WAC Notebook: Hawaii finally breaks through | NevadaAppeal.com

WAC Notebook: Hawaii finally breaks through

DARRELL MOODY

Appeal Sports Writer

The Western Athletic Conference, providing Hawaii gains its first-ever Bowl Championship Series berth, would have four teams in the post-season for the fourth time in the last five years.

Hawaii (11-0), Boise State (10-2) and Fresno State (7-4) are currently bowl eligible and are already guaranteed some sort of bowl game. The Nevada-Louisiana Tech winner, which will finish fourth, will get the conference’s final spot.

Hawaii, 11-0, finally got the recognition it has deserved the entire season and moved up to the coveted No. 12 spot in the BCS rankings. The Warriors are in the top 10 in both the human polls (ESPN and Harris) that make up part of the BCS formula.

The biggest move the WAC champion Warriors made by virtue of their win over Boise State last weekend was in the computer rankings. Hawaii moved from 22nd to 14th.

“That (computer ranking jump) is what really got Hawaii to No. 12,” WAC commissioner Karl Benson said Monday during the weekly WAC teleconference. “Hawaii is not flying under the radar screen.

“The last three years they have been very successful. Obviously their offensive system is built around the quarterback. Timmy Chang started it, and Colt (Brennan) took advantage of that. Hawaii has a brand of its own.”

When Benson was asked if a team might leapfrog the Warriors, even if they win on Saturday, he replied with a terse “no”.

Benson continues to stress that he has confidence in the system, and that if Hawaii finishes undefeated, the Warriors will be rewarded. Being that Hawaii is in the West, it would seem like the Fiesta Bowl would be a good possibility for the Warriors.

This is a wait and see week for Benson. There are several meaningful games all over the country, including the Hawaii-Washington matchup and the Nevada-Tech matchup.

“Normally this last weekend is when bowl matchups are determined,” Benson said. “Only four teams have accepted bowl bids thus far.”

More than likely, the WAC will make bowl decisions Saturday night or Sunday. Benson said that the highest-ranked team is given priority, but he also stressed that the conference always looks for the best possible matchup, and that also will dictate where the bowl-eligible teams will go.

Obviously Boise State could stay home and play in the Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl, but Benson said that he has had talks with Las Vegas Bowl officials about Boise State playing BYU. Benson also said that Maryland, 6-6 and an Atlantic Coast Conference school, is a logical choice to come to the Humanitarian Bowl.

NO SURPRISE TO JUNE

Hawaii coach June Jones told a caller that he wasn’t surprised that the Warriors were close to the school’s first-ever BCS bid.

“Yeah, I envisioned it,” Jones said. “I talked about it during the first press conference I had. This has been a dream season. Hopefully we cam keep it going.”

The Warriors have been to bowl games in seven of the last nine years.

INJURIES HURT BOISE STATE

One of the keys in the Hawaii-Boise State game were injuries to BSU defensive backs Rashaun Scott and Orlando Scandrick.

Neither played the second half last Friday, and that’s huge when you consider how much Hawaii throws the football.

“It was big,” BSU coach Chris Petersen said. “We also had another (starting) defensive back that didn’t make the trip. Hawaii is a heck of a team. The kids we put in there battled hard. This time of the year you (often) don’t have the guys you started with.”

Petersen said he hadn’t talked to trainers yet regarding Scott and Scandrick. Obviously he would love to have them for whatever bowl game the Broncos get invited to.

FINISHING STRONG

Utah State ended its season on a high note with wins over New Mexico State and Idaho to end the season at 2-10.

It was the first time that the Aggies had won back-to-back road games since 1999.

“It was unfortunate that they were at the end of the year and not at the start of the season,” USU coach Brent Guy said.

The Aggies lose quarterback Leon Jackson to graduation, leaving a big gap at that position. Guy indicated that quarterback will be a priority. Riley Nelson, who started the second half of the 2006 season, still has a year left on his Mormon mission.

“We’ll sign at least one high school quarterback,” Guy said. “We can’t sign two because they would be competing against each other the whole time. We could get a high school quarterback and JC quarterback and throw them into the mix.”

Right now the mix includes returnees Jace McCormick and Sean Setzer, the latter a JC transfer. Setzer, however, hasn’t made a great transition to the Utah State offense.

LIMPING HOME

New Mexico State, which had bowl hopes three weeks ago, concludes its season with a Friday game against Fresno State.

“It’s a tough thing,” said NMSU coach Hal Mumme when asked how to motivate a team with nothing at stake. “I think having Thanksgiving weekend off helped.”

The Aggies have been riddled with injuries this season. During the course of the season, 10 NMSU starters have missed a total of 33 games. The biggest injury was losing receiver Chris Williams to a season-ending collarbone injury in Week 6. Williams had caught 56 passes for 11 TDs when he suffered the injury.

HARRIS VOTING

With another couple of upsets, my top 10 picks in the Harris poll looked a little different this week.

I went with Missouri, West Virginia, Ohio State, Hawaii, Kansas, LSU, USC, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Georgia and Oklahoma.

Ohio State is sitting in a nice spot at No. 3. If Missouri were to lose to Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game, Ohio State would be likely to find itself in the BCS championship game.

WAC AWARDS

Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan, Hawaii linebacker Solomon Elimimian and Boise State kicker/punter Kyle Brotzman were named the offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week.

Brennan completed 40-of-53 passes for 495 yards and five scores in the Warriors’ title-clinching win over Boise State last Friday.

Elimimian registered 14 tackles, 10 solo, in the win over Boise State.

Brotzman kicked two field goals, three extra points and averaged 55 yards on four punts in the loss to Hawaii. One of his punts was a WAC-best 71-yarder.

• Contact Darrell Moody at dmoody@nevadaappeal.com, or by calling (775) 881-1281