There has always been a feeling of isolation in Hawaii. The islands are so far from the mainland and the time difference is so substantial that fans on the East Coast who want to watch the Warriors play need some NoDoze to keep them awake until the wee hours of the morning.
That is why credit is sometimes so hard to come by, because Hawaii is almost like a forgotten team. Losing 41-10 to Georgia in the 2008 Sugar Bowl after an undefeated regular season got the Warriors into the BCS for the first time did not help, either, because of the magnitude of the game.
Getting there was the high point for the program. Coach June Jones, who resurrected the Warriors and got to that point, left for SMU. Greg McMackin took over with mixed results, losing to Notre Dame in the Hawaii Bowl in 2008 and coming up just short of a bowl last season.
But with Bryant Moniz leading the way in 2010, Hawaii is vastly improved. You may not know it, though, the way the WAC schedule gets denigrated on a daily basis. You may not know it if you look at the polls, which feature Nevada back in the Top 25. Nevada has a loss this season -- to Hawaii.
Meanwhile, the Warriors (7-2, 5-0 WAC) have reeled off six straight wins. At around 3:30 a.m. ET Sunday morning, Hawaii accepted an invitation to the Hawaii Bowl, the earliest the Warriors have ever secured a bowl invite. They are the first school officially into a bowl game this season.
Now comes the national spotlight, and a chance to show what is happening on the islands with a game at No. 4 Boise State (7-0, 3-0) on Saturday.
“We were supposed to be fifth to eighth in the conference from the people who did know us,” McMackin said on the WAC conference call Monday. “It really isn’t that big a deal. I’ve been on top-ranked teams -- it’s where you end up at the end. A lot of guys out there really don’t know your team and their hearts and what they do and how hard they work and that type of thing. It doesn’t bother me at all.”
You will not need an extra shot of espresso to stay up for this one -- it is an afternoon kickoff. For No. 4 Boise State, perfection is expected each week, but that is going to prove to be a difficult task against a Hawaii team that leads the nation in passing.
Moniz has improved dramatically since taking over the starting quarterback job last season, and with good reason. He started off as a walk-on buried on the depth chart, but injuries forced him into a starting role. Now that he has much more experience and a better grasp of a complicated offense, he is flourishing. Moniz is the only quarterback this season over 3,000 yards passing.
The defense has played well, too. Hawaii has given up 30-plus points twice this season, and just 17 points in its past two games. Of their two losses, the first was a valiant effort against USC, in which Moniz had to sit out the fourth quarter because of a hit to the head. The second was at Colorado at the end of a 12-day road trip that also featured a win at Army -- the furthest East the program had ever traveled.
That last loss -- Sept. 18.
“Hawaii’s playing as good as anybody out there,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “They’re on quite a roll.”
One last note to remember: Hawaii is the last team to beat Boise State in the regular season, 39-27 on Nov. 23, 2007, in Honolulu.