Saturday’s contest between the Hawai’i Warriors and the Nevada Wolfpack will not be high on even the most ardent college football fan’s radar.
Two unranked teams from a non-BCS conference in only the fourth week of the season?
McKayla is not impressed.
Outside of a few blips on ESPN and one or two cursory mentions on College Gameday, there hasn’t been much to get anyone outside of Reno and Honolulu revved about this week’s match-up.
Hawai’i hasn’t been relevant on the national scene since 2007 when they went to the Sugar Bowl (and that ended badly for them) and Nevada has never had anything to do with the BCS conversation outside of throwing a wrench in Boise’s postseason plans two years ago, ruining a perfect season for the Broncos and claiming a share of the WAC title (with BSU and, ironically, Hawai’i).
But even if you really only ever care about “your team”, here’s five reasons why you should tune-in to this nationally televised game:
1. Rivalry – This match might not be referred to by some cool name like the Civil War or Big Game and the winner might not be taking home a late 19th century jug or an axe named after some mythical giant (on a side note, doesn’t it seem a little, oh, I don’t know, unsafe to be running willy-nilly on a football field with a six-foot long axe that you steal from the other team after you win), but UH and UNR have locked helmets 16 times dating back to 1920, with the all-time record for both teams at 8-8 and have alternated wins the last four years. The schools have also always been about even record-wise and talent-wise, which leads us to number 2.
2. History of Close Games – Eight out of the last 11 games between the squads have been decided by 10 points or less. Ohio State/Michigan, by comparison, is 6 out of 11 and Texas/Oklahoma a meager 4 out of 11 over the same time period. While last year’s game was for the most part one-sided in a two-touchdown win for Nevada, the 2010 match-up will be remembered for a late 4th-quarter interception by current Dallas Cowboy Mana Silva on a wet night in Halawa, preserving the six-point victory for the Warriors, on a night when phenom QB Colin Kaepernick for the most part shined for the boys in blue.
3. Memorable Moments – There have been several memorable moments over the past years etched into my mind. No one will ever forget 2007. Hawai’i, who came in 9-0 and ranked #13 in the nation, would not be with the services of their Heisman finalist, Colt Brennan, who suffered an injury in the previous game. In Brennan’s place (and large shadow) stepped Tyler Graunke, who played magnificently, bringing the Warriors within one point, when with 11.7 seconds left, Dan Kelly kicked a 45 yard field goal to seal the win for UH on a cold November night in Reno, preserving the Warriors perfect record and keeping their BCS dreams alive. In 2011, it was freshman Cody Fajardo of the Wolfpack, whose 290 passing yards and three TDs solidified his place as WAC Freshman of the Year. In 2010, before Kaepernick would throw the game-ending interception in a game in which Nevada entered as #19 in the country, he would have a moment he would surely like not to remember. On 3rd and Five from the Hawai’i 10 yard line, facing heavy penetration from the UH front seven, Kaepernick was able to escape the pressure and find what seemed – at least to him – to be an open lane straight to the pylon, but right before the QB could get the ball over the line, it would be punched out of his hand by Corey Paredes, who would say after the game that Kaepernick was “Hollywooding” it, in reference to the QB’s decision not to tuck the ball in that crucial situation. Surely, the 2012 edition will have something in store for fans of both teams.
4. Coaches – What could be a bigger storyline than the two sexagenarians Hall of Famer Chris Ault and 3-time National Champion Norm Chow battling it out in the twilight of their storied careers? Nick Rolovich. “Rolo”, as he’s affectionately called in the Islands, is now the Offensive Coordinator at Nevada. Last year, the former Hawai’i QB best known for his eye-popping eight touchdowns and 543 yards in 2001 against top 5 ranked BYU, was calling plays with the H logo on his shirt. The run-and-shoot protégé of former Hawai’i head coach June Jones, Rolovich was also considered a candidate for the UH head coaching vacancy when Greg McMackin resigned. Think Rolo’s got something in store for his alma mater?
5. First Mountain West Conference Game For Both Teams…Ever – In the MWC race for the top, this could be a game that has repercussions later in the season; a win for either team could be vital, especially with Boise St. as a conference mate once again. The fact that both teams are in the same league is ironic as Nevada, along with Fresno St., had made the decision to bolt for the Mountain West once it started to look gloomy for the WAC. But when the MWC started losing its own members, an invitation was extended to UH, who awkwardly accepted, as they had criticized the two schools for jumping ship on their beleaguered former conference associates.
Enjoy the game!