During a team meeting this week, Hawaii head coach Greg McMackin spoke of the importance of a final impression.
The 24th-ranked Warriors end their football season against Tulsa in today’s Sheraton Hawaii Bowl at Aloha Stadium.
McMackin wants a more hopeful ending than the finishes to the past three seasons — blowout losses to Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, to Notre Dame in the Hawaii Bowl and to Wisconsin in the 2009 regular-season finale.
"Coach said: ‘You’re only as good as your last game,’" quarterback Bryant Moniz said. "Right now, we’re pretty good because we beat UNLV in our last game. If we lose this game, that’s how we’ll be remembered for the offseason, and it’s a long offseason. I know we’re working hard to make it different this year."
Right slotback Kealoha Pilares said McMackin wrote the goals on a board: 11 victories, national ranking.
The Warriors (10-3) are seeking to win 11 games for the third time in the program’s 101-year-old history.
"You only remember the last game you play, and this is our last game," Pilares said. "We want to finish strong."
The Warriors missed 20 school days because of five trips involving six road games. They traveled approximately 35,000 miles.
"They made a mistake on coach of the year," McMackin said. "It should go to Al (Ginoza, UH’s equipment coordinator). He did a heck of a job with all of the traveling we did."
Because of the final-exam schedule and players needing to complete assignments, the Warriors did not have a fully attended practice until last Sunday, and that was in a driving storm.
But linebacker Corey Paredes said the Warriors have had ample preparation time.
"This is more than we get for some of our other games," Paredes said.
The outlines for UH’s game plans have been in place for more than a week. A concern was the quick pace of the Golden Hurricane’s no-huddle, hurry-up offense. But the Warriors believe they addressed that with accelerated drills.
"It’s a big game," Paredes said. "We want to win out. It’s such a great season. We don’t want it to end with a bad taste in our mouth."
Tulsa, which has played in the shadow of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State, hopes a victory can be leveraged into a spot in the Top 25 poll, which would boost recruiting and provide momentum entering the 2011 season.
"We have a chance to win 10 games," quarterback G.J. Kinne said. "This is a huge game."
Tulsa (9-3) has won six in a row, a streak that started against Tulane but gained momentum with the Oct. 30 road victory at Notre Dame.
"Ever since, we’ve been on a roll," Kinne said. "We’ve been going into games expecting to win. It’s going to be a great matchup. We have to go in there and execute our game plan."
The plan actually has been developed during the past two decades. Tulsa coach Todd Graham first encountered the no-huddle scheme during the 1993 NAIA championship game. He collected notes on the offensive elements that irked him the most as a defensive coordinator. Those schemes formed the theme of his offensive philosophy when he became head coach at Rice in 2006, and then Tulsa a year later.
The offensive success helps both recruiting and marketing, Graham said.
Graham said the offense is attractive to quarterbacks, running backs and receivers because "our system produces such big numbers. It’s a very attractive system to sell to recruits, to sell season tickets. It’s great for the University of Tulsa."
Graham said this should be one of best matchups of the bowl season.
"Two of the most prolific teams in the country going head-to-head," Graham said. "The winner is going to finish in the Top 25 in the country. The winner has a lot to play for."