POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 5, 2010
Mission accomplished for Hawaii football.
No, we're not talking about 10 wins, though that is, indeed, very nice.
No, not a share of the WAC championship. Also great, but the Warriors sewed that up last week.
A win on senior night? Well, that's fine and dandy, great for the families, symbolic, traditional and tearful and all that ... but a bit awkward when there's a bowl game left to play, right here at Aloha Stadium.
How about that they proved us August nonbelievers wrong? Yes, UH certainly did that, but much earlier this season than last night.
What the Warriors got last night is the sweetest kind of satisfaction, the kind you get through redemption.
Last year, UNLV beat Hawaii by one point. But because of the way it happened, and for the negative impact it had on the Warriors' 2009 season, the score felt like 1,034-33.
So, of course, last night's motivation included revenge.
"No question, in my 12 years here I think that's the first time we ever lost a game on the last play of the game," said associate head coach Rich Miano, recalling the winning UNLV drive that culminated with a touchdown pass and started a six-game Hawaii losing streak. "These guys kind of derailed our dreams."
THIS TIME, the Warriors were at home and they were nationally ranked, and they had won eight of their previous nine games.
They made sure to leave no doubt, ravaging the visiting Rebels 59-21. Other than a couple of garbage-time UNLV scores in the fourth quarter, this was the most thorough thrashing UH administered in a season that's included a few.
It was so one-sided that the starting receivers exited the game one at a time to rousing ovations, after catching a final pass seemingly at will.
Everything went Hawaii's way, big things, little things and those in between. The first time it was forced to punt — already leading 31-7 in the second quarter — Luke Ingram and Kenny Estes got down field quickly enough to down Alex Dunnachie's kick at the 1.
Even when the Rebels got a break, fortunes quickly reversed, like they do to visitors to Las Vegas. UNLV achieves a moral victory, forcing Hawaii to settle for a field goal with a red-zone stand. Then, right after the kickoff, Richard Torres intercepts Omar Clayton's pass, and Alex Green immediately punches it in from the 1.
Then Nate Carter picks off a Bryant Moniz pass deep in UH territory — and, on the next play, Mana Silva returns the favor in the Warriors end zone and Hawaii marches down the field yet again to make it 45-7.
That's the kind of night it was for the Warriors' future Mountain West Conference mates.
It seemed like UNLV guys were left on the ground every play. The last time this many Rebels were injured was at the Battle of Gettysburg.
"We're a physical team, first and foremost," Miano said.
"A LOT of us had this game circled on our calendars since last season," said Torres, who in addition to the interception crushed Clayton on a safety blitz. "We felt like we owed them some payback."
Phillip Payne's fourth-quarter touchdown reception last year in Vegas won the game on the last play for the Rebels. But this time, with 4:06 left, it meant nothing. UH had long since put the game away ... and secured the legacy of the 2010 Warriors.
"This is the best team I've been on here," said senior safety Spencer Smith, whose UH career began with the teams that went 11-3 and 12-1 in 2006 and 2007. "Maybe not talent-wise, but execution and playing together, yes."
Consider the debt paid in full. With interest.
Reach Dave Reardon at firstname.lastname@example.org.