BOISE, IDAHO » The Hawaii football team’s dreams are now available in blue.
Second-ranked Boise State and Bronco Stadium’s blue turf stand in the way of the Warriors’ months-long goal of winning the Western Athletic Conference title.
"We’ve been looking at this game for the longest time," UH slotback Kealoha Pilares said. "In the summer, we were preparing for the (season-opening) USC game, but this was always in the back of our head. When you think about the important games — the people you want to play, the good teams — Boise State automatically comes up. It’s a great opportunity."
After winning their first five WAC games, the Warriors are atop the standings. The Broncos, at 3-0 in the WAC, have five league games remaining. But they have not lost a WAC matchup since the 2007 regular-season finale, at Aloha Stadium, giving must-win importance to what should be the final meeting between the teams. The Broncos are seceding from the WAC, and will join the Mountain West Conference on July 1, 2011.
"We focus one game at a time," said Chris Tormey, who coordinates UH’s special teams. "Every week, there’s a new hump. This week, we have a big hump."
Left slotback Greg Salas said: "It’s a big game. We can’t treat it like it’s a different game. We have to treat it like it’s another travel game. But we know what it represents."
At 7-2, the Warriors are ensured a winning regular season. Last week, they accepted an invitation to the Hawaii Bowl. But they have remained focused.
Asked about the Broncos’ strengths, UH offensive line coach Gordy Shaw said, "Where do I begin?"
He then handed a reporter a sheet showing the national rankings. The Broncos average 47.41 points and 515.86 yards per game. Quarterback Kellen Moore is sacked once every 90.5 pass plays.
Tight end Tommy Gallarda is out for the season after undergoing foot surgery. But his replacement, Kyle Efaw, is a more productive tight end.
Kyle Brotzman’s sore foot might prevent him from punting. It might not matter. Of the Broncos’ 74 drives, 17 ended in punts.
What’s more, Boise State’s defense might be better than its offense.
In evaluating the Broncos’ defensive line, UH offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich noted, "No weaknesses."
The Warriors counter with a four-wide offense that has been the most productive in Greg McMackin’s three seasons as UH head coach. Quarterback Bryant Moniz leads the nation in total offense (373.44 yards per game), and running back Alex Green has emerged as an offensive weapon.
Right tackle Laupepa Letuli, who has missed the past three games because of a sprained ankle, practiced with the first team. The Warriors are hopeful that Pilares will be ready to play. He is recovering from a strained left hamstring.
To accelerate the healing process, the Warriors brought an Accelerated Recovery Performance machine on the trip. An ARP is an electrical-stimulation device worth between $20,000 and $25,000. The UH training staff borrowed one from a hospital. Pilares was among several Warriors who received ARP treatments each day.
A Warriors victory would trigger an ARP-like jolt to the football world.
"It’ll be a hard test," Pilares said. "We’ll keep doing what we’re doing. As Coach Mouse (Davis) said, they might have athletes, but they can only play 11 (at a time)."