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Tuesday, September 16, 2014         

FURTHER REVIEW


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Former coach thinks Warriors can make some noise at Boise

By Dave Reardon

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Bob Wagner is sworn to secrecy.

"We don't divulge anything."

The former Hawaii coach says his votes in the Harris Interactive College Football Poll are supposed to be hush-hush.

As it turns out, though, he doesn't mind sharing a little.

"Yeah, I voted for Hawaii. I voted for them last week, too."

What number?

"I don't remember."

How about Boise State?

"Very high. ...

"All I know is they beat Oregon the last time they played. I know it was a different Oregon team, but if my recollection is correct, Boise and Ohio State are the only teams that have beaten Oregon (going back to last year).

"Boise doesn't get enough credit for playing really good defense."

WAGNER, NOW the athletic director at Kamehameha-Hawaii, has been on both sides of the polls. So he's a good one to ask for thoughts on why one of the hottest teams in the country — the Warriors, with six wins in a row — remains on the outside edge of the rankings, the most "also receiving votes" in all three.

"What happens is a slow start makes a big difference," he says.

Yes, the Warriors were 1-2 to start the season. And that second loss still haunts them.

"I knew they did some good things (at Colorado)," Wagner adds. "Most people just know they lost to Colorado and Colorado isn't very good."

As usual at this time of the season, there's a traffic jam at the edge of the rankings — and just because a team ranked between 20th and 25th loses it doesn't mean one with the 26th or 27th most voting points gets in.

He says Hawaii can win at Boise State on Saturday — even though the Warriors opened yesterday as 27-point underdogs.

"I would think so. They've shown they can score points and slow people down. Having an experienced quarterback who is talented helps," Wagner says. "You're going to win a lot of games if you're plus (on turnovers). We only lost one or two when we won the turnover battle, and that was San Diego State with Marshall Faulk.

"The (Hawaii) offense is taking better care of the ball this year. I would be surprised if they win the turnover battle by two and don't win. The problem is Boise doesn't turn it over much.

"It does help Boise that they've got those extra days, but I think Hawaii has an excellent chance."

He notes that Hawaii has become a more balanced team, one that can beat you with more than just a prolific passing game.

"There's an old adage, when you go on the road you pack your defense and special teams. And the ability to run the ball. The offense is running the ball some, and they're not turning the ball over. It's a much more efficient offense and they're playing defense."

THE UH HEAD COACH from 1987 to 1995 remembers colleagues that voted in the poll telling him they would've had Hawaii higher when they were 10-2 headed into the 1992 Holiday Bowl, but they'd voted before they knew UH beat Pittsburgh 36-23 in the last regular-season game.

"We were behind at halftime and they were already asleep when we came back to win," Wagner says.

For the current Warriors, remaining unranked headed to Boise is just another log for the disrespect fire. The underdog role is nothing new for them, and it's one they've used to their advantage. Army, Fresno State and Nevada were all favored to beat Hawaii, but UH made the oddsmakers look silly each time.

All three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams — have made steady and significant improvement.

We don't know if six days is enough time to troubleshoot, tighten the screws and mix in some surprises to take advantage of what few vulnerable areas Boise State may have, especially since the Broncos have had nearly a week of extra prep time.

It's Hawaii's biggest game since the 2008 Sugar Bowl.

The college football world will be watching. It's a day game, against one of the top three teams in the country. Impossible to ignore.

Hawaii will be noticed, for better or worse. Validated as championship worthy, or revealed for something less.

As Wagner says, "They'll certainly get their share of exposure this week."

Reach Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com.






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