Energized Idaho up next


POSTED: Monday, October 12, 2009

It's been exactly one month since that Saturday in Seattle.

Over at Husky Stadium, Idaho showed signs of promise before losing to Washington. A few hours later across town, Hawaii continued a promising start to its season by blowing past Washington State at Qwest Field.

When the Warriors and Vandals left town, their fortunes headed in opposite directions as well.

Hawaii (2-3, 0-2 Western Athletic Conference) has not won since that afternoon and will take its longest losing streak since 2000 to Moscow to face a resurgent Idaho team that hasn't tasted defeat since its defeat on Sept. 12.

While the Warriors were blitzed in a 42-17 loss to Fresno State at home on Saturday, the Vandals improved to 5-1 with a 29-25 comeback win at San Jose State. With the victory — the Vandals' third straight by four points or fewer — Idaho (2-0 WAC) has already posted its highest win total since going 5-6 in 2000 and received a point in this week's Associated Press poll.

So where a trip to the Kibbie Dome might have looked like a soft spot in the schedule in years past, head coach Robb Akey now has the Vandals entertaining hopes of earning the second bowl berth since Idaho moved up to Division I-A in 1996.

Hawaii, meanwhile, needs to go at least 5-3 over the remainder of the season to become bowl eligible and is in the midst of a challenging October that continues with a home game against No. 5 Boise State and a trip to Nevada following this week's visit to Idaho.

“;(Akey) and Steve Axman, their offensive coordinator, are doing a great job at Idaho,”; UH head coach Greg McMackin said after Saturday's loss to Fresno State. “;We'll put this game away ... and then get on them.

“;That's all we can do. Right now we're at the same record we were last year at this time, which I'm not happy with. I'd much rather have beaten Las Vegas, beaten LaTech and beaten these guys, but we haven't. Where we are is we're 2-3, and we've got to get to 3-3.”;

A year ago, the Warriors improved to 2-3 with a stirring overtime win at Fresno State that helped spark their run to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. This time, Hawaii is looking to regroup after falling to 2-3 with a loss to the Bulldogs in which they trailed by 39 going into the fourth quarter.

Scoring two touchdowns in the final period behind first-time starting quarterback Bryant Moniz was among the bright spots the Warriors pointed to as they tried to maintain a positive outlook exiting Aloha Stadium.

“;You can look at it as a long game, a bad game, but I look at it as just the beginning,”; Moniz said. “;The fourth quarter is going to have to carry into next weekend.”;

“;If you just look at the negatives, what are we going to play for,”; he added later. “;You have to find some kind of light to spark our team and just get back to the Hawaii tradition.”;

McMackin took much the same perspective when he sat down to review the tape of the game Saturday night.

“;We're a team in adversity ... but I choose to deal with the positives,”; McMackin said. “;We're sure not going to quit. I went through every person on every play and it was a full-speed effort. There were mistakes made, but the effort and the attitude are completely there. That was something that was important to me.”;


Salas still on top

Greg Salas was held below 100 yards receiving for the first time this season when he finished with 79 yards on six receptions on Saturday. But he retained his spot atop the national rankings with an average of 136 yards per game, ahead of Kansas' Dezmon Briscoe at 129.25.

Salas added punt returning to his duties against Fresno State. He picked up 32 yards on the first return of his career.


Speaking of special teams ...

The special teams were UH's most consistent performers the first four games of the season. But two major kicking-game breakdowns were big factors in the loss to Fresno State.

“;That should have been a typical Hawaii-Fresno State battle, but (the miscues) put a new quarterback in a tough situation,”; McMackin said.

Ben Jacobs' block and 48-yard return of a UH field-goal attempt on the first drive set up the Bulldogs at the Hawaii 8, leading to Lonyae Miller's 3-yard TD.

McMackin said UH almost suffered a similar blocked field goal against LaTech.

“;(The block) was crucial for us,”; he said. “;Partially it was Fresno State. They're known for that. We had a close encounter with the same thing against LaTech and we saw it on tape. And we worked and worked on it. Obviously we didn't learn it enough.”;

Hawaii's other special teams error was a muffed punt shortly before halftime.



The Star-Bulletin's Dave Reardon contributed to this story.