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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, November 29, 2008

Warriors take shot at clinching bowl berth

 •  Alexander’s progress a boost for Warriors

By Stephen Tsai
HawaiiWarriorBeat.com Editor


WHAT: College football

WHO: Washington State (2-10, 1-8 Pac-10) at Hawai'i (6-5, 5-3 WAC)

WHEN: Today, 6:05 p.m.

WHERE: Aloha Stadium

TV: Live OC Pay-Per-View (Dig. Ch. 255). Delay, KFVE-TV (Ch. 5), Sunday, 10 a.m.

RADIO: Live, ESPN 1420 AM

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The names on the back of the UnderArmour-tailored uniforms are the same.

But there are few resemblances between the Hawai'i team that opened against Florida and the one that enters tonight's game against Washington State.

"I watched (a video of) the Florida game (Wednesday)," UH head coach Greg McMackin said, "and we're so much different now. We've come so far."

Tonight's starting UH quarterback — Greg Alexander — is the same quarterback who opened against Florida.

"Greg is so much better now," UH quarterback coach Nick Rolovich said of the transfer from Santa Rosa Junior College. "He knows the offense. He's calm. He really gets it."

Alexander has not thrown an interception since the Florida game, a streak of 118 consecutive passes. He will make his fourth start in a row tonight.

McMackin said in rebuilding an offense that needed to replace four receivers and a record-setting quarterback from a year ago, the Warriors had to endure the growing pains.

"We needed to get to a point where everybody understood," McMackin said. "We needed the game reps."

Now, McMackin said, "as you can see, we're peaking."

During the middle of the season, Rolovich said, the Warriors ran an option-read variation of the run-and-shoot offense to take advantage of quarterback Inoke Funaki's elusiveness.

But the emergence of Alexander allowed a return to the more-familiar concepts of the run-and-shoot offense.

"We're running the true run-and-shoot, and that's why we're getting better," McMackin said. 'We're doing the same reps. Now you can see the timing of it."

Offensive coordinator Ron Lee said the schemes chosen matched the Warriors' development level.

"What we tried to do to get by Florida is a lot different than what we tried to do against New Mexico State," Lee said. "But it's the same offense. It's all part of the same package. It's stuff that we know. Everybody says we changed our offense. We didn't. You just don't put in an offense in a week. We're running the same stuff. But it looks a little better than it did six weeks ago. It takes time."

The Warriors are down to their last two regular-season games.

With a 6-5 record, they need to beat either Washington State tonight or Big East champion Cincinnati next week to finish with a winning regular season and earn the accompanying berth in the Dec. 24 Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

"It's going to be a tough game this week, but (the players) know what they have to do," McMackin said. "They know what's on the line. They're together in their attitude. It'll be a good ball game."

The Warriors are expected to be without two of their playmakers — running back/slotback Kealoha Pilares (sprained foot) and defensive back Ryan Mouton (high-ankle sprain).

McMackin said the Warriors are better prepared to deal with the personnel losses at this point of the season.

"We lost Mouton and E-Rob (safety Erik Robinson) last game, and the guys came in and did a great job," McMackin said. "It's a tough game. Everybody has injuries. If somebody can't play, somebody else has to step up."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.