Hawaii Football: Warriors Are 'Still Alive' McMackin Says, After Topping Tulane
Honolulu, HI—As rain drops fell to the turf at Hawaiian Airlines Field and his team reacquainted itself with the pleasant taste of victory, Hawaii head football coach Greg McMackin approached his offensive coordinator, Nick Rolovich, with a pep in his step and a smile on his face to deliver a bear hug and a message.
"We're still alive! We're still alive!" McMackin roared.
His words offered the perfect summation of Hawaii's 35-23 win over Tulane on Saturday night and the 12 weeks that preceded it. For all of the adversity, injuries and criticism that Hawaii has endured this season, none of it was enough to bury the Warriors.
With one game left to play in the regular season, they still have everything to play for—Western Athletic Conference title be damned.
"I am very proud of my team and my coaches," McMackin said after the game. "Tulane played really hard...It got pretty competitive and pretty close at a certain point; too close for me. I'm just really proud that our players fought like that."
Though it took Hawaii (6-6) just six plays and three-and-a-half minutes to score a touchdown on its opening drive, Tulane (2-11) proved it was no pushover and kept the contest close well into the fourth quarter.
Shane Austin, having taken over quarterbacking duties from David Graves at the end of the third quarter, led Hawaii on a 10-play, 71-yard touchdown drive with 7:03 left to ice the game.
"That was a hard-fought game and maybe harder than it should have been," McMackin said.
"David did a great job, some of those plays that he made were unbelievable; running out of [the pocket] and throwing all the way down [the field] and then using his feet to run around. But towards the end he was really missing on some passes and I wasn't sure if he got hurt."
Graves said that he had blurry vision after taking a few hard licks during the game and when he approached the coaches to ask a question during the third quarter McMackin and Rolovich sensed it was time to make a change.
"He came over and he asked a question, and I asked Rolo, basically, 'Maybe we should make a change?' And Rolo felt the same way because we know that Shane can run the offense and we have complete confidence in him too...I don't remember the question, it just wasn't him.
"I don't think he got knocked out or anything, I think he was just sort of flustered a little bit and they were blitzing. He did a heck of a job and it was just time."
With Brigham Young on the docket next Saturday being the only obstacle standing between Hawaii and a berth in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, McMackin reassured Graves that he would still be the starter as long as he's healthy.
"I'm crushed because I just don't know what it's going to be like to go on next week," Graves said. "I really want to play, I really want to do everything I can to help the seniors, help the guys on the team. But you can't mess with head injuries. So I'm gonna see how this week goes and just do whatever I can."
As for the critics that have reared their ugly heads at times through Hawaii's up-and-down season, McMackin said, "The critics? There are no critics because we don't listen to them. Quite honestly, I actually pray for the critics because they really don't understand how much that hurts the program doing that type of thing."
But what really would have hurt the program was a loss to Tulane. Having averted that disaster, Hawaii's immediate future is suddenly much brighter. An all-or-nothing season finale against a long-time hated rival, BYU, awaits the Warriors.
"It can't get any better than that," McMackin said. "They're a great football team, great tradition, we recruit against them all the time. We got some guys and we've lost some guys to 'em and I know it's a big rivalry here.
"It's going to be a barn-stormin', hittin' mother. It's gonna be fun."
Just imagine how fun it will be if Hawaii wins and then perhaps plays June Jones' Southern Methodist team on Christmas Eve.
What a way that would be to finish the season—critics be damned.
Hawaii ended a season-long three-game losing streak with its win over Tulane.
Hawaii has had 11 different offensive starting lineups in 12 games this season.
Freshman running back Joey Iosefa had two rushing touchdowns in the win. It was the third time this year that Iosefa scored multiple touchdowns in a game (at San Jose State, vs. New Mexico State).
Freshman wide receiver Trevor Davis scored his first career touchdown on a 17-yard reception from David Graves on Hawaii’s opening drive. Davis scored again on a 12-yard reception in the third quarter.
Kevin Riley is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand.
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