POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 3, 2012
LAST UPDATED: 9:37 a.m. HST, Nov 3, 2012
FRESNO, Calif. » University of Hawaii assistant football coach Tony Tuioti was asked about “The Speech” on Friday — and it was not the first time this week.
As in, “Hey, Tony do you still have ‘The Speech’?” And, “Tony, can you give ‘The Speech’ again?”
How much Tuioti’s impassioned pregame talk really contributed to the Warriors’ 32-29 overtime upset of then-No. 22-ranked Fresno State here in 2008 is anybody’s guess. But over the years that victory, which remains UH’s only road triumph over a nationally ranked opponent, has taken on a magical quality that the Warriors could sure use today.
At this point, with a 1-6 record (0-4 Mountain West) and too many blowouts, the Warriors will welcome anything: old speeches, elixirs, good luck charms, you name it.
Indeed, some of the circumstances of today recall the 2008 landscape. Back then, the Warriors, 21-point underdogs, were struggling badly (1-3), had a new head coach (Greg McMackin) looking for his first win against an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision team and a quarterback (Inoke Funaki) who was under fire at home.
This time they are
331⁄2-point underdogs, Norm Chow is seeking a first FBS victory and Sean Schroeder is the battered and embattled quarterback.
Funaki made the big plays, completing 17 of 25 passes for 170 yards and running 14 times for 79 yards. Dan Kelly made the clutch kicks to spring the upset.
Which was why, you suspect, Funaki, now a graduate assistant with the Warriors, was all smiles as he surveyed the familiar confines of Bulldog Stadium during Friday evening’s team walk-through.
But hopes of an ’08 rerun look to be a dream too far given the explosiveness the once-conservative Bulldogs now demonstrate and the misfires the Warriors have routinely suffered. On their way to a 6-3 mark (4-1 MWC) that has them still in contention for the conference title, the Bulldogs have gone 4-0 on their home field while averaging 50 points and 555 yards a game against Colorado, San Diego State, Wyoming and Weber State.
That’s an offensive punch they didn’t display in ’08 and one UH, which is surrendering 42.3 points per game, will be hard-pressed to mitigate today.
Which is why the Warriors stare at the second longest set of betting odds they’ve faced in 33 years of conference play. Not since 2000, when UH was en route to a 3-9 finish and it went to Fort Worth, Texas, as a 37-point underdog to then-14th ranked Texas Christian and running back LaDanian Tomlinson, has it encountered such formidable odds.
It was a situation the travel-thrifty Warriors could ponder on the nearly four-hour bus ride from Los Angeles, their overnight stop, to Fresno on Friday afternoon.
Asked recently to recall the last time he took a bus ride of more than an hour to a game, head coach Norm Chow paused for deep reflection. Then he said, “When I was coaching freshman football when I first started my career at BYU (1973), we had to drive down to St. George, Utah (from Provo).”
It was not a nostalgic moment.
It was, however, the latest reminder that his rookie season as a head coach has come replete with its own challenges. This game, all things considered, might be the toughest test to date.
Sure, the season opener with Southern California was against a team ranked No. 1 in the polls. But this one comes four road games and several miles of medical tape later on the back end of a second two-part road trip. Seven days and 6,200 miles ago the Warriors were in Fort Collins, Colo., and in a game with the Rams they had chances to win before withering and falling 42-27.
Now they are in Fresno, where summoning two near-miracles in four years is too much to ask for, no matter how compelling the words.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 529-4820.