Central Arkansas is a much better team (than Washington State),”; center John Estes said. “;All this stuff about struggling against a I-AA team ... a football team's a football team. We knew we were going to beat Wazzu. We should've put up 70, but we made a lot of mistakes.”;

Don't be drinking that Hawaii Bowl eggnog yet (it's tempting, especially with June Jones-coached SMU at 2-0 now, too—and WSU next on its menu). Most of the teams on the Warriors' slate are much better than the Cougs, who will surely take up residence in their conference cellar.

UH's YOUNG defense deserves as many plaudits as the offense for coming out ready to play, ready to force the action. Yes, Washington State helped by constantly getting in its own way whenever it got some momentum. And the Cougars tried to play a soft defense and didn't get to Alexander.

As for the first-time shot-caller, Rolo conceded to being nervous all week.

“;But I told myself, when I step on that turf, I'm going to forget all that and just do my best. I probably felt about the same as my first game as a quarterback.”;

I asked him to grade himself.

“;I wish I had a third-down call back, and that last 'Noke (wildcat) package, it ran dry,”; he said. “;I give the kids an A. The coaching staff, as far as adjustments, I'd say a B, B-plus. We've got to work on ball security and scoring in the red zone.”;

The ragged second half showed there's still a lot that can—and needs to—be better.

“;UNLV is going to be a great challenge,”; McMackin said. “;This is one of their best teams.”;