March 04, 2009
An offseason compendium of college football's smaller pleasures.
Not that any mainlander has actually made it through a wee-hours affair from the islands, where the incongruous daylight at kickoff can seem foreign and surreal enough. Anything from the South Pacific is accompanied with that fleeting sense of novelty and exoticism; add Aloha Stadium's odd architecture, unmistakable overhang and eerie shadows on the artificial turf, the crazy statistics, the otherworldly yards of hair emerging from helmets, and the drowsiness and/or inebriation of the viewer, and football in Hawaii often seems like the closest thing we have to football on the surface of the moon.
It's a testament to the weird vibe of staggering into your apartment or waking up on the couch in the middle of a late-night UH game that, although my sleep-addled brain can instantly recall almost all of the Warriors' big home games over the last half-decade or so -- against Northwestern, Michigan State, Purdue, Oregon State, Boise State, Washington, Cincinnati -- it can't recall the winner of any of them without looking it up. They were all high-scoring, they were all close.
And in some way, all of them were weird. Hawaii and Purdue combined for 43 fourth quarter points in 2006, one week before the Warriors combined with Oregon State for 35 in the second quarter alone. UH came back from 21 points down against hapless Washington to cement its perfect regular season in 2007. In last year's home finale, Cincinnati overcame a late two-touchdown deficit by scoring 19 unanswered points on an interception return, a safety, a short field field goal and a go-ahead, 69-yard touchdown pass in less than half a quarter. Some Big Ten fans complain to this day about the egregious officiating that fueled the Warriors' season-ending wins over Northwestern and Michigan State to become bowl eligible in 2004, which always reminds me a little of the missionary baseball manager in Phillip Roth's The Great American Novel, who refused a band of otherwise cooperative savages the joy of sliding head-first into first base (it's just not done, you see) and was subsequently held captive as part of an elaborate, cannibalistic ritual. A sinister turn is always one misstep away.
Negating a touchdown on a bogus penalty isn't exactly up there with human sacrifice. But in-context, a little home-cooking is just part of the charm.