Warriors let Bearcats off the hook


POSTED: Sunday, December 07, 2008

One thing comes to mind after Hawaii's 29-24 loss to Cincinnati last night.

“;When you hang a man, make sure he's dead.”;

Even if you're not a Clint Eastwood fan, it's pretty clear what that means.

When you lead 24-10 at home with 12:36 left, having scored the last 24 points, there's no way you should lose. But you need to finish the job, especially against a team that comes in with a 10-2 record and five wins in a row.

The Warriors found ways to let the Bearcats back into it, even when it seemed the visitors weren't that interested. Cincy scored three different ways to slowly creep in and take it running away. At the end, there was no doubt which was the nationally ranked team, the one headed to Miami for a BCS game on New Year's.

The fireworks to celebrate senior night would have been a lot more appropriate if UH had held on for a second win against a ranked team this season.

So different than 2002. This time, the Bearcats ran out the clock to close a win, not the Warriors as it was six years ago. And thankfully, despite some chippiness during the game, it didn't end the way it did back then. No, the only fight distracting fans from football was Manny Pacquiao's dissection of Oscar De La Hoya. Some clown ran onto the field with 28 seconds left, but apparently all the players and everybody else were too exhausted to throw him down.

Those chants of “;Overrated ... overrated ... overrated,”; when Hawaii was riding high, they sure seem silly now. The Hawaii fans had waited 11 months to give it back to somebody after being on the receiving end at the Sugar Bowl. In the third quarter, No. 13 Cincinnati found itself in the wrong place at the wrong time, running into a UH offense that came into its own about a month ago, and a ball-hawking defense living up to its preseason billing.

The Bearcats looked gassed in the third quarter, like a couple of days of mai tais and mopeds had caught up with them.

But give them plenty of credit. Like Clint in “;Hang 'Em High,”; they came back from the dead, and with a vengeance. Defensive linemen who didn't do anything all game were suddenly in Greg Alexander's face.

Alexander was cruising along with one of his brutally efficient efforts, completing 22 of 30 through the first three quarters, one TD, no INTs ... typical for him of late. Then, all of a sudden, the Bearcats swarmed, picking him off, sacking him, cashing in with a safety when Daniel Libre fumbled in the end zone.

Sure, UH certainly regrets not taking advantage of two first-half turnovers. But the Warriors had it in the bag late, and the enduring image of this one is that of disgruntled, steaming Greg McMackin pacing the sideline after backup Dustin Grutza's 69-yard touchdown pass to Mardy Gilyard for the final score.

More beach time for Cincinnati now, as the Orange Bowl beckons.

As for the Warriors, they've got plenty of time to regroup for the Hawaii Bowl.

That's one of the benefits of a hometown bowl: You get two chances at getting senior night right.