POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 14, 2011
Nothing like a little quarterback controversy to deflect the heat off a coach, who may or may not be unwillingly nearing the end of his term, eh? Actually, the two issues are intermeshed in the University of Hawaii football team's current situation.
Before Bryant Moniz was lost for the regular season Saturday night in Reno, Nev., where UH fell to 5-5 with a 42-28 loss, there was no doubt who should be playing quarterback for the Warriors. Anyone actually paying attention to what was going on could see Moniz was always the best option, despite some recent struggles.
Change for change's sake isn't always the right thing to do.
Still, I wouldn't have minded mixing things up once in a while just to force opposing defenses to prepare for more than just Moniz (maybe even some David Graves as a wildcat, especially in the red zone, and not just garbage time). Remember, it often worked to give Timmy Chang a breather and play Shawn Withy-Allen or Jason Whieldon for a series or two.
That's moot now, of course, and with Fresno State coming to town Saturday, UH needs to quickly figure out who its starting quarterback is for this game and perhaps the remaining three or four. Or maybe even the next two seasons.
Greg McMackin has to make one of the most important decisions of his four years as Warriors head coach. Should he go with the experienced senior (Shane Austin), or the sophomore (Graves) considered the quarterback of the future? McMackin's job security may depend on making the right pick -- if there is one.
The Manoa chain of command (and we're told many in it will have input) is pondering what to do about a $1.1 million a year coach with whom much of the fan base is extremely disenchanted. If the Warriors turn the corner behind a new quarterback and win at least three of four, including the bowl game, is going 8-6 a fireable offense? Especially if that quarterback happens to be Graves, and excitement for 2012 and 2013 is generated?
OK, back to the reality of this being one banged-up football team, and not just on offense. All football teams are hurting 10 games into the season; the good ones have enough depth so that it's not a game-changing issue.
Now, with the starting quarterback out, this edition of the Warriors resembles the 2009 team, the only UH team in the past five years to finish with a losing record. It was also ravaged by injuries, including a UH-career-ender to quarterback Greg Alexander -- which gave Moniz his first chance to start.
When I think of UH football teams that struggled but got it together to finish strong, the 2004 group always comes to mind. It was 4-5 after a 70-14 loss to Fresno State ... yes, 70-14! And this was a team that opened its season with a home loss to Florida Atlantic.
But Chang, Chad Owens, Samson Satele, Lui Fuga, Abraham Elimimian and others got it together, and UH won its last four in a row -- including two against Big Ten opponents. By the time UH beat UAB in the Hawaii Bowl, the pitchforks with June Jones' name on them were reshelved.
UH should get those guys to come talk to the current team, talk about how they did it.
And McMackin needs to choose the quarterback on the UH roster who is capable of turning things around now, assuming that player exists.
Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at firstname.lastname@example.org, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/dave_reardon.