Practice first, Turkey later


POSTED: Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Thanksgiving festivities will just have to wait.

With the challenge of playing Navy two days away and Hawaii still clinging to tenuous postseason hopes, the Warriors' focus will be on work before digging into the turkey and stuffing.

Still, having a high-stakes game to prepare for late in a season marked by adversity offers a reason for reflection.

“;We can be thankful for a lot, the fact that we're playing for a cause,”; offensive coordinator Ron Lee said. “;To me, we are really blessed, after what we've been through, that we're playing not just for pride and everything else, but also we can give the seniors something special.”;

Lee was also thankful to see quarterback Bryant Moniz throwing in practice yesterday morning as the Warriors (5-6) readied for their post-holiday matchup with Navy (8-3) on Saturday at Aloha Stadium.

Moniz hadn't practiced since the week prior to UH's win over New Mexico State on Nov. 14. He left that game in the fourth quarter with bruised ribs and sat out last week's game at San Jose State while Shane Austin guided the Warriors to a 17-10 overtime win.

“;I think today was just a real test day,”; quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich said. “;The mental part of the game is good, it's just physically having confidence in himself to make the throws on time and with the velocity he needs. ... We'll have a better picture after tomorrow.”;

Moniz started the six games prior to last week and UH head coach Greg McMackin previously said he will return to the starting role if he's deemed healthy. Now that Moniz is back in practice, the next step will be assessing whether he's far enough along to lead the Warriors offense into the game.

“;That's the decision we'll make as a staff after practice,”; Lee said. “;I was happy to see he threw the ball OK.

“;He needs to get back into the timing. ... He'll be all right once we get another day of practice. Today was just getting back into it. Tomorrow we can give him a little bit more.”;

With Moniz easing into the rotation, Austin again took the majority of the snaps yesterday. The sophomore passed for 299 yards, ran for a touchdown and led a scoring drive in overtime last week in his first career start.

“;I thought he learned a lot last week, made some big throws at crucial times,”; quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich said.

“;A lot of lessons for him to learn, especially situational decision-making. But I also thought he played as a warrior, he played confident, he played composed for the most part, especially in the crucial times of the game.”;

Rolovich's playing and coaching career means he hasn't had Thanksgiving off, “;in probably 12 years or so.”;

But he isn't complaining.

“;Having all these teammates, and this opportunity, there's a lot of things to be thankful for if you're a UH football player and coach,”; he said. “;It's the greatest job in the world as far as being able to come out and do football every day. These kids understand the opportunity they have to play football and go to college and to be part of this program is something special.”;


Memory lane

Kelly McGill was asked how often he'd cut block during his UH days.

“;Every play,”; the former Rainbow Warrior offensive lineman shot back.

McGill and John Veneri played in UH's triple-option offense in the early 1990s and were contributors to the program's WAC championship season in 1992.

With Navy coming to town, the return of the option brings back memories for the duo, who stopped by the Warriors' practice yesterday and chatted with UH coaches on their perspectives playing in the system.

A slotback back in the day, Veneri grew highly adept at the cut block that clears the edge for the quarterback or the pitch, and tends to aggravate opposing coaches.

“;It's kind of strange because (Navy head coach) Kenny (Niumatalolo) was a coach when I was here and (offensive coordinator) Ivin (Jasper) was my quarterback,”; said Veneri, now part of the KHON sports team.

While the basics of the option remain in place since their playing careers, “;at the same time, I know the two of them will have something up their sleeves and they'll change some things,”; Veneri said.


Bowl talk

David Matlin, executive director of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, will be in Dallas on Saturday as an observer at the SMU-Tulane game. While speculation has the Mustangs representing Conference USA in the Hawaii Bowl, several factors need to fall into place before an official invitation can be extended to June Jones and crew.

If SMU wins and Rice upsets Houston, SMU wins the West Division and will play for the conference championship. If Houston wins, the Cougars claim the division. The Liberty Bowl has the first choice among C-USA's pool of eligible teams and has traditionally taken the champion.

If SMU loses to finish 6-6, all of C-USA's teams with at least seven wins must be placed in bowls before the Mustangs can be invited. Four teams have seven wins or more and Marshall can reach that mark this week.