Coach Arnold Setting The Bar High At UH

UH’s Joston Thomas shoots against Mississippi State

Perhaps the best part of the Rainbow Warriors’ consolation championship in the Diamond Head Classic is that they don’t seem particularly pleased by it. When you talk with head coach Gib Arnold about the wins over Utah and Mississippi State, he acknowledges that they were good, but quickly gets to the loss.

“The Florida State game – don’t get me wrong, they’re good, but we’re home and we’ve got to win that game,” says Arnold. “And soon we will.”

The bar is being set quite high for the program, and these are very early days. What is even more remarkable is that these wins were managed without Hawaii’s best player, senior forward Bill Amis. Amis is still out with a stress fracture and the date of his return is uncertain.

The Rainbow Warriors did get a huge lift with senior guard Hiram Thompson’s return from a back injury. He limped onto the court six minutes into the Utah contest and quite simply took over the game. He was even better against Mississippi State on Christmas Day.

After a rough road start in WAC play, and though they were picked last in the conference by both coaches and media, nobody in the WAC can feel very secure as they make their way to Honolulu.

“In our conference, and most others,” says Arnold, “if you win your home games and split on the road, you’ll be at or near the top. We’re going to defend our house.”

* The disappointing bowl game for Hawaii that resulted in a 62-35 loss to Tulsa brought up a couple of items that bear scrutiny.

While UH has done a good job with graduation rates for football players, it was disturbing that the team was forced to bench three players, all offensive starters, for academics in two cases, and disciplinary action on a third. The standard for bowl eligibility is that you must pass six credit hours (two courses) to be certified.

While some are pointing to missed class time because of road trips, this is no excuse. Anybody who makes an effort and goes to class regularly will pass two courses. To fail to do so is a selfish action with consequences that extend to the rest of the team.

Coupled with injuries to slotback Kealoha Pilares and quarterback Bryant Moniz, UH worked an offense missing four and, at times, five starters. There is no question that UH did not have its usual offensive rhythm.

Not to say that the Warriors would have won the game with those players, but it would have had a different dynamic.

One player for UH who certainly impressed the national audience was Greg Salas, who finished with 13 catches for 214 yards and two scores. Next up for Salas is the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., which will serve as his NFL audition.

For the UH coaching staff, the challenge shifts to recruiting the last few pieces for next year’s class, and preparing for spring football where UH will have to replace a large number of very talented seniors.

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