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UH's 2-6 mark makes a win tonight a must


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POSTED: Saturday, November 07, 2009

Never thought I'd hear the words “;must win”; in the same sentence as “;Utah State.”; Used to be “;guaranz win.”; And it was not that long ago, it just seems like it.

Also, I never thought I'd read the sentence “;The Aggies are favored over Hawaii at Aloha Stadium”;—whether it be in reference to Utah State or New Mexico State. Against the basketball team at the Sheriff Center? Sure. But never football.

It's so different from the last time Utah State was here. The Aggies hung tough for a bit, but the Warriors blew them out after the half, on the way to 12-0 and the Sugar Bowl. That's when defensive coordinator Greg McMackin's adjustments always seemed to work.

MCMACKIN, NOW the head coach, calls this “;a playoff situation.”; You may find that ludicrous, considering the 2-6 record, including 0-5 in the Western Athletic Conference, doesn't generally bring to mind thoughts of bowl games. But there it is, win the last five and the Warriors are in the Hawaii Bowl.

Some people don't realize how hard it is to win five of anything in a row. There really is no reason to think the Warriors can do it now. Yes, the next three opponents are not very good—their record is 6-18; Utah State, New Mexico State and San Jose State are in as sad a state as Hawaii, combining for the same pitiful .250 winning percentage as the Warriors.

The thing is, UH fans are not used to this. And if Hawaii does not win tonight, the critics who were slightly muffled by a less-than-lopsided loss at Nevada will become as strident as protesters at a health care reform town meeting.

That's why it's a must win. If UH doesn't win it will get ugly around here, because people care so much about this team, and have funny ways of showing it.

I ASKED offensive coordinator Ron Lee about UH's failure to score anything other than a safety in any third quarter since the season-opening win against Central Arkansas. He said it's not about adjustments, but experience and execution.

Red zone woes? It's about time and space. When an offense that spreads it out is squeezed into a small space, the margin for error is much less.

Since it's homecoming, I asked a former player for his thoughts.

“;All (Utah State's) games were close calls,”; offensive lineman Marques Kaonohi (2003-06) said. “;UH is in such a slump and rolling downhill that trying to pick themselves up could be hard. Injuries, new quarterbacks, poor tackling defense. I think Utah State might pull this off.”;

Players know best, but the entire Football Fever panel picks UH to win tonight (including our sports editor Paul Arnett, who is choosing Hawaii for the first time this season).

Five in a row could happen. That is, if Greg Alexander, Rodney Bradley, Royce Pollard, Brashton Satele and the rest of the Warriors wake up one day this month magically cured of all their injuries. Minus miracles, it's still mathematically possible ... but so is winning the lottery.

Three in a row, starting tonight, is much more doable. If UH can accomplish that and compete against Navy and Wisconsin, it still won't be considered by all a season saved.

But for reasonable thinkers, it will be the best possible result under the current circumstances.

Reach Star-Bulletin sports columnist Dave Reardon at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), his “;Quick Reads”; blog at starbulletin.com, and twitter.com/davereardon.