POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Sep 12, 2010
WEST POINT, N.Y. » Specialist Khevin Peoples sat in the stands of Michie Stadium yesterday with mixed emotions as he watched Hawaii edge Army 31-28. But the ratio was similar to that of an old-school martini — with the generous shot of gin being his college and the drop of vermouth his employer.
"I did have feelings both ways, but at the same time I had to remember no matter what, I'm a Warrior regardless," Peoples said. "Win, lose or draw."
He's still a warrior, assigned to an infantry unit at Fort Drum scheduled for deployment to Afghanistan next year. But when Peoples says Warrior, he means University of Hawaii football player, which he was from 2004 to 2008.
Yes, he pledges allegiance and everything else to the flag and the Army in which he's enlisted — everything except his football loyalty. Peoples traveled 275 miles to West Point mostly to cheer on his former teammates, not his future bosses.
Peoples and at least a thousand other Hawaii fans saw their team sometimes dominate, sometimes frustrate and finally scintillate.
In the dramatic final minutes, the Warriors pulled a win out of their collective hat — the way they often did when Peoples was a special teams player and backup running back and linebacker at UH.
I KNOW, it's just one win. But I'm going to say it — maybe this is a team that "finds ways." Certainly, it found a way to blow a big lead, frittering away a near-perfect first quarter on both sides of the ball. But it also found a way to make the big plays when it counted, at the end with the score close.
Peoples was no star at UH, but he was a solid scout team player and kicking game contributor. He was a member of four bowl game teams, including the one that went to the Sugar Bowl in 2008. He said he's noted some qualities in the 2010 Warriors consistent with the teams he was on — teams that combined to win 20 more games than they lost.
"I was pleased with what I saw against USC and against Army," Peoples said. "The guys turned it up a notch when they needed it (yesterday). I couldn't help but think they'd gone 100 percent in the offseason to get that next year better than the previous one. Royce (Pollard) wants it, you can see the fire in his eyes. Kealoha (Pilares), this is his last year and you can see he wants it bad. Lots of guys."
Plenty of it wasn't pretty after the first quarter and before the last 24 seconds. He knows that's football.
"It's what Coach (George) Lumpkin always says, 'A win is a win is a win.' It's regardless if it's one point, 11 points or 21 points," Peoples said.
I'D BE a man of density to call this a team of destiny after one win. But that could come later down the line, if these Warriors pull a couple more Houdinis, starting Saturday at Colorado, where they'll try to negate altitude with attitude, BCS bravado with savvy and synergy.
If you want to say a down-to-the wire win against Army is no big deal, don't forget that the team some UH fans consider the program's greatest — the 12-1 squad of 2007 — needed late-game heroics to survive tussles with the likes of LaTech, San Jose State, Nevada and a junk Washington team.
And don't forget Hawaii just won a game played at a stadium closer to the Eiffel Tower than Aloha Tower.
Also remember the current Warriors did 10 days ago what no UH team did since 1978: Against USC, they escaped with their dignity.
Yesterday, against Army, they escaped with a win.
You can call it luck. At least for now, I'll call it pluck.