HONOLULU — Even though it's been a turbulent football season for Hawaii, the Warriors have plenty to play for this weekend.
Hawaii has been ravaged by injuries to key players, including starting quarterback Bryant Moniz, who is sidelined for the rest of the season. The Warriors have also suffered disappointing losses, which included squandering a big lead in the second half and falling at home to Utah State and a blowout loss at lowly UNLV.
Then news broke last week that school officials received an anonymous letter accusing unidentified players being part of a point-shaving scheme. The Honolulu Police Department announced that it did not have enough information to pursue a criminal investigation, though the NCAA reportedly is looking into the claims.
Hawaii coach Greg McMackin and school officials aren't commenting on the allegations.
That aside, the Warriors (6-6), who snapped a three-game losing streak with a 35-23 win over Tulane last weekend, are looking to become bowl-eligible with a victory over BYU on Saturday (5:30 p.m., MT, ESPN2) at Aloha Stadium.
A win would propel Hawaii to a berth in the Hawaii Bowl at home on Christmas Eve.
"That's a very important ballgame, and they're a very good football team," McMackin said of the game against the Cougars. "It's been a great rivalry in the past, and we're going to have to let our guys know what it's about and I'm sure they're going to have to let their guys know."
The Warriors aren't lacking motivation for this contest.
"A lot of things to play for. It's senior day and we're going to have a lot of special things for the seniors for this game," McMackin said. "These guys put in four or five years of their life here and that's a special thing and it goes so fast. Then it's obviously (playing for) a bowl game, so there's a lot riding on this."
Hawaii is breaking in new quarterbacks after Moniz suffered a broken leg on Nov. 12 against Nevada.
Since then the Warriors have played two QBs — David Graves and Shane Austin. Graves made his first career start against Tulane last weekend, completing 21-of-38 passes for 260 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also rushed for 57 yards and a touchdown. However, he suffered a concussion in the second half and was taken out of the game.
Austin replaced Graves in the fourth quarter and completed 9-of-10 passes for 98 yards. If Graves can't play against BYU, Austin is expected to start.
"We'll play whoever will give us the best chance to win. If David is doing good then he'll play," McMackin said. "We know that Shane can help us, also. (Austin) came in and did a great job and I'm confident with either one of them."
BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall hasn't noticed much of a difference in the way Hawaii runs its offense despite the change in quarterbacks.
"We've taken a hard look at that and really the nature of their offense hasn't changed one bit," he said. "They've played two different quarterbacks since then. The routes haven't changed, the receivers haven't changed, the running backs haven't changed. They're just doing it with different quarterbacks. Short of the experience benefit, they still seem to be moving the ball effectively. They throw it for about 300 (yards) and run it for about 100 a game and score a lot of points. I think Hawaii is more systematic than personnel driven."
BYU safety Travis Uale said the Warriors' passing game poses a stiff challenge.14 comments on this story
"They have a really good offense, passing game and receivers. More than ever, our defensive secondary is going to have to hold up in coverage," he said. "They have a good offensive line and the quarterback will have time, so we're going to have to cover for a longer amount of time. We have to be able to stop their pass game and when you least expect it, they'll run the ball. We'll have to be focused."
Cougars on the air
at Hawaii (6-6)
Saturday, 5:30 p.m. MT
Aloha Stadium, Honolulu
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM