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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 27, 2008

Let the scheming commence

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

Hawai'i football coach Greg McMackin holds quarterback Tyler Graunke out of some drills and maintains the choice of the starter at the position will be ... drum roll, please ... a game-time decision.

San Jose State coach Dick Tomey says Hawai'i will be fine at quarterback with Graunke, whose career he has followed for years and whose exploits last year he lavishly salutes.

UH announces it is limiting access to its practices, dangling the possibility that some trick plays may be afoot.

Ah, scheming gamesmanship, don't you just love it?

UH might be 1-2 and San Jose State 2-2, but there is an element of showdown game machination to tonight's 6:05 meeting at Aloha Stadium.

Two of the oldest football coaches at this level not named Joe Paterno or Bobby Bowden have gone back to their dog-eared coaches' manuals for this WAC opener.

To be sure, these are two coaches who have worked side-by-side and against each other over the decades. One, age 70 (Tomey), known hereabouts for his "muddle huddle." The other, 63 (McMackin), no less cunning.

Neither is above giving the other a little jab when he can. Both are of the mindset that it is the people you know and respect that you most want to beat.

But there is another reason for the coyness and craftiness this week. Both need this game badly. Though it is early in the season it is not premature to see that the loser is going to have an uphill trek to earn a bowl bid.

With seven victories required to be bowl eligible, UH needs to sweep its seven home games or, at the least, take six of them. That is because, other than Utah State, it is hard to see where many road victories will come. So, dropping this one with Nevada, Washington State and Cincinnati still to come would not bode well for the postseason.

Meanwhile, Tomey, in three seasons, has lifted San Jose State from the sadsack state (5-17 in the two previous years) in which he found it to a middle-of-the-WAC program. But an inability to beat UH over the past seven years is one of the things holding the Spartans back from a higher echelon.

Three of the last five games in the series, including last year's 42-35 overtime thriller in San Jose, have been decided by a touchdown or less. Truth be told, the Spartans should have won three of them.

Tomey is determined not to let another slip away. Nor can McMackin afford to. Hence the bag of tricks is wide open.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.