Thursday | November 23, 2017
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Reardon: Warriors better bye right to reach a bowl

As you may have heard by now, former University of Hawaii football coach Dick Tomey has a book out this week.

We don’t know yet if “Rise of the Rainbow Warriors: 10 Unforgettable Years of University of Hawaii Football” includes a chapter devoted to getting the most out of open dates on the schedule, but Tomey was a master at it in his time at UH (1977-86).

His Rainbow Warrior teams were 11-7-1 coming off open dates, best among UH coaches in the all-college era.

Such a chapter would make for timely reading in Manoa this week as the ‘Bows (3-4) prepare for the final, telltale five games of the regular season needing to win at least three to earn bowl eligibility.

It is a task that takes on added importance now that the team’s leader in receiving yards, slotback John Ursua, is out for the season with a knee injury.

How, for example, does head coach Nick Rolovich attempt to take some of the sting out of the loss of Ursua? And what defensive staff changes might Rolovich be willing to consider to assure that the ‘Bows don’t continue to get victimized in expanses of wide-open landscape up the middle on defense?

As such it has the potential to be the most pivotal open date opportunity UH has had since 2010, when the ‘Bows used the break to rebound from a 42-7 shelling by Boise State, win their final three regular-season games and earn a share of the Western Athletic Conference championship.

So there is precedent here for a team looking for new answers — and finding them — in the less than half of a season remaining.

There’s no title in the cards this time, but what they do in the intervening period could shape up as the Rainbow Warriors’ best shot at securing a postseason appearance for a while.

Consider that the NCAA currently ranks UH’s schedule this year 125th among 131 Football Bowl Subdivisions teams. And, no, that enduring basketball punching bag, Arkansas Pine Bluff, is remarkably nowhere to be found on it.

But just two of the five remaining teams, San Diego State (6-1) and Fresno State (4-2), have winning records at this point. Both of them come to Aloha Stadium.

The teams UH has already played are a combined 7-23 and the ones that follow are 12-15, a cumulative 32.8 winning percentage, the least compelling in at least five years.

The next two years UH returns to playing a full 13-game schedule, so two open dates in the season is a luxury that may no longer be afforded them. Senior running back Diocemy Saint Juste and much of his offensive line are assets they definitely won’t have.

Next year they play nonconference games at Brigham Young and Army, with Navy, Rice and Duquesne coming here. In 2019 UH plays Washington (road), Arizona and Oregon State, along with Army and Central Arkansas, both years needing seven victories, instead of six, to earn bowl eligibility.

So, the ‘Bows have their work cut out for them over the long haul and need to make the most of what lays before them in the short term this season.

In Rolovich’s first year UH parlayed an open date before Nevada into a key victory. This year, with two open dates carefully calculated to give UH an edge it hasn’t had in recent years, the open date before Wyoming didn’t yield a victory.

What they do now with their time before the Oct. 28 date with the Aztecs on ESPN2 figures to say a lot about their fortunes.

 

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