Decades Of Warrior Football Memories
As I watched the Uni home opener at Aloha Stadium this past Labor Day weekend, it occurred to me that this is my 30th season of watching UH football (1988-2017). I have so many wonderful memories during those three decades. I vividly was in Honolulu interviewing for a sportscaster job I eventually got at KHON-TV. The ‘Bows were hosting nationally ranked Iowa in a contest that most experts thought would go to the visitors. But before a raucous home crowd - got the game-winning field goal from a young kicker by the name of Jason Elam.
That was September 1988, in a time period when UH averaged well over 40,000 fans per game, even when it wasn’t a big-name team coming to town. The next two years, I witnessed two of history — both against BYU.
First, in 1989, Bob Wagner’s coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Paul Johnson, unleashed a scoring barrage against the rival Cougars like they had never seen before. Streamers and confetti rained down on the Aloha Stadium turf as Garrett Gabriel and company broke a 15-year-losing streak to BYU by winning in overwhelming fashion, 56-14.
If that wasn’t enough, the ‘Bows put on an incredible repeat performance a year later. I was lucky enough to do the radio play-by-play that time on an early December night in 1990 when BYU’s Ty Detmer had been announced as the Heisman Trophy winner just hours before game time.
The Rainbow defense didn’t let him celebrate, as Mark Odom sacked Detmer again and again, while the Gabriel-led UH offense rolled up an awesome 59-28 victory.
By 1992, few were ex for a WAC title. In fact, the eighth in a preseason poll. The team was so ticked off, they screen-printed special practice T-shirts with a circled No. 8 with a line going through it. They knew that in no way were they only the eighth-best team in the conference!
Michael Carter, Travis Sims, Ma’a Tanuvasa, and many other familiar names overachieved all season long in not only winning a share of the WAC title, but the Holiday Bowl, as well. After some years of great struggle, including a winless campaign came back strong in 1999 under June Jones.
I remember UH players finally won their first game that ’99 season, against East- ern Illinois, of all people. But by the time that magical season was over, the Warriors Bowl winners over Oregon State, and the best turnaround team in the entire NCAA.
The JJ years were awesome. The crowds came back to the stadium, and the team was so fun to watch. Timmy Chang broke all kinds of passing records in the early 2000s, then Colt Brennan came along to establish even more records a few years later. I still believe the 2006 team that won 11 games and smashed Arizona State in the ever saw.
Besides Brennan, that outstanding squad included Ikaika Alama-Francis, Leonard Peters, Nate Ilaoa, Davone Bess, Ross Dickerson, Jason Rivers and so many other great players.
Then, of course, 10 years ago came that magical perfect put together a string of 12 consecutive wins and earned a conference title before coming back down to earth in a Sugar Bowl loss to Georgia. Still, it was fun to watch while it lasted.
The last decade has been tough on all of us who call fans, but, as Nick Rolovich proved last year by leading the Rainbow Warriors on an improbable run that ended in a berth and a win in the possible.
And that’s what keeps us true fans coming back year after year. Thanks for the memories — Go ‘Bows!
University of Hawai‘i football player Garrett Gabriel circa October 1990