Saturday, November 28, 2015         


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Hawaii Bowl could feature battle of former Warriors

By Ferd Lewis


We’ve already seen Nick Rolovich against his alma mater here. For his next coming out, maybe we see him take on his mentor, June Jones, at Aloha Stadium?

Rolovich’s University of Nevada offense versus Jones’ Southern Methodist team looms as the most intriguing of the possible matchups for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl as the postseason begins to come into focus.

With the 1-6 University of Hawaii one loss from bowl elimination entering Saturday’s game at Fresno State, where the Warriors are 331⁄2-point underdogs on the Las Vegas line, you can bet the Hawaii Bowl is scouring the landscape for a palatable matchup for its Dec. 24 game.

And, at this point it, is hard to imagine they can find one with more potential local interest than Rolovich vs. Jones. It is a mentor against protege UH storyline that runs deep, something the game could desperately use with UH absent in consecutive years for the first time.

Hawaii Bowl executive director David Matlin declined to talk scenarios other than to say, “The bowl situation continues to be fluid, but as of right now we expect to get a team from both the Mountain West Conference and C-USA.”

The bowl is contractually bound to take representatives from those two conferences, if available.

Nevada, thanks in part to its 69-24 victory over UH in September that helped make Rolovich a hot topic here, is 6-3 and one of four MWC teams already bowl eligible. The others are Boise State (7-1), San Diego State (6-3) and Fresno State (6-3), while Air Force (5-3) needs one more victory and New Mexico (4-5) requires three wins in four remaining games.

SMU (4-4) needs two victories in its final four games to punch its ticket to the postseason, a definite possibility with Central Florida (6-2), Southern Mississippi (0-8), Rice (3-6) and Tulsa (7-1) remaining.

The MWC champion goes to the Las Vegas Bowl, and that is likely to be Boise State, while San Diego State is a natural for its backyard Poinsettia Bowl, Air Force is coveted by the Armed Forces Bowl and New Mexico would be a good fit for the New Mexico Bowl. Should either Boise State get a longshot Bowl Championship Series at-large berth or New Mexico not become bowl eligible, then Fresno State could be a replacement.

Otherwise, Fresno State and Nevada would be the two most likely candidates to play here on Christmas Eve and there is little doubt who the populace would like to see. Or that Nevada head coach Chris Ault would like a second crack at Jones, with his new-look offense, after a 45-10 thumping in the 2009 Hawaii Bowl.

You have to figure that would be a holiday treat both for Jones, who is the winningest head coach in UH history (76-41) against collegiate competition, and Rolovich, who was a starting quarterback for him in 2000-’01.

The irony here is that Rolovich, despite setting more than a half dozen records and going 8-4 as a starting quarterback at UH, never played in an NCAA bowl game as a Warrior and never won one as an assistant on Greg McMackin’s coaching staff.

But Rolovich’s legacy at UH, to this point at least, is that he went a long way — 543 yards and eight touchdowns — toward helping bring about the birth of the Hawaii Bowl in 2002.

The outcry after UH’s 72-45 demolition of then-ninth-ranked Brigham Young in 2001 left the Warriors 9-3 and bowl-less underlined the need for the game. 

Bringing Jones and Rolovich back in an offensive duel is about as good a place-filler as the game could hope to find in a non-UH year.


Reach Ferd Lewis at or 529-4820.

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