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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, September 28, 2008

Tomey's mantras ring true against UH

By Ferd Lewis

If you had closed your eyes and heard Dick Tomey's voice after last night's game, you'd have sworn it was from a quarter-century old tape recording dusted off and culled from the archives.

"A chance to win one in the fourth quarter ... "

"Turnovers are the most devastating thing that can happen in football ... "

"Special teams and defense ... "

All vintage Tomey-isms from a time (1977-86) when he was the University of Hawai'i's football coach.

And all, unfortunately for the Warriors, painfully accurate and textbook true to this night and season in a numbing 20-17 loss to Tomey's San Jose State Spartans.

On what was officially an "Alumni Night" promotion, the man who had been UH's longest-serving Division I-A football coach posed, lei around his neck, for photos under an Aloha Stadium scoreboard that, in its low-scoring totals, seemed to recall the Tomey tenure.

Probably not more than a handful of times in the 22 seasons since the now 70-year-old Tomey left has a team home or visitor won a game here with just 20 points.

But, then, when the home team commits six turnovers five in the second half and can't muster a second-half point, 20 is plenty. At least it was last night when, despite the banners beseeching to "Protect This House" the Warriors could neither manage that task nor look much like the defending Western Athletic Conference champions they were.

I mean, when was the last time a Warrior team went without a passing touchdown at home?

But that is the kind of barely recognizable season this has turned into for the 1-3 Warriors and the 36,766 who were on hand.

The Warriors had three times as many turnovers as touchdowns. They gave up six sacks and committed 11 penalties for 115 yards, too many of them on head-shaking personal fouls.

Squandered was three-plus quarters of inspired defense that eventually wore down under the burden of cleaning up after an offense that leads the nation in turnovers.

At one point the UH defense held the Spartans from scoring on nine consecutive series. But a Warrior offense that ranks 119th in turnover differential was unable to put much breathing room between it and the Spartans and it came back to haunt the Warriors.

Though San Jose State scored its first touchdown and only first-half points on a bit of trickeration with a flea-flicker, this game was won (and lost) on the basics.

Elements that were to have been shored up during an open week.

"The toughest thing," Tomey said afterward, "is to win in the fourth quarter on the road ... and against a team that has had a bye week."

So, for the first time in 10 games over three season, there was jubilation flowing in the visitors' locker room in Halawa.

For the first time in 16 WAC games over three seasons, somebody other than UH had something to celebrate. And did.

Did Tomey think it would take six turnovers for San Jose State to finally beat UH after seven tries under two coaching regimes?

"I don't give a bleep," Tomey said. "We won a close game in the fourth quarter."

Vintage Tomey.

To the end.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com.