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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, January 19, 2010

UH needs game plan to tackle altitude


By Ferd Lewis

The key to playing well at altitude, the University of Hawai'i football coach felt, was to go in early and practice hard.

So, UH arrived in Denver five days before the game and worked out behind the closed gates at the private estate of a wealthy Colorado sportsman.

The coach was the legendary Otto Klum, the year was 1935 and the "Deans" as the team was then known, dropped a 14-7 decision to the University of Denver Pioneers on what became UH's first 0-2 Mainland road trip.

Seventy-five years and 14 head coaches later the issue of how best to approach a game at altitude is something UH still wrestles with as it prepares for the 2010 season.

Now it is Greg McMackin's turn.

When you have a potentially pivotal road trip early in the season, charters to book and accommodations to reserve, it is never too early to map a strategy and iron out the details for the school's longest-ever roadtrip in terms of mileage.

And this is an important trip. After opening with Southern California Sept. 2 at Aloha Stadium and Army Sept. 11 at West Point, N.Y., the Warriors will play Colorado Sept. 18. UH would like, of course, to sweep the two-game trip. Getting to the postseason might require a bottom line of at least splitting the trip.

So, yes, there has been some thought going into this and while finances are being watched, the marching orders are to undertake what has the best chance of making the Warriors competitive.

Plans call for UH to charter into Newark, N.J., for the West Point stop. But yet to be booked and perhaps most critical is the approach to the game with the Buffaloes in Boulder, Colo.

The options include staying in the New York area for a couple of days, flying into Denver immediately after the Army game or holding up somewhere else (Las Vegas?) and then swooping in on Boulder. Ruled out for both reasons has been a return to Honolulu in between.

At 5,440 feet, Folsom Field is a challenge. One not unlike those posed by the trips in the once-upon-a-time Western Athletic Conference to Wyoming, Colorado State, Air Force and such undertaken by McMackin's predecessors.

To date UH's approaches have run the gamut from tackling altitude assignments by early arrival to going in late, commando raid style.

After a 49-17 upset loss at Utah State in his first mountain ascent as UH coach in 2008, McMackin vowed never again to go in less than 48 hours before a contest.

Come Sept. 18, we'll see if, going on 75 years, UH is any closer to solving the altitude approach.