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Warriors needed to turn yards into points scored


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POSTED: Monday, September 21, 2009

Usually, no one factor wins or loses a football game. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that.

Take Hawaii's frustrating 34-33 loss at UNLV on Saturday. There were some obvious things that stood out, especially toward the end. But like Kealoha Pilares and other Warriors said, it shouldn't have gotten to that point. UH did not take full advantage of a first half it dominated by moving the ball up and down the field with ease and intercepting UNLV quarterback Omar Clayton twice.

The Warriors should've been up 28-7 instead of 20-14 at halftime—at least.

SINCE WE are human beings, we remember more clearly what we see most recently, i.e., in the second half:

» The Hawaii defense on the field nearly the entire third quarter, meaning hot-handed UH quarterback Greg Alexander, his posse of playmakers and an improved offensive line were not.

» Tall UNLV receivers mismatched with short UH cornerbacks, and Clayton just lobbing those alley-oops into the end zone.

» UH missing chances at interceptions to put it away before UNLV scores the game-winner with 36 seconds left.

» Gritty Rebel tailback Channing Trotter keeping long drives alive, grinding out first downs with second effort and the instinct to pop outside when he should. Oh, so that's what an effective and consistent running game looks like—and it isn't mutually exclusive to a wide-open passing game.

MAKE NO mistake, though. While this game was won by the Rebels in the second half, it was lost by the Warriors in the first.

Maybe it wasn't a wild prediction that at least one game would be squandered by kicking—but there it is. In fairness to Scott Enos, he did hit a 47-yarder at the end of the half, and the disorganized rush job that resulted in a miss from 31 might not be his fault.

The larger point is that the way the Warriors offense was humming at that point, they shouldn't have been kicking anything other than extra points.

I'm home now, so this will be my last gambling comparison for a while; it's like blackjack—the way you come out ahead is by winning your double-downs, pressing the action when you've got the advantage. The house is hard enough to beat under any circumstances.

And Sam Boyd Stadium, despite some assumptions to the contrary, is UNLV's house. The crowd was about 40 percent pro-UH and, yes, loud in support of the visitors. But this was a classic example of how a home team often wins a game. Hang around, hang around ... and then, with the crowd on your side, strike decisively at the perfect time—that being the end.

IF THE Warriors don't get healthy up front real soon, they will have a handful at LaTech. They might anyway. Going into Ruston, La., without a full complement of big bodies up front can be disastrous, like we saw in 2005 when the Bulldogs pounded the Warriors. Good thing there's some time for Paipai Falemalu, John Fonoti and now Vaughn Meatoga to heal before the midweek special in nine days.

No matter how many yards the run-and-shoot piles up, it won't matter if Alexander and crew don't cash in and a banged up front line gets pushed around.