POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Sep 3, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 1:31 a.m. HST, Sep 3, 2010
Football coaches and players don't believe in moral victories. When it comes right down to it, who among us really does?
The mood was somber postgame for Hawaii, but the Warriors came away from their 49-36 loss to USC with a well-earned sense of confidence for the remaining 12 -- no, make that 13 -- games, this team is surely Hawaii Bowl-bound.
The biggest question was answered in the affirmative for the Warriors -- yes, the offensive line would block well enough to make the run-and-shoot go. It paved the way for 588 yards (64 more than for the Parade All-Americans).
"I thought our offensive line was outstanding," UH coach Greg McMackin said. "People have been bad-mouthing our offensive line since I've been here."
So that question is answered, and it brings about very positive possibilities for this team.
BUT UH'S RED ZONE woes continued. It says 3-for-3 on the stat sheet, but that's deceiving when two of the scores are field goals from the 3- and 1-yard lines.
Offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich elected to go with three pass plays when the Warriors had the ball at the USC 3, trailing 6-0 about 7 minutes into the game. Alex Green had just rumbled 29 yards on the ground a couple of plays earlier to get UH to this spot, but was not called upon.
"Our O-line played so well, they probably deserved for us to run it in," Rolovich said. "We just missed a couple of throws."
Would a TD there have changed the outcome? We'll never know, but seven points are always better than three -- especially if you think you might be in a shootout with a big-play machine like the Trojans.
Rolovich said it pained him more when the Warriors ended up again with just three points at the end of the first half when what looked like a touchdown catch by Greg Salas on replay instead resulted with the ball at the 1. After two incomplete passes, UH took another Scott Enos chip shot and trailed by 11 instead of seven at halftime.
"You have to get out of there with some points," Rolovich said.
Yes, passing the ball is Hawaii's identity. It is what the UH offense does, even in the red zone. It just looks really bad when the execution isn't there.
McMackin, who allowed Rolovich to make those decisions, said after the game he was OK with them. Later in the game, the UH coaches anticipated USC blitzes and made big gains with counter plays and draws.
MCMACKIN was worried about the health of two players -- quarterback Bryant Moniz, who may have a concussion after being hit in the head, and receiver Rodney Bradley, who was spitting up blood after a shot to the midsection.
Despite these injuries to two starters, the Warriors battled on. This was much different than last year's season-ending loss to Wisconsin, when Hawaii faded fast and played like it didn't belong on its own home field.
This was encouraging, as quarterback Shane Austin and slotback Kealoha Pilares made up for their wounded teammates with outstanding performances.
"I think the whole country saw what Warriors do," McMackin said. "There was no quit. They kept showing passion."
Now, with a game at Army looming a week from tomorrow, UH doesn't know if its starting quarterback will be healthy. But judging from his crisp passing last night, Austin looks ready to fill that role on the banks of the Hudson. Don't forget, he's the last UH quarterback to win a road game, at San Jose State last year.
"Last year he was accurate and poised," said retired Spartans coach Dick Tomey, watching from the Hawaii sideline last night. "Tonight he's shown he's improved. He's making a real statement."
As did the Warriors, even in a loss.