Hawaii-Tulsa Preview

Updated: December 14, 2010, 11:16 PM ET
Associated Press

There is offense.

And then in the case of Hawaii and Tulsa, there is OFFENSE.

Both high-scoring and highly proficient with the football, the Warriors and Golden Hurricane meet in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve in Honolulu.

It has been three years since June Jones left Hawaii for SMU after a 2007 unbeaten regular season led to a BCS appearance and Sugar Bowl loss. After two mediocre seasons, Jones' successor, Greg McMackin, has again gotten the 24th-ranked Warriors nationally relevant.

Hawaii claimed a share of the Western Athletic Conference title with Boise State and Nevada, and posted its sixth 10-win season in school history. The Warriors have a chance for their third 11-win season since 2006 as they build a foundation for their eventual move to the Mountain West in 2012.

"We've got a lot of leaders on this team, and they've all bought into the program," he said. "You think of Greg Salas, all the great receivers we have around here and he has over 4,000 yards. That's big time. Then you think of what Alex (Green) is doing in the running game, he has over 1,000 yards.

"It's just a fun group to coach, it's probably the most fun group I've had to coach in a long time."

It's easy to have fun with an offense that ranks ninth in the FBS at 39.9 points per game. Quarterback Bryant Moniz took a huge leap forward his junior season, throwing for 4,629 yards and 36 touchdowns in recording statistics similar to predecessors Timmy Chang and Heisman Trophy finalist Colt Brennan.

Moniz leads the country in total offense at 361.9 yards per game and threw three or more TD passes in nine of Hawaii's 13 games. Salas has been his favorite target, with the slot receiver totaling 106 receptions for the second straight year.

Salas had nine 100-yard receiving games in 2010, and is the school's all-time leader with 4,131 yards. Kealoha Pilares added 88 catches for 1,306 yards and a team-high 15 TD receptions as the two helped Hawaii average a FBS-best 387.8 passing yards.

Hawaii usually relies heavily on its passing game, but Green has provided needed balance. He ran for 1,168 yards and 17 scores, becoming the first Warriors running back to surpass 1,000 yards since Travis Sims in 1992.

Tulsa (9-3) may be the smallest FBS school with an enrollment of nearly 4,200, but the Golden Hurricane are making their fifth bowl appearance in six years and regrouped well after their first losing season since 2004.

"We're very excited about the opportunity to go to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl and play a quality opponent in a 9-3 Hawaii team," coach Todd Graham said. Hawaii is ranked in the top 25 nationally, and for us getting the opportunity to win a bowl game like this against a top 25 team would be awesome for our program."

Quarterback G.J. Kinne has been masterful running the spread offense and was named Conference USA's offensive player of the year. He threw for 3,307 yards and 28 touchdowns while also rushing for a team-high 557 yards with seven scores.

Kinne is fourth in the FBS in total offense at 322.0 yards per game, helping Tulsa rank fifth in total offense at 503.5 yards, 15th in rushing (219.3) and 16th in passing (284.2). The Golden Hurricane are right behind Hawaii in scoring at 39.7 points per game, good for 10th nationally.

Tulsa has four players with at least 333 rushing yards, but Damaris Johnson may be its most dangerous player aside from Kinne. The wide receiver was the C-USA special teams player of the year and is the FBS all-time leader with 3,308 kickoff return yards.

Johnson averaged 27.4 yards on kickoff returns and 12.5 yards on punt returns, scoring one touchdown in each fashion. He also averaged 9.2 rushing yards per carry, had team highs of 53 receptions and 771 yards and led all FBS runners with 191.8 yards of total offense per game.

While defenses may be an afterthought with the potency of these offenses, both teams have excellent secondaries and rank in the top seven nationally in turnover margin.

Safety Mana Silva had eight of Hawaii's 23 interceptions and is the school's all-time leader with 14. Linebackers Corey Paredes and Aaron Brown combined for seven, with Brown running two of his three INTs back for touchdowns.

Tulsa registered 19 INTs, six each by Dexter McCoil and Marco Nelson. The Golden Hurricane, though, rank 84th in scoring defense at 29.9 points per game and 107th in total defense with an average of 442.6 yards allowed.

Hawaii leads the all-time series 5-3, winning four of six when the teams were WAC rivals from 1999-2004.


Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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