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UH sets stage for another improbable late-season run


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POSTED: Sunday, November 15, 2009

We now enter the world of precedent.

What was five in a row is now merely three in a row. Three in a row, like the Yankees did in the World Series after losing the first game. Three in a row, one less than the number of days Hawaii kids have to get up early to go to school most weeks.

It's gone from the realm of the nearly impossible to that of the merely improbable.

And, most importantly, it's been done before, by a University of Hawaii football team—thus proving it is doable.

Greg McMackin and June Jones talk every week—actually, McMackin says, to each other's recorders. The subject of 2004 hasn't come up yet, and how that Warriors team's run to the postseason is something this year's edition can look at now as a blazed trail to redemption.

McMackin says he's aware of what happened that year, when Hawaii, then coached by Jones, roared back from disasters at Fresno State and Boise State to win its last three games and qualify for the Hawaii Bowl, which it also won.

UH dispatched Idaho and then Northwestern and Michigan State.

The menu this time is similar in that it also consists of an appetizer and two increasingly challenging main courses: San Jose State, Navy and Wisconsin.

These last two games—against Utah State and New Mexico State—were much needed confidence builders for a UH team that had lost six in a row. It's our job to remind you that these opponents were not good football teams.

But they are still Division I squads (yeah, OK, barely), and it still takes planning and execution to beat them.

Last week the offense came together, last night it was the defense. The special teams were so-so at best against NMSU, but it didn't matter because the opponents' kicking game was worse. Maybe the Hawaii special teams will shine next week in San Jose and you'll have all three parts ready to rock 'n' roll against the Middies in two weeks.

WHILE LOSING six games in a row, this team could've easily cracked into units and then individuals, wandering hopelessly through the final half of the season. Certainly there have been fissures, but none beyond repair.

The 2004 squad wasn't steady-as-she-goes through its losing; there was clowning on the sideline of a 70-14 loss, there were team leaders pointing fingers at each other. But it somehow pulled it together to finish on a high note. This group seems to have stuck together for the most part.

Something Blaze Soares said last night resonated with me. He was asked if a 24-6 win in which the defense doesn't allow the points could be considered a shutout. Most of us would've said, “;Hell yeah!”;

Soares' response?

“;Nah. They scored and that's all that matters. It's not an egg. We gotta work harder and we'll get it one day.”;

He gets it. On a functional team, the offense and defense compete hard against each other in practice, and on Saturdays they have each other's backs. Whatever the Warriors' problems, disunity is not one of them, at least at this point.

They've developed a winning habit, if a two-game streak can be called that. And they have the precedent of their brothers from five years ago. But do they possess enough talent, experience and depth to pull off the unthinkable over the course of the next three weeks? We still need to be convinced of that.

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.