POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 6, 2010
The University of Hawaii football team has known for more than a month now that it was going to a bowl game.
It has understood for even longer what it must do when it gets there.
When on Oct. 30 the Warriors accepted an invitation to the Hawaii Bowl, they also knew it came with the need to put their best cleated foot forward.
They had no idea who they would be playing at that point, just that after the disappointments in their last two postseasons they need to win against whoever Conference USA might send their way.
Between the 41-10 Sugar Bowl blowout by Georgia in the 2007 season and the 49-21 demolition by Notre Dame in the 2008 Hawaii Bowl, the Warriors have a growing holiday hangover.
So much so that when UH missed out on a bowl opportunity last season after a 51-10 shellacking by Wisconsin, some people around campus quietly expressed relief. Better, they conceded privately, to wait for a team that could end the nightmare instead of extending it.
Which brings us to the current, nationally ranked Warriors. At 10 wins and three losses for the 2010 regular season, this is not only a team on a roll, but one on an avowed mission.
"We're not going there to party," offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich proclaimed resolutely minutes after the Warriors closed out the regular season with a 59-21 blowout of Nevada-Las Vegas on Saturday night.
"Our goal each season used to be to get to a bowl, but after that Notre Dame loss, we've changed it to win the game," said slot receiver Kealoha Pilares. "This one is really important."
Or, as associate head coach Rich Miano puts it, "the last few times we've been on national TV, we haven't played up to our potential. So, winning the bowl game is our only goal right now."
In 9-3 Tulsa, the Warriors draw a Conference USA team from its recent Western Athletic Conference past putting up offensive numbers that approach their own. The Golden Hurricane are 10th in scoring offense at 39.67 points per game. UH is ninth with 39.92.
Tulsa is fifth in total offense (503.50) and UH is eighth (496.80).
Tulsa's quarterback, G.J. Kinne (275.50), and UH's Bryant Moniz (356.08) are among the leaders in passing yardage.
And, for good measure, Tulsa's Damaris Johnson is the NCAA's all-purpose-yardage leader at 192 yards per game from among kickoff returns, punt returns, rushes and receptions. Oh, yeah, the Golden Hurricane delight in running a no-huddle offense.
So, yes, you could say the Warriors have their work cut out for them as they try to become only the third UH team to win 11 games or more in a season.
"We're proud of what we accomplished," Miano said. "We're going to enjoy (the end of the regular season) for 48 hours and then start to focus on the bowl game because we know the season isn't going to be complete unless we win."
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.