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Wednesday, August 27, 2014         

FERD'S WORDS


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UH could spoil Utah State's homecoming picnic

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED:



There is a parade, a 5K fun run, a statue unveiling and all manner of homecoming events scheduled surrounding the University of Hawaii's football game this week.

But if you are thinking, wow, these resurgent Warriors are finally getting some love, well, think again.

The statue isn't for Greg Salas, the run isn't in honor of Corey Paredes and the parade won't be for the Warriors' defense, however deserving.

Rather, they all take place in Logan, Utah, home of Utah State University, where the Warriors have been pretty much scripted for the role of sacrificial — oops, special — guests come Saturday afternoon in Romney Stadium and newly named Merlin Olsen Field.

Several months ago when UH was coming off a 6-7 finish, the Aggies were talking up a breakout season and some of these events were being planned, it probably looked like one swell idea.

But given recent events, maybe not so much.

Instead of the UH team that was picked to finish seventh in the Western Athletic Conference media poll and fifth in the coaches' poll — both behind of Utah State — a vastly different, more menacing Warriors team has emerged.

One that, by its actions, seems to relish spoiling almost as much as winning. As quarterback Bryant Moniz put it after Saturday's 27-21 victory over then-19th ranked Nevada, "We're playing with a chip on our shoulders against some of these teams."

Witness how the Warriors derailed Nevada's planned unbeaten march to a made-for-ESPN showdown with Boise State next month. Remember how UH sent home early and quietly the Ag Day crowd at Fresno State two weeks ago. Or, how it took away a feel-good finish from Army's festivities last month.

Though roughing up Mountain West Conference-bound deserters has become their October specialty, you get the feeling the Warriors aren't picky whose well-laid plans they scramble. When it comes to the college football version of the picnic, the Warriors are the ants.

This is the time of the year when schools schedule their homecoming festivities, and few do so with a blind draw of prospective opponents. After all, they want the alums, especially the check-writing ones, to leave with a good feeling, like a victory can provide.

You'll note, for example, that UH's own Aloha Stadium homecoming foe is Idaho. Boise State picked Toledo. Think it is a coincidence that the two most popular homecoming foes in the WAC this year are San Jose State (1-6) and New Mexico State (1-5), who were picked to finish at the bottom of the conference?

Funny how there weren't a flood of schools seeking to book Boise State for a homecoming act.

Previous to 2009, the last time UH suffered a losing season (2005), it wound up helping open a newly renovated stadium and playing back-to-back homecoming games in 2006. But when UH turned an 11-3 corner in 2006, the homecoming dates and festivities disappeared for 2007.

Meanwhile, in Utah's Cache Valley they apparently still have fond memories of UH's last visit, a stunning 30-14 Aggies victory in 2008 that allowed then-coach Brent Guy to keep his job — for a couple of more weeks, anyway — amid a 3-9 season.

They had hopes that, at this point, the Aggies would be more like 4-2 instead of the operative 2-4. With a statue to be dedicated to their most celebrated alum, the late Olsen, and an array of homecoming events to surround the weekend, a rousing victory would be the ideal exclamation point.

Who knew the Warriors might arrive as the WAC's biggest party poopers to date?

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com.






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