First look: Hawaii

Hawaii never paid much attention to the “run” part of the run-and-shoot anyway, and last year, the gun often got jammed when it fired off a shot.

The Warriors finished seventh in the Western Athletic Conference in scoring offense, their running game sporadic and their passing game often much ado about nothing.

So, coach Greg McMackin brought back one of the innovators of the offense, 77-year old Mouse Davis, who taught it to MacMacklin’s predecessor, June Jones. If Hawaii gets back on target, keeping up with its wide-open offense can be a challenge for opponents. USC has an untested secondary.

There’s where the Warriors’ hopes lie Thursday at Aloha Stadium against the No. 14 Trojans.

“The defense can never be right if we’re executing what we’re doing as far as reading routes,” McMackin said.

The biggest question for Hawaii going into this game isn’t about routes -- quarterback Bryant Moniz, a former walk-on, returns as does leading receiver Greg Salas -- it’s about buying time. Hawaii lost four of its five starting offensive linemen, including standout center John Estes. The Trojans are big and athletic in the front seven.

If USC routes Hawaii and things don’t go well in the conference, McMackin could be on the hot seat. He had the misfortune of following Jones after an undefeated regular season and Sugar Bowl appearance. Last year, Hawaii finished one win short of bowl eligibility. McMackin said it’s the best job he’s ever had. He was headed to SMU as an assistant to Jones when he got a call from the university president, who offered him the job before the 2008 season.

“We’re the only show in town,” he said. “They pray for you to win. Eighty percent of the fans are with you. It’s a lot different than most places. You always have people who aren’t happy on blogs and radio shows. I won’t name them.”