The University of Hawaii football team hits the road this week — but should be easy to find on the night after Thanksgiving.
The Warriors will be at a hotel in El Paso, Texas. For at least 3 hours, the coaches won’t need to worry about anyone wandering across the border to Ciudad Juarez. They’ll all be crowded around TVs, watching Nevada play Boise State.
And Black Friday will indeed be a dark day as far as some UH fans are concerned. They don’t really want to root for the Wolf Pack, one of the schools they perceive as a turncoat for leaving UH to be abandoned after promising to stick it out in the WAC. But, now, they’re basically forced by circumstance into temporary Nevada fandom … assuming an interest in the Warriors getting fitted for some jewelry after the season.
The players are on board.
"Of course," said defensive end Paipai Falemalu, when asked if he’d cheer for Nevada for a few hours Friday.
Aaron Brown concurred. "I want a ring," said the UH linebacker who intercepted two passes in UH’s 41-7 win over San Jose State on Saturday.
If No. 19 Nevada can pull off a major upset by beating undefeated and third-ranked Boise State, it wouldn’t only knock the Broncos out of any chance they might have to play for a national championship — or in any BCS bowl game, for that matter; it would also mean the Warriors just need to take care of business at lowly New Mexico State the next day to guarantee a share of the Western Athletic Conference championship. And, as it is for just about every other team in the country, the conference championship is one of UH’s biggest goals.
If 15-point home underdog Nevada does it, Boise State would be 6-1 in the WAC with a final game left against Utah State, and Nevada 6-1 with its last game at Louisiana Tech. Assuming the jilted Andrew Manley — NMSU’s freshman quarterback from Leilehua — doesn’t lead the Aggies to a miracle win, Hawaii would be the leader in the clubhouse at 7-1.
IN THE OLD WAC, the Holiday Bowl berth would have been at stake. This situation is somewhat reminiscent of 1992, when after a jam at the top of the standings was sorted out, UH found itself in San Diego in its first mainland bowl game and beating Illinois — despite losing big to Marshall Faulk and San Diego State during the season.
Whatever happens this time, though, UH is locked into the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve, and it’s looking more like a certainty that the opponent won’t be June Jones and SMU. Perhaps it will be Tulsa, which like the Mustangs had a cup of coffee in the WAC; the only difference is Tulsa isn’t led by the winningest coach in UH’s football history.
IT MUST STICK in the collective craw of the Wolf Pack (10-1 overall) that if not for a 27-21 loss here last month, the outright WAC championship would be at stake Friday, not just a share — and an undefeated Nevada could have been in line for a BCS bowl.
No wonder coach Chris Ault doesn’t like coming here, where his team has never beaten the Warriors. That also makes it funny that Nevada thought it had played at Aloha Stadium for the last time with its escape to the Mountain West. But now the Warriors are headed there, too … thanks in part to the support of the UNLV administration, giving the Wolf Pack yet another reason for disdain of their in-state rival Rebels.
After beating the Wolf Pack here in October, some of the Warriors said playing the spoiler role against a favored, undefeated visitor provided extra motivation.
They hope Nevada is juiced up for the same reasons when it hosts Boise State on Friday, with a share of the WAC championship on the line.