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Tuesday, September 02, 2014         

FERD'S WORDS


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Bleak loss underscores need for coaching change

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED:



If the University of Hawaii was still somehow wrestling with what to do with head coach Greg McMackin’s request for a contract extension, this should have decided it once and for all.

Blowing a 21-point halftime lead en route to a beyond-befuddling 35-31 loss to Utah State at home Saturday night was the lowest point in a season that is becoming a smorgasbord of them.

The bitterest of endings — the Aggies driving 59 yards for the winning score with 14 seconds remaining — produced a renewed torrent of boos from the disbelieving remnants of the season’s smallest crowd, 26,205.

All the while the hardy few were probably asking themselves, “We waited through the rain for this?”

In a season that has dismayed us with once-incomprehensible losses to Nevada-Las Vegas and San Jose State and a narrow escape at Idaho, the Utah State debacle undeniably underlined the need for change at the top.

It is an improved Utah State team, now 3-5 (1-2 WAC), that danced on the field and posed for pictures in the light of the north end scoreboard, an uncommon sight from visiting Western Athletic Conference teams. But 42 points better than the one UH walked over 45-7 just 12 months ago in Utah?

To be sure, the Warriors felt the loss of Royce Pollard, their leading receiver, as well as receiver Justin Clapp and offensive lineman Clayton Laurel to injuries. But the Aggies rebounded from the loss of their starting quarterback, Chuckie Keeton, behind backup Adam Kennedy.

Utah State, a team that had been unable to hold fourth-quarter leads this season, this time yanked one away from the Warriors, who seemed incapable of meeting the challenge.

The Aggies also hoodwinked UH twice in punting situations, when they put receiver Stanley Morrison in the backfield and, inexplicably, both times he was able to pass them to first downs.

Once upon a time the Warriors hit their stride at home in November, a month they had been 16-2 in since 2006. Especially at home. But a somnolent second half, in which the Warriors were outscored 28-3, belied that.

And with it went the WAC title showdown that had awaited the Warriors (5-4, 3-2 WAC) this Saturday at Nevada and a shot at what would have been back-to-back conference championships. From preseason conference favorites, the Warriors have become spoilers, and what a comedown that is.

The Warriors can still limp into the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, but no longer is even that a foregone conclusion. They need to win two of their four remaining regular-season games, which, considering free-falling Fresno State (3-6) and down-and-out Tulane (2-8) are included and at Aloha Stadium, wouldn’t ordinarily be that tough of a chore. But these days, who knows?

I mean, UNLV (2-6), San Jose State (3-6) and, now, Utah State, have taken their measure of UH.

The larger question is what to do with McMackin? UH is obligated to pay him for 2012, the fifth and final year of his contract on which he is owed $1.1 million per season.

Since renewing him is no longer an option, do they want him around as a lame duck going into the tougher Mountain West Conference? Better to pay him off and thank him for his service.

But if not McMackin, then who, since recruiting is heating up and prospects will want to know who the future coach will be?

And where will the money come from now that crowds figure to get even more sparse?

UH lost more than a game Saturday night; it also proved it has sadly lost its way and needs to do something about it.

———

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@staradvertiser.com or 529-4820.






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