CFN Bowl Analysis ... Hawaii
Tulsa 62 ... Hawaii 35
Thank you, Hawaii Bowl, for giving me exactly what I was looking for.
Let's be honest here; it's Tulsa vs. Hawaii on Christmas Eve. Something special had to happen to make this watchable, and the Hawaii Bowl did it with two phenomenal offenses putting up 1,081 yards, 97 points, and more highlights than the entire bowl season up until this point. But it also might serve as a notice for Hawaii and a coming out party for Tulsa.
The Golden Hurricane will be loaded next year, assuming all the key parts decide to stick around, and with head coach Todd Graham with his coaching staff relatively secured, there's no reason why the offense won't be ranked in the top five in the country. Hawaii's defense, at home, isn't all that bad, and Tulsa tore through it like wrapping paper. Throw in the big plays by the D, and Tulsa got a nice bowl win and a huge feather in Conference USA's cap.
But the biggest story could be if Hawaii learns from this.
The co-WAC champion couldn't find consistency on offense and the turnovers and mistakes kept flowing. The six giveaways were bad, but more embarrassing was a defense that got picked clean in the second half by a motivated Tulsa team that got up early and kept the foot on the gas. Will this be the game the Warriors point to this offseason to use as motivation? The coaching staff will certainly make a big deal out of this.
Hawaii's defense gave up scores on six drives of five plays or fewer. The Warrior defense looked slow and out of place throughout, and the offense, shockingly, never had an answer. This was Hawaii getting blown away on national TV on its own turf. This was bad.
On the flip side, Tulsa might be a preseason top 25 team next year and will certainly be among the Conference USA title favorites. While the defense isn't going to be great, the offense will often make up for it. As this game showed, Tulsa football will be worth watching all season long.
- Was Hawaii head coach Greg McMackin actually mad after the late garbage-time Tulsa touchdown do get over 60 points? Hawaii? Mad about putting up too many points on the board?! Okay.
- Tulsa's defense isn't anything great, except at taking the ball away. It obviously focused on stopping Alex Green and the running game, and he did nothing gaining just 31 yards on 13 carries.
- Tulsa's Shawn Jackson was a monster with eight tackles and three sacks, but he did even more than that. Hawaii's offensive front couldn't block him.
- Hawaii WR Greg Salas tried to do it all by himself. With running mate Kelaho Pilares knocked out early with a leg injury, Salas stepped up with 13 catches and was always open. The Hawaii quarterbacks didn't always have time to find him.
- There might not be a more electrifying player this bowl season than Tulsa's Damaris Johnson.
- No, this wasn't a pretty game in any way, but it sure was fun.
Tulsa is back.
The Golden Hurricane just got done capping a terrific rebound season, winning 10 games, including the last seven in-a-row, a year after completely missing the postseason. Beating Hawaii on its own patch of sand is no small accomplishment either, especially when the Warriors entered the game ranked and rolling on offense. This is the type of effort that Tulsa can use as a catapult into 2011, amassing a tailwind with a squad that'll bring back QB G.J. Kinne and a number of his key hands. In the out of sight, out of mind world of the non-BCS schools, head coach Todd Graham needed this second half run in the worst way. The Hurricane played in a bowl game from 2005-08, averaging nearly 10 wins a year over that stretch. To 18-year old recruits, however, that's ancient history. Graham and his staff had to have this comeback campaign before another signing day.
- Please don't insult the Heisman Trophy by labeling Hawaii's Bryant Moniz a fringe candidate for next year. Yeah, he'll put up gaudy numbers again, but he's the definition of a system quarterback if there ever was one. And an overrated one at that.
- Tulsa has one of those defenses that can't be judged on basic stats alone. Sure, it always give up plenty of yards, but it also has a knack for making big plays and creating turnovers. The Hawaii Bowl was a prime example, with the Hurricane creating six first half turnovers.
- If all-purpose dynamo Damaris Johnson was two or three inches taller, he might have stayed closer to home and played for LSU instead of having to choose between Tulsa, Memphis, and Louisiana Tech. Count the entire Hurricane staff among those thrilled he didn't have a growth spurt in high school.