UH's goal: WAC repeat
|||UH won't be facing Tomey of old|
By Stephen Tsai
By Stephen Tsai
The University of Hawai'i football team begins defense of its Western Athletic Conference championship with tonight's game against San Jose State.
"It's very important," cornerback Ryan Mouton said. "We have to come out and play like we're WAC champs. We'd better defend (the title) because everybody wants it."
This is the Warriors' 30th season of WAC membership. Last year was the only time they won the WAC title outright. They shared the league title in 1992 and 1999.
"We're defending last year's team's championship," said Greg McMackin, UH's first-year head coach. "Our goal is to win the WAC championship."
McMackin had planned to divide the Warriors' goals into segment. The first three games against non-conference opponents — they lost to Florida and Oregon State but beat Weber State — were considered to be "preseason" contests.
The new approach, McMackin said, is to focus on "winning one game a week."
He added: "If you start talking about the streaks and how many times we've beaten this team or that team and winning the rest of the games, it gets too mind-boggling. I've tried to simplify it for the players and the coaches. It's our focus to win one game a week. And then we need to accomplish that, and go to the next one, and win one game that week."
The series is tied between the teams at 15-15-1, but the Warriors have won the last seven meetings.
But that means little to McMackin, who has spent the bye week and this week trying to boost an offense that is converting only 15 percent of its third-down plays, a defense that has forced two turnovers in three games, and special-team units that have been consistently inconsistent.
Quarterback Tyler Graunke appears to have recovered from an injury to his right (throwing) hand suffered in the Sept. 13 Oregon State game. Last week, he was unable to grip a football. Now, he can play without a wrap on the base of his right thumb. Before the injury, he could throw up to 70 yards. He currently can throw about 60 yards without any difficulty.
McMackin said Graunke and Inoke Funaki will both be used. McMackin said he will not announce the starting quarterback until just before kickoff.
But the Warriors welcome back running back David Farmer (partially torn MCL) and defensive tackle Rocky Savaiigaea (torn left triceps). Both have not played a down this season.
After a week of auditions, the Warriors have made several personnel changes in the special-team units. Some starters — linebackers Adam Leonard and Solomon Elimimian, cornerback Calvin Roberts and safety Erik "E-Rob" Robinson — will be used on punt or kickoff teams.
"I think they'll boost energy, momentum, enthusiasm — all of those things you want before the defense goes on the field," said Ikaika Malloe, who coordinates the special-team units.
Visit Tsai's blog at http://warriorbeat.honadvblogs.com.
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.