Keeping off streets can be key to bowl win


POSTED: Sunday, December 21, 2008

You can't win a bowl game on the Vegas Strip or South Beach, but you can certainly lose one if too many players spend their evenings and early mornings working on the neon tan.

As the Hawaii Warriors know, the same is true on Kalakaua Avenue and Bourbon Street.

The UH upperclassmen have experienced both sides of this phenomenon. They beat Arizona State in the 2006 Hawaii Bowl with a decisive late rally. (Tired Sun Devils?). And they were blown out by Georgia at the Sugar Bowl when some key players forgot to bring their game with them from the French Quarter.

And what a coaching dilemma, these bowl games. Are they more a celebration of the end of the seniors' careers and a winning season, or a jumping-off point for the next year?

Greg McMackin acknowledges both, but he approaches the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl with serious intent. After all the ups and downs of his first year as head coach, “;8-6 sounds a lot better than 7-7,”; he says. And a win over Notre Dame on Wednesday would sound great for UH for a long time—never mind that the Fighting Irish enter at 6-6.

The team coming in from the cold always arrives here with serious psychological and physiological disadvantages. This is true even under the usual circumstances, during the fall, staying for just a couple of days.

Coaches try many things to negate this, including staying as far away from Waikiki as possible. For this game, though, there's no choice: It's the heart of darkness, for nearly a week. They'll receive heavy doses of world-class hospitality potentially deadly to a football team's ferocity. The killer combo of culture and climate shock can easily result in game-day lethargy.

For the Warriors, this week is as routine as The Big Easy was exotic.


Solomon Elimimian shrugs.

But mention New Orleans, and he gets Mike Singletary eyes.

“;When the team saw that place, it was, 'Oh, WOW!'”;

Elimimian says there was too much partying prior to the Sugar Bowl, and that the Warriors are a “;different team, more mature”; now.

“;We're simple,”; says Elimimian, referring to himself and his roommate, fellow senior linebacker and co-captain Adam Leonard. “;We're not into being on the streets of Waikiki.”;

When they're not at practice or organized bowl week activities, the most productive linebacker duo in school history (97 games, 734 tackles between them) will mostly chill in the hotel room.

“;A lot of TV,”; Elimimian says. “;ESPN of course. 'Law & Order.' And I'm addicted to 'Heroes.' “;

Elimimian does, however, enjoy the world's most famous beach. He and teammates Tua Mahaley and Jameel Dowling developed a Sunday ritual of Waikiki hydrotherapy.

“;The water's really good for the body the day after all those collisions,”; he says. “;And you can do some fun people watching.”;

Of course, there will be a UH player or two staying out too late on Kuhio—the foggy, vague memories of Bourbon Street a lesson forgotten. That's reality when you've got 100 young guys together, pockets bulging with per diem, some celebrating their final days as football players with their brothers.

But, for the most part, the Warriors pledge to leave their share of the late-night action to their guests from South Bend, Ind.

That's their plan, anyway.