Past is present


POSTED: Friday, October 23, 2009

Was it really just two years ago that Hawaii bested Boise State to take the Western Athletic Conference title?

As big as that 39-27 winner-take-all victory was in 2007, it towers larger than ever today in the context of what the Broncos did before and after that pivotal game.

The Warriors followed up on their Sugar Bowl season by going 9-11 heading into tomorrow's contest against BSU at Aloha Stadium. Contrast that with Boise's near-flawless mark (18-1) over that span—the only blemish a one-point loss to TCU in the 2008 Poinsettia Bowl—and you have two programs moving in starkly opposite directions.

Year after year, beating the Broncos was like trying to grasp a greased-up jellyfish. UH lost six straight to the blue-clad bullies of the WAC since Boise joined the league in 2001, with the teams often matched closely in talent but not in execution.

Chris Petersen is 41-4 since taking over for Dan Hawkins as Boise State coach in 2006, including 24-1 against WAC opponents.

Yup, that only league loss came to the Colt Brennan-led Warriors of '07.

HAWAII CAUSED Boise's only gap in WAC championships since 2002, and UH senior linebacker Blaze Soares would like nothing better than to spoil BSU's BCS and WAC dreams again in 2009.

“;It's always good to upset a team like that, especially Boise, which I hate,”; said Soares, one of the Warriors' few remaining impact players from '07. “;They're the top dogs. They're the voice of the WAC. Going against them, you just gotta bring it, you know. You just gotta want it, when you line up against them. Have that attitude against them. You don't have to talk to build up that game.”;

Let's do it anyway. The remaining UH coaches and players from '07 still recall fondly the landmark win that garnered the school's first outright WAC title.

“;It was a great feeling,”; said star receiver Greg Salas, who was just a freshman reserve that night. “;That was a great year, won the WAC championship. I'll never forget, it's something I want to achieve again.”;

“;That was a great day for us, I remember,”; added Soares.

They definitely had to earn it. In the first half, it seemed costly special teams miscues—which took their toll on the Warriors against the Broncos in 2005 and 2006—might make the difference again. BSU blocked the extra point on two of UH's first three touchdowns, putting the Aloha Stadium faithful on edge. UH fans must have expected Boise's fearsome Orlando Scandrick, who returned a blocked PAT for two key points in each of the previous two seasons, to teleport to the ball wearing a hockey goalie's mask and make it three straight.

It didn't happen. And thanks to some effective motivation by then-defensive coordinator Greg McMackin at halftime (he played an audio clip of ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. using the words “;Hawaii,”; “;cupcake,”; and “;defense”; in the same sentence), the Warriors came out from the break fired up.

In Boise's previous 11 games, it outscored opponents 111-27 coming out of the half.

The Broncos pulled ahead 27-26 in the third quarter, but Brennan tagged Jason Rivers and C.J. Hawthorne with touchdown passes, and the Warriors' defense buckled down.

Soares, then a sophomore, was a major factor. He posted seven tackles, including a huge sack on Boise quarterback Taylor Tharp.

Thousands of Hawaii fans rushed the field to celebrate. It was bedlam, only to be repeated a week later against Washington when an undefeated regular season was completed.

BEFORE UH's recent road trip to Idaho, secondary coach Rich Miano mused about the clash of the WAC titans in '07 and being the only team to hang a league loss on Petersen.

“;One, it says that he's a hell of a coach,”; Miano said. “;Two, it says that we had a hell of a team that year, 'cause that's what it's gonna take to beat these guys. It's gonna take a team. All three phases, it's gonna take concentration. And then when those five, six, seven, eight, nine (swing) plays come, and they will come, who's gonna make more of those plays, us or them?”;

The Warriors haven't exactly been on their 'A' game lately with four straight losses, but the 6-0 Broncos haven't wiped out their recent competition either, with wins of 34-16 over UC Davis of the FCS and 28-21 at Tulsa.

The other piece of good news? Boise lost its last two games in Hawaii, if you include the Broncos' 2007 stumble against East Carolina in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

Count it. Against the mighty Broncos, the Warriors will need all the help they can get.


Key Statistics (2009)



Other Stats

» Rushing2669
» Passing9161
» Penalty76
» Penalties-yards33-26030-259 
» Avg. per game43.343.2
» Total plays386423
» Avg. per play6.95.8
» Avg. per game443.2405.7
» Attempts127255
» Avg. per rush3.44.7
» Avg. per game71.8200.5
» Comp.-Att.-Int.159-259-7109-168-5
» Avg. per pass8.67.3
» Avg. per catch14.011.3
» Avg. per game371.3205.2


2009 Individual Leaders

Leon Wright-Jackson62615231495.714524.8
Bryant Moniz4122.760-106-356.6788342197.0
Greg Salas64279118.8566131.8
» Hawaii46371049142
» Opponents49374943178