UH gets confidence boost


POSTED: Monday, November 09, 2009

What would life be without replay?

A lot less painful at times, of course. I'm reminded of Ontario, Calif., 2003: the University of Hawaii football team between mainland games at USC and UNLV.

My guess is it was crafty Rebels coach John Robinson who made sure the hotel manager had every TV in the big lobby tuned to the Warriors' 61-32 wipeout at the hands of the Trojans three days after the Coliseum rout and a couple before UH's visit to Sam Boyd Stadium. It took all morning for the paying customers to finally convince the hotel staff to change the channel.

There were other reasons resulting in an 0-2 road trip, but that didn't help.

More recently, Mark Sasaki, a manager at Big City Diner in Aiea, made a sound business decision. His restaurant is postgame headquarters for several UH football players and their families. Following the Boise State debacle two weeks ago, he made sure the TVs were on a replay of a different game than the ones his customers had just lost.

No such problem two nights ago. It is also my stop on the way home, and as I walked up to the entrance, there was Jim Leahey's voice, loud and proud. I got settled in just in time to view once again the finest run I've seen this season ... Leon Wright-Jackson striding, gliding, breaking a tackle, stumbling and then regaining his balance for 62 yards. Saw it again yesterday morning, along with all the other great plays of a very exciting game. Sweet.

When two 2-6 teams meet, anything can happen. This game, won by Hawaii 49-36, was full of fun plays to watch and watch again. Heck, LWJ's run probably wasn't even the best; I give the nod to the bobbling, one-handed third-and-long catch by the Aggies' Eric Moats. And don't forget the interception by UH's Lametrius Davis ... definitely another one for the highlights at the postseason banquet (of course, there's not much competition from the previous games).

Now the Warriors need four replays of this 49-36 victory if they are to meet the last of their surviving preseason goals, a trip (albeit a short one) to a bowl game. The dream matchup of JJU and UH is still possible, with June Jones' Mustangs needing one more win to become eligible.

UH's road is much tougher, as it needs to win four in a row. But if it plays anywhere near as well this Saturday against New Mexico State as it did against Utah State, the Warriors will have another bunch of Aggies in the baggies.

NMSU may be the worst 3-6 team in the history of football. Its wins are against Prairie View A&M (21-18), New Mexico (20-17) and Utah State (20-17). They beat the Lobos at Albuquerque, but don't be too impressed—New Mexico is 0-9. And a road game a few miles up the road is a lot different than one across the ocean; the last time any Aggies won here was when Texas A&M put a beating on the 'Bows at Aloha a couple of decades ago.

One win can make you forget about six losses. It's all about confidence, the way the Hawaii players feel now they will never lose another football game.

Doesn't matter the spark was against lousy Utah State. Ask the 1999 Rainbows. All it took was a win over Eastern Illinois, and they were off to the races and a bowl game after 0-12 the year before.

Is a successful run to the Hawaii Bowl possible? Not in my mind, probably not in yours. Coaches won't say, but they're old, they're pragmatic.

Players? They're young, they believe. And a guy like Greg Salas was around in 2007 when the Warriors rose from apparently mortal wounds in four games.

“;It's very realistic. I think this team never loses hope,”; Salas said.

If it does, it can just watch the replay of the other night's game. Maybe it should be the Friday night pregame movie, a nice set-up for Aggies, Part Two.

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.