Everything you need to know about the University of Hawaii’s latest season-ending football fiasco was summed up in one brief, revealing postgame moment last night at the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
Tulsa head coach Todd Graham quietly leaned over and apologized to his UH counterpart, Greg McMackin, for the way the Golden Hurricane scored their last touchdown.
It isn’t everyday that the nation’s No. 1 passing team — and somebody in the top 10 in total offense and scoring — finds itself the object of sympathy. Especially on its own field, where it had been a double-digit-point favorite.
But that was the way it went in a 62-35 thumping at Aloha Stadium.
When the 3-hour, 54-minute debacle was over, the Warriors bolted off a field Tulsa players had turned into a floating Kodak moment, taking pictures in the end zone, on the 50-yard line, under the scoreboard, you name it.
Along with the field, the Golden Hurricane likely claimed the spot in the Top 25 polls that had belonged to UH for the past month.
Indeed, what was supposed to have been a robust December exclamation point on a season to remember for the Warriors instead became the latest in a series of year-ending thuds. If you’re counting, the Warriors have been outscored a collective 203-76 in losing their last four season finales — the 2008 Sugar Bowl, 2008 Hawaii Bowl, 2009 Wisconsin game and, now, Tulsa.
An otherwise wonderful 10-win season that should have reached a record-tying 11 was besmirched at the end as six turnovers, ill-timed penalties, second-half defensive breakdowns and the loss of three players to postseason ineligibility that sent the remnants of a crowd of 41,089 into the night shaking their heads.
And, if you believe the Golden Hurricane, it added up to one huge payback of sorts, too. What was supposed to have been a running play in the waning minutes became a 9-yard Kinne touchdown pass to Damaris Johnson with 1 minute, 16 seconds remaining because the pass option opened up, Kinne and Graham said.
Not that Kinne seemed nearly as sorry as his head coach about the turn of events. "Maybe," Kinne said pointedly, "they shouldn’t have booed our highlight film at the banquet."
"That boosted us up," said TU running back Alex Singleton, who scored two touchdowns. "That fired us up. After that happened, I knew we were going to win."
In the process, the Golden Hurricane football team scored almost as many points as the last visit here by its basketball team (73 in 2004-05).
For much of that they could thank an uncharacteristic night by the Warriors. A UH team that had led the nation in acquiring turnovers (36) and interceptions (23) had the tables turned with six first-half turnovers (five interceptions and a fumble).
"Hawaii gets hit by a Hurricane" and "Hurricane season in Hawaii" the signs in the TU section read.
It was the biggest give-away of the night, dwarfing even the $64,385 check given to Hawaii Bowl charities at the start of the fourth quarter.
Along with an 8-yard shanked punt, they either directly resulted in or set up all 27 of Tulsa’s first-half points.
As he exited the field at halftime, McMackin told ESPN, "this is new to us."
Still, the Warriors were very much in the game until the third quarter, when the one thing UH had been able to hang its helmet on, a stellar defense, finally broke down, surrendering three touchdown drives of 45 seconds or less.
Suddenly, it was hard to tell which team entered the game No. 1 in passing and which one was No. 105 in pass defense. Not to mention which team had baked in the afternoon sun and which one was the ceremonial home team.
"Our bowl, our night," the Tulsa players roared at midfield.
And, this time, they offered no apologies.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.