POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Sep 19, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 9:26 a.m. HST, Sep 19, 2010
When Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins embraced the University of Hawaii's Greg McMackin at the conclusion of yesterday's football game, it had a heartfelt quality to it.
Sort of like the way a condemned man reacts when the governor awards a stay of execution.
And it wasn't hard to see the Buffaloes' 31-13 victory over the Warriors as a postponement of sentence for Colorado's embattled and, until yesterday's second half, befuddled coach.
A week after being lambasted 52-7 by California, you could hear the jeers from TVs here in Hawaii as the Buffaloes were roundly booed by the home fans for a pitiful, penalty-filled and scoreless first half. One in which they trailed the Warriors 10-0 at halftime but could -- and should -- have been staring up from a 24-0 deficit.
Even with the victory, Hawkins is only 18-34 in five seasons at CU and the ground beneath him is fault-line shaky heading into the meat of the schedule.
But darned if he didn't have the answers in a tables-turning 31-3 second half against the Warriors. Just like Army seemed to have last week in rallying from a 21-0 deficit before UH pulled it out in the final seconds.
"I give Colorado great credit," McMackin said afterward. "I think Coach Hawkins did a great job and made some fantastic adjustments at halftime. He had his guys ready to play in the second half."
And, UH didn't.
Nor was this the first time in McMackin's two-plus-years tenure at UH that a coach on a smoldering hot seat has gotten a reprieve, however temporary, courtesy of the Warriors.
Two years ago, Utah State's Brent Guy saved his job -- for a couple of weeks -- with a victory over the Warriors. Then, Notre Dame's Charlie Weis got a brief postponement of the inevitable with the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl smashing of UH. And last season UNLV coach Mike Sanford bought himself some extra weeks in the courtesy car with a comeback win over the Warriors, helping deny UH a bowl-eligible record in the process.
All got their walking papers eventually, just not from anything Hawaii managed to contribute to. Which might explain part of McMackin's popularity at coaching get-togethers.
These are the kind of sliding opponents that good teams jump on and fatten up with. UH, meanwhile, seems to trip over too many of them. And, sadly, it is part of what is keeping the Warriors from being more than a .500 program.
Yesterday it was the difference between UH being 2-1 and 1-2. It was the difference in perception between a team ascending and one taking a step backward.
The Warriors were well on their way to the former until they got within sniffing distance of the goal line.
Then, in their first two adventures in the shadows of the goal posts, it was as if they hit one of those lines like the supermarkets use to keep from having shopping carts taken off the premises. The Warriors couldn't punch in a score with three tries from inside the 1-yard line or, overall, seven knocks inside the five, plus a failed 20-yard field-goal attempt.
And the defense was hardly a speed bump for the Buffaloes, who had two running backs break 100 yards for the first time since 2002.
No coach, no matter how sensitive to the travails of his brethren, wants to be the one they get better against. When that happens too often, people start to point fingers at him, too.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.