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Today’s Warriors game could reach far into future

For Saturday, November 12, 2011

LAST UPDATED: 05:23 a.m. HST, Nov 12, 2011

RENO, NEV. » Thankfully, for all concerned, that was quite possibly the shortest eve-of-the-game walk-through in football history. It was a mere 30 minutes of moving around the Mackay Stadium field for the University of Hawaii team in preparation for tonight's game against Nevada’s Wolf Pack.

All of us standing around watching were grateful to get out of the cold so quickly. Graduate assistant Inoke Funaki, who played in the game the only time UH won here, in 2007, was happy to return to the heated confines of the Grand Sierra Resort and Casino, too. But offensive lineman Matagisila Lefiti said practicing in 30-degree weather was fine for him. “Just right,” Lefiti said.

These are, after all, football players. They pride themselves in taking on the elements nearly as much as the team on the other side of the field.

The forecast for this evening is 29 degrees and partly cloudy. The hosts are more used to the cold; but the real climate factor that might mean something is the wind — that could play havoc with the quarterbacks’ passing, and Hawaii relies more on the aerial game than does Nevada.

The Wolf Pack defense isn't really anything special overall, having allowed 38 and 34 points in its past two games, wins over Fresno State and New Mexico State. But it also wasn’t in 2003, when it held UH to a season-low 14 points in icy, windy conditions at Mackay.

When some of the locals here see a point spread that has Nevada giving 15 points, they’re not sure why their team is favored by so much. They know that Hawaii has a winning record at 5-4, and in the WAC at 3-2. They’re also aware their Wolf Pack have won four in a row — and 15 straight at home, going back to a 2009 loss to Missouri.

They understand Nevada better as a two-touchdown favorite when told of UH’s injury problems at receiver and offensive line. These units were already fragile because of inexperience, and both have now been plagued by injuries — often causing trickle-down effects. If Royce Pollard can’t go, will Darius Bright be ready? Or does Billy Ray Stutzmann move back outside again?

Don’t forget that last year at Aloha Stadium the Warriors shut down Nevada’s pistol offense and won 27-21. The Wolf Pack came in averaging 545 yards and 43 points, but UH held it to around half of that production and dealt Nevada its only defeat. This year’s offense with new playmakers is improving, but still is not nearly as high-powered as the 2010 group led by Colin Kaepernick.

UH needs to win two of its last four regular-season games to earn a Hawaii Bowl berth. But what looms larger than that is what a Warriors upset tonight could mean for the future of head coach Greg McMackin.

Would winning out, starting here, get him an extension on his contract (but at lower than the current $1.1 million per year) that expires after next season? And, on the flip side, does a tailspin that includes a blowout loss in what some predicted before the season would be the WAC’s de facto championship game turn buyout rumors and speculation into reality?

The Warriors have pulled off some big road upsets on McMackin’s watch. One here seems unlikely, but is not out of the question and would have a huge impact on the head coach’s and program’s future.

Tonight, things are still very much up in the frigid air.

Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/dave_reardon or 529-4783.

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CriticalReader wrote:
Winning out at this point should not be the catalyst or even a justification for one more year of Coach McMackin. In fact, a loss should be the catalyst and a justification for relieving him of the Head Coach position within hours after the game, as was the loss to Utah St. last week. At this point, frankly, so should a win. I'm not clear on what Coach McMackin "adds" to the UH football program at this point. Will his presence at the next UH home game draw fans? More than an "Interim Head Coach" symbolizing an effort by UH to move forward? More than, say, a Cal Lee being given the interim reins through the end of the season with the promise of a meaningful national search for someone new? Time for the people in charge of UH to make a move. To the extent they don't, maybe other moves have to be made as well.
on November 12,2011 | 04:07AM
NITRO08 wrote:
on November 12,2011 | 08:53AM
CriticalReader wrote:
OK, I won't be there.
on November 12,2011 | 05:10PM
bleedgreen wrote:
McMackin's destiny was in his own hands. It's too late in the season to make any changes that will have any impact on how the Warriors play. Mack should look forward to sitting in his home near former basketball coach Riley Wallace.
on November 12,2011 | 04:23AM
akuman808 wrote:
Week after week the coaches and players do a lot of talking in the media. It would be better served if they say less and do their best no matter the outcome. For a head coach to say it's the football team against the world says it all, he never understood that its' the fans and students that he has failed to connect with. Watch today as major programs go to their student body and sing the almater along with the fans. UH sings the blues.
on November 12,2011 | 05:54AM
Mana07 wrote:
Big road upsets??? Some one remind me. I remember beating Fresno (not much of an upset though). We beat Nev last year at home, I'm having a hard time even remebering any home upsets other than Nevada. What a ridiculous thing to put in print. More appropriately the article should say UH has been upset NUMEROUS times on McMackin's watch.
on November 12,2011 | 06:24AM
Dave_Reardon wrote:
LaTech a few weeks ago. Fresno twice, including when they were ranked. Army last year. Not saying this means Hawaii will win tonight ... just that they've won as a road underdog with the current coaching staff ... and all road dog wins are big, by my estimation.
on November 12,2011 | 08:14AM
PBnJz wrote:
Correct me if I'm wrong...but hasn't Mac had a winning season two of the last three seasons? And haven't we gone to the HI bowl in two of past three years? Seems like lots of teams would be very appreciative of seasons like that! I'm not saying McMackin is the greatest, but I'm not sure he should be fired. We still have a winning record, and I feel confident we can make it to the HI bowl again this...winning it, as always, is a different story! We'll likely lose to NV tonight, if only for the fact that it's a nationally televised game, and even when the stars are aligned for us, we always play horribly when the nation is watching. I'm not sure where everyone thinks we should be...a shooting star like Boise? Playing with the bigger boys in the Pac12? We're obviously not there, and I'm not sure any coach can get us there!
on November 12,2011 | 07:05AM
NITRO08 wrote:
The only the fans that wants Mac to be fired is the BAND WAGON FANS!
on November 12,2011 | 08:57AM
islandsun wrote:
Of course the spread is large. When was the last time Mac and his gang of poor performing coaches and players won on National TV. Hope not but am expecting an embarrassment to happen for sure.
on November 12,2011 | 10:09AM
BO0o07 wrote:
Last year we shutdown the pistol but that was last year. Not going to happen this year unless a miracle happen like all three phases of the game are clicking and firing on all cylinders.
on November 12,2011 | 01:22PM
Bayman wrote:
I disagree, a win means nothing more than a win on muffins resume...he still should be gone at the end of the year...if nothing to resurrect the program.
on November 12,2011 | 02:56PM
fairgame947 wrote:
Ah quiet CriticalReader. What kind of a supporter have you ever been of the Warriors? Cal Lee? Are you kidding? The game is on and with Moniz out all you people who said he should go and the backups should be in. Well, the backins are in - let's see what they can do. Probably not much although I think Austin and Graves are good guys.
on November 12,2011 | 05:05PM
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