Western Athletic Conference commissioner Karl Benson is in town this week to confer with University of Hawaii officials.
Benson, who attended last night’s game, won by Southern California 49-36, was due to brief athletic director Jim Donovan and Manoa chancellor Virginia S. Hinshaw on recent developments concerning the conference.
Donovan was appointed to the conference’s membership committee, which will study prospective candidates for membership and make a recommendation to the league’s board of directors.
Benson said no timeline has been set for expansion. Benson’s daughter, Jessie, attends USC, where she is a freshman.
"I think she’s rooting for UH," Benson said.
After finishing last out of 120 FBS teams in red-zone offense last season, Hawaii was perfect in their two opportunities in the first half. But the scores provided little satisfaction for the Warriors.
UH twice drove inside the USC 4, but settled for short field goals by Scott Enos both times, including an 18-yarder to close the first half after Greg Salas was ruled down inside the 1.
After a review, the call was upheld, although referee Bill Athan teased the crowd by raising his hands, initially appearing to indicate a touchdown. But Athan had signaled that the Warriors were short, and two incomplete passes later Hawaii again settled for three.
For five quarters, Salas — the fourth-leading receiver in the FBS last season — found little more than frustration at Aloha Stadium.
After being held to three catches for 31 yards in UH’s season finale against Wisconsin last December, he was shut out in the first quarter of last night’s opener. He finally got his hands on the ball with 8:05 left in the second period and went on to catch seven more passes for 124 yards.
His longest reception was a 47-yarder in double coverage to convert on a third and 25.
Kealoha Pilares couldn’t come down with the first five passes thrown his way, but snagged the sixth for a 56-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Pilares was the recipient of Shane Austin touchdown passes of 65 and 30 yards in the fourth quarter to raise his total to a career-high 176 yards on five receptions.
It was an encouraging start to the season for Hawaii’s kicking game.
Senior Scott Enos kept the Warriors within striking distance in the first half with field goals of 24, 40 and 18 yards. He set a career best by going 3-for-3. He was also perfect on all three extra-point attempts for the game.
"It’s great for us as a (special teams) unit. I think we had a pretty good game. We were 100 percent on all of our kicks, so that was a confidence for all of us going into the next game," said Enos, who went 12-for-19 on field goals last year.
Sophomore punter Alex Dunnachie was also impressive, going for 50 and 52 yards on his first two punts. The Australian averaged 39.2 yards on 42 punts as a freshman. He was up to 43.3 yesterday.
His third punt was placed inside the 20, but USC’s Ronald Johnson ran that one back 89 yards for a score.
Hawaii senator Dan Inouye and his wife Irene performed the coin toss before kickoff. USC called the toss tails, but it was heads. Hawaii elected to receive.
Punahou School graduate Abe Markowitz underwent surgery on his broken right foot Tuesday and did not travel with the Trojans to the game.
Markowitz, a sophomore walk-on who received a scholarship this year, was the backup at center and guard. His father Barry said the Trojans hope Abe will be able to return by the game on Oct. 16 against California.
USC sophomore quarterback Matt Barkley‘s growth from last year was most evident on third down.
USC converted just 36 percent (56-for-157) of its third downs in 2009, ranking 90th among 120 FBS teams.
Last night, USC was 7-for-9 with Barkley in the game and converted its first four chances.
One of those was a 6-yard TD pass to Rhett Ellison, one of five in the game for Barkley, which tied a school record.