Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 |
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LIHU‘E — A win would give the Warriors a 10-win season for just the sixth time in school history.
The University of Hawai‘i (9-3, 7-1 Western Athletic Conference) is set to send off its senior class today after a successful season and with a WAC championship in hand.
The final regular season contest will pit the Warriors against the UNLV Rebels (2-10, 2-6 Mountain West Conference) with kickoff scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Aloha Stadium.
UH accomplished double-digit victories in both the 2006 and 2007 seasons, but had won seven and six games the past two seasons — the first two under head coach Greg McMackin.
Now Coach Mack has a chance to run his record to 23-17 as head coach at UH and move the 25th-ranked Warriors even further up in the polls.
Nevada’s upset of then-unbeaten Boise State last week, combined with the Warriors’ 59-24 pounding of New Mexico State, assured Hawai‘i a share of the WAC title.
“Obviously we learned we had that position to compete for the co-championship the night before,” McMackin said at his weekly press conference, Sunday. “The guys were really excited. They were all watching TV. So I heard the eruption from the hotel. We were put in a position to play for that.”
Boise State and Nevada each sit at 6-1 in the conference, needing to win today to claim a share along with Hawai‘i.
For a team that was projected seventh in the conference by preseason voting, such a result is a true testament to the all-around improvement of this UH team.
“I think the guys have done it the right way because they’ve played one game at a time and we’re still not finished,” McMackin said. “I’m really proud of the players and I’m really proud of the coaches. I give all credit to the coaches and the players. The players made plays and the coaches have done a great job of coaching their players and getting them better and better. We’re pleased right now but we’re not finished.”
The Rebels come in to Aloha Stadium looking for anything positive after a difficult season that ran them into six ranked opponents (Wisconsin, West Virginia, Nevada, TCU, Utah, Hawai‘i). Last season, UNLV won a 34-33 thriller on its home field, scoring the game-winning touchdown with only 34 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. McMackin called this “a very important ball game to us.”
“It’s Senior (Night) and this is a team that beat us last year,” he said.
There will be 28 seniors who will participate in the traditional Senior Walk festivities at the conclusion of the game, including Kapa‘a’s Kamalu Umu. The defensive end had an interception in last weekend’s 59-24 win over New Mexico State.
Also among that group is wide receiver Greg Salas, who broke the school’s all-time receiving yards record last week and now needs eight receptions to break Davone Bess’ single-season mark of 108 from the 2007 season, as well as 133 yards to eclipse Ashley Lelie’s record 1,713 in 2001.
“We have some big-time play makers we’re gong to have to replace, but we’ve got guys coming,” McMackin said. “We have recruits and we have some guys that are backing up that haven’t got as many reps. You think of Greg Salas, all the great receivers we have around here and he has over 4,000 yards. That’s big time.”
Running back Alex Green is coming off the best rushing day in UH history, as the senior had 327 yards on just 19 carries against NMSU, which pushed him well over 1,000 yards on the year.
Quarterback Bryant Moniz leads the nation in passing yards per game (354.1) and has been even better at home, going for 394.8 a game at Aloha Stadium.
As a whole, the team has averaged 42.7 points and 547.3 yards per game this season in Honolulu, where it is 5-1, having suffered just a 49-36 loss to USC in the season opener.
The team will have at least one more game in the friendly confines after today, having already accepted a bid for the Sheraton Hawai‘i Bowl, which will take place at 3 p.m. on Dec. 24.
Today’s game will be broadcast live on ESPN 1420 AM radio.
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