POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 18, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 01:42 a.m. HST, Sep 18, 2010
BOULDER, COLO. » On the day before Hawaii sought to make a major proclamation about its ability to win away from home against a big-name opponent, Greg McMackin's choice of footwear issued a symbolic statement of its own.
Friday is rubber slipper day for the Warriors head coach, even if he is a mile high and in the middle of North America rather than the center of the Pacific Ocean.
The message was clear. At kickoff today against Colorado of the Big 12, the Warriors from the beleaguered WAC should forget about the Buffaloes' past that includes a national championship and a Heisman Trophy winner. Forget about the altitude and Ralphie the mascot and the amazing facilities. Forget about conference affiliation and being a 10- to 13-point underdog.
Slippers are a symbol of Hawaii. On McMackin's feet in Colorado, they say hang loose, and hang together.
If UH is a program to ever be taken seriously on the national scene, this is the kind of game it needs to win, at least once in a while. Catching a big name like Colorado during a down cycle is a gift, but one UH has rarely cashed in on.
Victories at Nebraska and Washington loom large in UH lore, but how much relevance do games from 1955 and 1973 have now?
There was the victory against Alabama in 2003, when the Crimson Tide were taking a probation-induced break from being a national power; but that was at home. The Warriors came tantalizingly close to souring sweet home for Alabama in 2006, but Colt Brennan's throw into the end zone on the last play found the wrong hands.
There are reasons the wise guys call UH a double-digit 'dog today against a team that lost 52-7 last week.
The Buffaloes are far from being a good team. But they have talent and they are traditionally strong at home, while UH's rep is that it can't win on the road (although that is what it just did, at Army last week).
The offense led by quarterback Bryant Moniz must produce points steadily for Hawaii to win, regardless of any gaudy yardage numbers. The Warriors expect the Buffaloes to blitz heavily.
"I think they'll probably come after me," Moniz said. "They've got some good defensive backs who will try to cover our receivers."
The prevailing thought seems to be Colorado can run all over Hawaii, even though its offensive line is unsettled ... it is still under construction, but it is huge.
"They've been trying to get their running game going," Warriors defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. "I'm sure they see us as a way to get the run started. Whether they do or not could be the game."
USC ran at will, and Army controlled the ball on the ground after adjustments. But there was marked improvement against the rush from game one to game two.
"The bright lights, big city effect blinded some of us" in the opener against the Trojans, Aranda said.
And that was a home game. This is Day 12 of a two-game road trip.
We know how far the Warriors have come for this game in the literal sense. Today we learn if they've arrived enough to leave their footprint on a big-name favorite playing at home.