College football: Hawaii seeking to knock off UMass, get bowl bid

Hawaii senior defensive back Damien Packer summed up pretty well what it would mean for the ‘Bows to make it to a bowl game.

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Hawaii senior defensive back Damien Packer summed up pretty well what it would mean for the ‘Bows to make it to a bowl game.

“I can be single for the rest of my life,” the Keaau grad said with a laugh. “As long as I get to a bowl — that’s all I want.”

Hawaii’s bowl hopes hinge on its regular season finale today against lowly Massachusetts (2-9). Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. from Aloha Stadium.

“UMass is a good opponent and have hung with some people. We won’t take them lightly, I guarantee you that,” Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich said while speaking to local media earlier this week. “We have to come out ready to play.”

Because of the overstuffed bowl season, even teams with losing records — like Hawaii, currently at 5-7 — will have a shot at postseason play. Before Friday’s slate of games, 64 teams were bowl-eligible with 16 open spots for the 40 bowl games. A total of 18 teams could become bowl eligible in the final two weeks of the season. Last season, three teams with losing records received bowl invites, including the ‘Bows Mountain West rival, San Jose State.

“We need to get this one and then see where the numbers fall after that,” Rolovich said. “But if we don’t get this one none of that matters.”

The game will also function as senior day for the squad, and the prospects of playing for a spot in the postseason is not taken lightly by a group that has played through one of the darker eras of Hawaii football. Even if the Warriors were to get a bowl game berth, the team has already assured a sixth consecutive non-winning regular season and seventh in the last eight. That’s a new school record, with the team’s last winning season coming in 2010.

Postseason play for the 21 seniors on the roster to close out their careers might be a mild remedy for some of those woes.

“I haven’t had something to look forward to,” UH senior wide receiver Marcus Kemp said. “I think all of our guys are ready to play in a big pressure situation.”

Kemp could make his senior day extra special by cracking the 1,000-yard mark for the season. He needs just seven receiving yards for the milestone. He would become UH’s first 1,000-yard receiver in the last five years (Royce Pollard, 2011).

Despite the roller coaster season, Rolovich has appreciated his team’s continued effort to defend “Pride Rock” — a slogan the first-year head coach brought with him when he took over in the offseason.

“A lot of them could have just thrown it in, but I think they really believed and thought I was telling the truth when I said we could get to a bowl game,” he said. “We put ourselves in a place where we are playing a very beautiful game on senior night and they deserve that.”

Massachusetts has struggled as of late, allowing Troy and BYU to post a total of 103 points combined in their last two losses. The Minutemen’s two wins came over FIU and Wagner, although they hung with SEC squads Florida and Mississippi State fairly tight.

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But as Hawaii learned against one-win Fresno State last week, nothing in football is a given. It took a late touchdown and blocked field goal for Hawaii to survive against the Bulldogs and keep their bowl hopes alive.

“We can’t take anyone lightly,” Hawaii defensive lineman Kory Rasmussen said. “We need this one.”

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