Lead in WAC, postseason at stake
By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Columnist
It is the first weekend of October and the leaves have barely begun to change colors here, surely too soon to think about the postseason.
Or, is it?
Not if you are the University of Hawai'i and Boise State, who meet in an important Western Athletic Conference showdown tomorrow. And, especially not after the lump of coal they each found in their Christmas stockings last season.
When we last glimpsed them in 2001, UH and Boise State were on the sidelines when the bowls were played. They were left without a place to land in the WAC version of Musical Chairs.
Despite a 9-3 record and that resounding thumping of previously unbeaten Brigham Young on national television, the Warriors were home in front of the television set when the postseason parade passed by.
And, despite an 8-3 record and wins over Fresno State and UH, the Broncos were even worse off. They were home watching someone else, Louisiana Tech, use their facilities to prepare for their hometown game, the Humanitarian Bowl.
All this while a handful of 6-5 teams partied on.
So as the Warriors and Broncos meet, a pair of 3-1 teams with high hopes for this season and enduring memories about the last one, there is an early importance to this game which will give the winner the driver's seat in the WAC race and a leg up on a lot more.
"We know what a win here this week can do for us and I'm sure Hawai'i is thinking the same thing about what it would mean for them," said Brock Forsey, Boise State's All-WAC running back.
"We both know we have to take care of business if we don't want to repeat what happened last year," Forsey said.
Here, at BSU, the sight of Louisiana Tech's team vans and buses pulling up on the Boise State campus at bowl time struck a painful nerve and served as a six month call to action.
"It bothered a lot of our players and coaches and they decided to do something about it," said Jeff Pittman, BSU's strength coach who came up with the "Leave No Doubt" slogan that has become the Broncos' rallying cry.
Boise State, the preseason pick to win the WAC, wants to leave nothing to doubt or chance this season. Win the conference, the Broncos have come to realize the hard way, and they will go to a bowl.
The Warriors, for whom there was no magic number last season, have one this year and it is seven. Seven victories over the course of this 13-game regular season assures UH the host spot in the inaugural ConAgra Foods Hawai'i Bowl.
For them, a win over Boise State would mean being suddenly halfway to their goal with eight games remaining. That would be a good position to be in with the schedule backloaded with its toughest tests: Fresno State, Alabama, Cincinnati and Rice.
A UH loss, however, and the Warriors' margin for error the rest of the way begins to get thin.
And, after what happened last year, nobody in this game wants to leave anything to chance this season.