Hawaii will have a tougher road to a winning season
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 13, 2011
RENO, NEV. » This wasn't how it was supposed to end for Bryant Moniz, but it almost seemed inevitable.
With all the injuries depleting his offensive line and receivers, it's a testament to Moniz's elusiveness and toughness that he didn't get badly hurt sooner than Saturday, in UH's 10th game of the season.
Regardless of what you might think of the University of Hawaii football team and the performance of its senior leader on offense the past few games, his legacy will be as one of the most prolific quarterbacks in UH history, as well as perhaps the most athletic to have played for the Warriors in the run-and-shoot era.
When he left the field with a college career-ending broken leg in the first half of the 42-28 loss to Nevada, coach Greg McMackin said some of the Warriors players "froze" momentarily -- and that was no reference to the chilly air at Mackay Stadium.
"It's pretty tough when you lose your leader right away," McMackin said.
When Moniz left midway through the first quarter, Hawaii held a 3-0 lead. But few illusions existed -- at least away from the Hawaii sideline -- that a UH team minus Moniz would stay in the game with the Wolf Pack.
The Warriors managed to hang in with Nevada until the Wolf Pack put it away with a fake field goal for a touchdown. That was ironic, since the maligned Hawaii special teams had done an excellent job to that point, and were a big reason UH was still in the game.
Shane Austin, the backup quarterback, did what he could to try to keep the Warriors in it, and directed a nice third-quarter drive. But there were too many mistakes to overcome, by Austin and others.
The biggest was a fumble into the end zone by Joey Iosefa after UH got the ball on the opening kickoff of the second half when Kawika Ornellas recovered Nevada's fumble.
It's easy to root for Austin. He's a gritty guy who walked on four years ago and has done everything asked of him, from running the scout team to training understudies who ended up getting more playing time than he did. McMackin acknowledged that Austin got the call when Moniz went down because he was judged to be the guy who would give UH the best chance to win the game.
He'd done it before, leading UH to a road victory at San Jose State two years ago when Moniz was out with an injury.
"I've been there a few times, so I know what it's like," Austin said.
But San Jose State in 2009 was nowhere near as good as Nevada in 2011. The Wolf Pack certainly weren't unbeatable, but they're probably the best team in the WAC right now.
Watching Nevada's No. 17, Cody Fajardo, run and throw so effectively in the second half made me think of Moniz at his best -- his ability to scramble and his playmaking skills could have made the difference in the second half.
Maybe, maybe not. The way things have been going for UH lately, it seems unlikely. But Moniz was UH's best offensive player.
He's also the player the 5-5 Warriors could least afford to lose as they try to regroup and win two of the next three games, finish the regular season with a winning record and get into the Hawaii Bowl.
Winning two against Fresno State, Tulane and Brigham Young was already an iffy proposition.
The coaches might decide to give David Graves an opportunity as early as next week, especially since Austin threw three interceptions and more incompletions (21) than completions (17).
"As far as the game goes we had a lot of opportunities and could have made a lot of plays, but that's just the way it goes sometimes," Austin said.
No offense to whoever plays quarterback for UH the rest of the season. But things get even tougher now for the Warriors without Bryant Moniz.
Reach Dave Reardon at firstname.lastname@example.org or 529-4783.