November 4, 2010

Hawaii quietly winning with No. 2 Broncos on deck

HONOLULU (AP) While Boise State and Nevada have grabbed the spotlight this season, another Western Athletic Conference school is quietly racking up wins.

Hawaii (7-2, 5-0 WAC) has breezed through its competition in the past six weeks, with the closest game a six-point win against Nevada, and surprisingly given itself a shot at stealing the conference title from the No. 2 Broncos in a season where the Warriors were predicted to finish near the bottom of the league.

"I think we're peaking right now. I think it's a good time for us," Warriors coach Greg McMackin said.

The confident and Hawaii Bowl-bound Warriors will see exactly how far they've come when they face the heavily favored Boise State on the road Saturday.

"There's a lot at stake on this game for both teams. That's the way you want it," McMackin said. "You want to get in a situation like this. That's what it's all about."

The matchup is the biggest in McMackin's three seasons at Hawaii. But he insists there's more pressure on the Broncos (7-0, 3-0), who are chasing another perfect season and a national title.

"They probably have more to lose than we have because they're looking at the national stage," McMackin said. "We've already got our bowl taken care of. We're looking for the WAC championship, and they are, too."

The Warriors, who have won six straight by an average margin of 30 points, are largely known for a high-octane offense that leads the nation in passing. But it's their aggressive defense that has given them new life and success this year.

Hawaii ranks second in the nation behind Oregon with 24 takeaways, including 21 in the past six games.

"It's us playing as a team - playing as one now," said safety Mana Silva, who has five interceptions, giving him 12 for his career, one shy of a school record. "Earlier in the season, we were confused ... Now, (the coaches) simplified it for us. They invested a lot of time and we're able to make plays and that's what's happening right now."

Hawaii has won its last eight conference games dating to last season, while the Broncos have dominated the WAC for the past decade.

Boise State hasn't lost a WAC game since 2007 - and that loss came against Hawaii. But the Broncos embarrassed the Warriors last year at Aloha Stadium, 54-9, and knocked quarterback Bryant Moniz out of the game in the first quarter. It was Hawaii's worst loss in four years.

And the Warriors realize this is their last chance to unseat the Broncos as the WAC kings. Boise State is leaving the WAC for the Mountain West Conference next season.


"We know the opportunity that's ahead of us - (a chance at being) the only WAC team to beat them on their field and the last team to do it. So we're just excited for the opportunity and ready for the challenge," said Moniz, who leads the nation in passing (360.8 yards) and total offense (373.4).

Moniz has gained confidence with every snap and is enjoying a breakout season. He has already thrown for 3,247 yards, 25 touchdowns and completed 66 percent of his passes.

"It may be weird to say, but the offense is really easy. It's not hard at all," Moniz said. "I think that's because playing last year and this year, getting all the experience and all the timing down. After you get it, it's just fun to play."

Boise State's quarterback isn't too shabby either. Kellen Moore leads the nation in passing efficiency and is the key to an offense that averages 47.7 points and 516 yards a game.

Hawaii accepted an invitation to its hometown bowl following its 45-10 victory over Idaho. After a brief on-field ceremony, the Warriors immediately set their sights on Boise State.

Moniz said after the game: "Now it's that week to get another victory and really put our name out there and let people know what Hawaii football is about."

But McMackin said he's not too worried about a lack of attention or being left out of the rankings.

"People just don't know the size of our guys' hearts and how hard they've worked in the offseason and how smart they are and what kind of coaches we have here," he said. "We've already proved our league, who should know us better than anybody, wrong. So, the national ranking, whatever ends up at the end of the year, is what counts anyway."


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