|No. 14 Hawaii faces No. 17 Boise State in 'biggest game in WAC history'|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 22 November 2007 07:10|
The 14th-ranked Warriors are trying to repeat Boise State's magic from last season. But to do so, they need to first get past the 17th-ranked Broncos on Friday night.
On the line for Hawaii (10-0, 7-0) is its perfect season, BCS hopes, first outright WAC title and some respect.
``Obviously, we're playing for a lot,'' said record-breaking quarterback Colt Brennan, who will start for the Warriors after recovering from a concussion sustained two weeks ago. ``It almost seems like the situation is bigger than us. All we can do is focus on the game itself and hopefully get that victory.''
Since joining the WAC in 2001, Boise State (10-1, 7-0) has dominated the conference - and Hawaii. The Broncos are seeking a seventh straight victory over the Warriors and their sixth consecutive WAC title. Boise State also hasn't given up hope of making it to the big stage for a second consecutive year.
``This is, as we say every week, our bowl game right now,'' said Broncos running back Ian Johnson, who is averaging 104.9 rushing yards a game and has scored 15 TDs.
Hawaii is 15th in the BCS standings and needs to finish 12th or higher to secure a spot in a BCS bowl. Boise State is 19th.
The WAC heavyweights are two of the winningest teams in college football. Boise State has won 23 of its last 24 games, while Hawaii has won 20 of its last 21 games, including 11 straight.
``It is the biggest game in WAC history,'' WAC commissioner Karl Benson said. ``It has all the buzz and all the hype that we were expecting it to have.''
The game is expected to be a shootout, with Hawaii leading the nation with an average of 48 points. Boise State is third with 44.2 points.
``For us to compete, it's probably going to have to be (high scoring),'' Broncos coach Chris Petersen said. ``They're a hard team to match in terms of points but we're going to have to get some things done on offense.''
Boise State put itself in position to win a sixth consecutive WAC crown by dismantling Idaho last week 58-14. The victory was the Broncos' ninth straight since losing at Washington.
Hawaii closes the regular season at home against Washington next week.
Last year, Boise State handed Hawaii its lone WAC loss, 41-34, during the Broncos' remarkable season capped by a stunning win over Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.
``If we wanted to win the WAC, we knew we had to beat Boise and that's where we're at,'' Hawaii coach June Jones said. ``They do a great job executing. They're good in all phases of the game and we're going to have to play our best game to beat them.''
The Broncos realize the Warriors are much improved this year, especially on defense. Hawaii is second in the WAC in total and scoring defense.
``It's a huge reason they are 10-0,'' Johnson said. ``Their defense is making plays.''
Brennan said the Warriors have learned how to win the close game.
``We were 18 points from being undefeated last year,'' Brennan said. ``I think the lesson was learned. ... We've learned how to win and we've learned how to finish. ... We've come this far and it doesn't mean anything if we don't finish undefeated.''
Boise State represents this season's only ranked opponent for Hawaii, which has enjoyed a schedule as soft as the ocean breezes in Waikiki. The strength, or softness, of the Warriors' schedule has prevented them from making a serious move up the polls and BCS standings. It has also drawn scrutiny and debate.
``The only time we'll be able to silence the critics is if were to go to a BCS bowl and play a big-time school and we win,'' Brennan said. ``Until then, we're still going to have people who hate. It's just something we have to deal with.''
Brennan, who has thrown for 3,237 yards and 28 TDs, needs just one scoring pass to break former BYU standout Ty Detmer's NCAA career mark of 121. Brennan also is tied with Detmer for most touchdowns responsible for with 135.
Brennan already owns or shares 24 NCAA records.
``I think Colt is, if not the best, one of the best QBs in the country right now,'' Petersen said. ``The guy's a phenomenal player.''
The Warriors are coming off a 28-26 victory at Nevada without Brennan, who suffered a concussion Nov. 10 against Fresno State. Brennan said he's at 100 percent for Friday.
His favorite targets are Ryan Grice-Mullen and Davone Bess, who have combined for 166 receptions for 2,142 yards and 20 TDs this season.
Taylor Tharp leads the passing game for Boise State and is looking sharper every week. The senior has completed 80 percent of his passes in the past three games, throwing for 824 yards and nine TDs with one interception.