POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Sep 12, 2010
When it got down to crunch time in the fourth quarter for the University of Hawaii football team at West Point yesterday, tell me you weren't thinking — and still wincing — about last year's chilling 34-33 loss at UNLV?
You know the whole frustrating scenario: Nice early lead, smoothly functioning offense, special teams breakdown, second-half letdown and waning-seconds road loss...
Yes, here at home, whether you were sitting in a restaurant in Waikiki or watching from a living room in Mililani, the potential for deja vu of the worst kind was apparent. And eerie.
Instead, 2,200 miles beyond the site of last year's defining disappointment in Las Vegas, the Warriors went to the banks of the Hudson River to show they, too, could go farther, outlasting Army 31-28 on Scott Enos' 31-yard field goal with 7 seconds remaining.
For that reason — and some of the ways they went about it — the Warriors' first victory of the season was an important and, very likely, portentous one.
Even last September you knew the loss at UNLV loomed pivotal for UH in its quest for the postseason. And it was, as much as anything, the difference between their ultimate 6-7 record and the goal of being bowl eligible.
This Army game, with the way it is perched on the schedule, has the potential to be a swing game, too. Possibly, depending on what UH does with Colorado, being the difference between 2-1 and 0-3.
In the opening lineup of USC, Army and Colorado, it figured to be the Warriors' best chance to win and, maybe, enough to give them a mile-high boost heading into Boulder, Colo., on the 18th.
Or, if things went badly at West Point, leaving them just plain flat.
You'll recall the funk the Warriors went into following the UNLV loss, a setback that, coupled with mounting injuries, became a six-game losing streak.
So what the Warriors did in coming back to beat Army yesterday might have been about more than just saving a day. One that opened with the offense displaying the kind of midseason crispness that could — and should — have put this one away early.
Instead, after impressively rolling to a 21-0 lead just 3 minutes, 29 seconds into the second quarter, the Warriors' all-too-familiar road-game bugaboos surfaced in frightening succession. A fumbled kickoff, a substitution penalty, another fumble, the inability to make fourth-down stops and, suddenly, before you knew it Army had a 28-21 lead.
The Black Knights had the momentum and the Warriors had a nightmare unfolding in broad daylight.
This time, however, the difference was the Warriors had both a resilience and can-do, big-play ability about them and came back to tie it at 28. Those kinds of characteristics were often lacking in 2009.
But, then, in 2009 they also didn't have John Hardy-Tuliau, a freshman cornerback from Temecula, Calif., who was the spark plug for the day. He blocked a California high school record 26 kicks in his varsity career. Block No. 1 of his UH stay kept Army from a go-ahead 37-yard field goal with 7:02 left.
Kamalu Umu's jarring of the ball from Max Jenkins and Aaron Brown's recovery gave UH its shot with 73 yards and 24 seconds to go and Bryant Moniz and Royce Pollard set the stage for Enos with two bang-bang first downs.
Then, it was altogether fitting that Enos, confident and poised, trotted onto the field to kick the deciding 31-yard field goal. Last year at UNLV, one he had to rush through — and missed — was a 31-yarder.
Deja vu? Not for these Warriors. Not this time.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.