- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 29, 2009

HONOLULU — Hawaii coach Greg McMackin said no one but his team and his coaches believed a few months ago that the Warriors had a chance to make it past the regular season.

But now, after beating Navy 24-17 for a fourth straight victory, the Warriors (6-6) need only one more win — against Wisconsin next week — to secure a spot in the hometown Hawaii Bowl.

It’s a sharp reversal of fortunes for a team that was 2-6 one month ago.

“In December, we have something to play for,” McMackin said. “Nobody thought, except for my team and my coaches, that we had a chance at this and now we do.”

Bryant Moniz threw for 366 yards, and Kealoha Pilares scored two touchdowns to lead the Warriors past Navy (8-4).

Moniz threw a 14-yard touchdown pass to Alex Green to give the Warriors a 24-17 in the third quarter.

McMackin said his team is excited for next week because Wisconsin is a strong team and because the bowl game is at stake.

“I’m jacked up already. I’m not even going to be able to sleep tonight,” McMackin said.

Moniz said Warrior morale is high after their string of victories.

“Our team has just gelled so much, and come even closer every week,” Moniz said. “We’re on this streak and this roll and our fans are behind us. It’s a great feeling and it’s awesome.”

Navy’s loss was a letdown for coach Ken Niumatalolo, who was born in Laie, played quarterback at Hawaii and started his coaching career as a graduate assistant for the Warriors.

“We’re crushed right now,” Niumatalolo said. “This is home, and UH is my school, but I coach Navy now. So I got players in there who are heartbroken.”

He said Hawaii made more plays than the Midshipmen.

“They just did a good job executing. We got a little frazzled out there. We didn’t execute any of our stuff well,” Niumatalolo said.

Quarterback Ricky Dobbs said his team wanted to beat Hawaii for Niumatalolo and offensive coordinator Ivin Japser, who also played for the Warriors.

“Nobody was really talking about it, but it was in the back of everybody’s mind. It’s a sense of pride thing,” Dobbs said. “We wanted to give them bragging rights.”

Dobbs wouldn’t blame the comfortable island climate or the long trip from Annapolis.

“We had to come out and do it, no matter if we had to travel 7,000 miles and play the next day. It just comes down to execution. There is no excuse,” Dobbs said.

The sophomore ran for one touchdown, tying the college football record for most rushing touchdowns in a season by a quarterback at 23. He’s now even with Air Force’s Chance Harridge and Florida’s Tim Tebow. Dobbs also ran the ball 25 times for 127 yards.

Navy has already accepted an invitation to play in the Texas Bowl, likely against a Big 12 opponent.

Moniz returned as a starter after sitting out last week’s game against San Jose State to recover from a bruised rib he sustained the week before.

Pilares had eight catches for 147 yards and Greg Salas caught 10 passes for 102 yards for the Warriors.

Hawaii passed for 366 yards while Navy only passed for 88, but the Midshipmen rushed for 248 yards to the Warriors’ 62.

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