BOULDER, COLO. » You knew it would come back and bite them in the butt. We all did. How could it not?
Who, in the first quarter, goes down to the 1, and then the 3, comes away empty both times — as a double-digit underdog, on the road — and lives to tell about it?
No one, that’s who.
Maybe a 10-point favorite can get away with that kind of thing, at home. Maybe Hawaii can win that way hosting Charleston Southern next week. But a mile above sea level against a team that is used to the altitude, a team with 45,000 win-hungry fans behind it?
Welcome to the Dead Zone. It’s where Hawaii drives go to die.
Give quarterback Bryant Moniz credit for being a stand-up guy. Coming off the field, he acknowledged "mental mistakes" at the goal line.
But there are precious few positives to draw from this if you’re a UH fan, other than the Warriors host an FCS squad that will cross the country to be the Washington Generals at Aloha Stadium in six days. Even the Herman haters should thank former AD Frazier for being forced to book the Bucs for beaucoup bucks twice when UH was desperate for a 12th opponent in 2007.
Still, how many fans will show up for this? Unfortunately, and perhaps unfairly, yesterday’s happenings in a colder Boulder than expected dull the shine of the win at Army a week prior.
Yesterday, Hawaii should have been leading 24-0 at halftime, and that would’ve been that — the Warriors come home 2-1, with the greatest back-to-back road feat since Bob Wagner’s 1992 team opened with triumphs at Oregon and a few miles down the road from here at Air Force.
At halftime, the Colorado coaches should’ve been checking the help-wanted ads. But down just 10-0, they knew they could win, and they made adjustments.
If UH doesn’t get stoned at the goal line those two times, Colorado couldn’t do what it did in the third quarter. It wouldn’t have relied strictly on its ground game to pound the oxygen-starved Warriors defense into submission. But chasing a mere 10, the Buffs went to their strength as Hawaii’s stamina melted away.
"Those guys were gassed and our offensive line was blowing them 6 or 7 yards off the line," Colorado receiver Scott McKnight said.
This time there was no comeback for Hawaii, but none should’ve been needed. No finding a way to win late this time like at Army. The second half was just CU backs finding big holes and then QB Tyler Hansen finding Toney Clemons wide open deep and then McKnight for the daggers.
Colorado tried to give UH the game in the first quarter and the Warriors wouldn’t take it. Instead, they allowed the Buffs to stick around, and turned the boo birds back into Buffs fans.
Then, yet another mid-game crisis for UH — outscored 17-3 in the third quarter. The Warriors have been outscored in the 15 minutes after the break all three games this year.
The combined score for the third quarter this year is Opponents 53, Hawaii 17. Last season, UH posted more points in the third than only Central Arkansas and Navy. Since the start of 2009? Opponents 146, Hawaii 43.
Colorado was not a good team. But Hawaii let it believe it could be one. The Buffs made plenty of mistakes, but UH did not take advantage. The Warriors had a great chance for some positive exposure, but instead they were merely exposed.
And coach Greg McMackin uttered one of the biggest understatements ever: "We had some missed opportunities."
The one big-picture positive is that despite all this, Hawaii is good enough and its schedule weak enough to finish bowl-bound. The Warriors can end 2010 with a winning record.
But they should already have one today.