POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Oct 31, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 2:38 a.m. HST, Oct 31, 2010
As the fourth quarter of the University of Hawaii's blowout of Idaho rolled around last night, sportscasters had to catch themselves from saying "Boise State" when they meant to refer to Idaho.
It was an all-too-natural slip and they were hardly alone on this night.
As the Warriors put the finishing touches on what became a 45-10 victory, No. 2-ranked Boise was on the minds of a great many in the Aloha Stadium turnout of 35,322 who had more reason than ever before to feel good about UH's chances on "the Blue."
With their sixth consecutive victory wrapped up and a berth in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl secured, these Warriors, now 7-2 overall and 5-0 in conference, can take full aim at Boise and the road to the Western Athletic Conference championship that runs through it. They will, of course, be significant underdogs on the Las Vegas betting lines, but they can also enter with a degree of confidence unmatched previously.
But don't take our — or even the Warriors' — word for it. Ask Idaho coach Robb Akey about UH's chances now. "Real good," Akey acknowledged. "They're a real good football team," he said, comparing the Warriors to "the team they took to the Sugar Bowl a few years ago."
The operative word in all this being "team."
Indeed, if the past six games mean anything — and the longest winning streak since 2007 sure seemed to last night — it is that the Warriors will take their most complete team to Boise in five trips.
They've taken some good offensive teams there, witness the 41-34 shootout loss in 2006. They've taken some decent defensive ones there, too, but never packed one as multi-talented and well-rounded as the current edition is shaping up.
What we saw turned loose on the Vandals last night was an offense ranked in the top 10 nationally and, when this week's stats are out, likely a team that is also top five or so in producing turnovers and top something in frustrating opponent quarterbacks. Throw in some growing maturity on special teams and the Warriors are as complete a package as we've seen in some time.
"This is probably the best we've been in all three phases in, maybe, 12 years," acknowledged associate head coach Rich Miano.
Good thing, too, because it will take heapin' helpings of all three to wrest the WAC title from the unbeaten (7-0) Broncos at their redoubt.
There are reasons nobody in the WAC — or much of anywhere else, either — goes into the mountains and beats the Broncos, and it usually comes down to playing at a high level across the board.
For the second week in a row we've seen an opportunistic defense and big-play special teams shoulder a significant load. While the offense took a while to find its rhythm — and to show you just how much it struggled, the Warriors had more running yards than passing yards for much of the first half — the defense and special teams forced the kind of turnovers that jump-started the offense, scoring one touchdown and setting up three more.
"They hurt us a ton," Akey admitted.
Because they did and have proven themselves capable of doing the same unto others, these Warriors can go to Boise with more than just their fingers crossed this time.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.