NCF Nation: Darius Bright

Hawaii: The surf, the sand, the sunsets. Surfing and rain forest hikes. Don't forget the luaus (a whole pig! Yum.).


None of this is part of new Colorado coach Jon Embree's plan for the Buffaloes trip to Hawaii on Saturday.

"It has to be a business trip for us," he said.

Trips, business or otherwise, haven't been good to the Buffs of late. They are riding an 18-game road losing streak. Their last win outside of the state of Colorado came on Oct. 27, 2007 at Texas Tech.

You might guess this factoid annoys Embree. It does, but he doesn't duck it. While some coaches -- particularly new ones -- would ignore this unhappy trend ("The past is the past. We're looking forward."), Embree embraces it.

Embraces it in the sense that the former Colorado tight end has grabbed it in a bear hug, thrown it into the dirt and asked his players to stomp on it.

"It doesn't matter if we were playing on the moon," he said. "We have to learn how to play when we're not in Folsom Field."

Embree points out the obvious math: If you want to win more than six or seven games a year -- the Buffs play seven road games on their 13-game, bye-less slate -- you've got to be able to bring your A-game on the road.

It should help that Colorado has a veteran team, with 18 starters back, including quarterback Tyler Hansen and 1,300-yard rusher Rodney Stewart. Further, Hawaii appears to be rebuilding. It has just nine starters back, including three on offense.

Of course, one of those three on offense is QB Bryant Moniz, the best player many have never heard of. He threw for an eye-popping 5,040 yards and 39 touchdowns last season. He's also a pretty good runner, see four rushing TDs.

And a pass-happy team playing at home isn't a good recipe for Colorado, which lost both starting cornerbacks to the NFL draft from a secondary that struggled in 2010 in any event.

Beyond this, Embree has been impressed with film of the Warriors defense.

"That may be the strength of their team, their defense," he said.

It should help the Buffs cause that two Warriors starters have been suspended for the game -- linebacker Aaron Brown and wide receiver Darius Bright -- for their involvement in a nightclub brawl.

Embree admits he has no special secret for winning on the road. He's tried to, as he says, "paint a picture," of the itinerary so the players not only know what they will be doing but also why they are being asked to do it. He's tried to address the mental side of playing on the road, including the sense that a pattern of failure on the road may become a self-fulfilling prophecy as players tense up when the screws tighten.

"I feel the best way for us to address the issue is to talk about it," he said.

Of course, ending the streak means the topic merits no further discussion. Here's a guess no coach or player would object to that.

It also would mean the Embree Era gets off to a good start. And it might start to hint that the Buffs will be competitive in their first year of Pac-12 play.
Hawaii has made a name for itself recently with its prolific passers. Timmy Chang holds the NCAA career passing record (though Case Keenum is trying to break it this season). Colt Brennan got himself into the Heisman mix.

Now there is Bryant Moniz, who last season became just the 10th player in NCAA history to throw for 5,000 yards. Moniz has the eye-popping stats his predecessors had, but he has something they never did: a Facebook fan page.

[+] EnlargeBryant Moniz
AP Photo/Eugene TannerBryant Moniz is prepared to take on a greater leadership role this season.
The Warriors created the page to help bring a little more love Moniz’s way. On it, you will find feature stories and videos, including a trailer for the “Mighty Mo” series, which features Moniz. In the intro to the video, Moniz is dressed in his jersey and holds the state flag while standing on an overlook of Waikiki.

The rest of the video features the “Hawaii 5-0” theme music and highlights of Moniz from last season, along with him surfing, holding his daughter, working out in the weight room and standing on a military ship.

“It was a lot of fun,” Moniz said of making the video. “And I think it brings good publicity to our team and our university and our school and hopefully it will help out with boosting the economy, and maybe recruiting future players to Hawaii and stuff like that.”

Did he get recognized while shooting the video?

“Tourists were watching, but one kid from the mainland recognized me,” Moniz said. “We took a picture together on top of the outlook.”

Moniz’s story has been retold many times, but it bears repeating. He walked on at Hawaii and found himself at the bottom of the depth chart when he began in 2009. To help support himself, he delivered pizzas. But Moniz proved himself throughout the spring, and then injuries vaulted him into the starting job.

Last season, he led the nation in passing (360 yards per game), total offense (367.3 ypg) and passing touchdowns (39). This season, Hawaii was voted the preseason favorite to win the WAC, and he was voted preseason offensive player of the year.

But to match the success he had last season, he has to break in a new set of receivers. Of the top six pass-catchers last season, five are gone. Only Royce Pollard returns. There is a long list of players who will try to become the next Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares. Moniz spent extra time with them this summer not only doing 7-on-7s, but also hanging out off the field so they could all get to know each other better.

“The attitude of the guys is where it needs to be,” Moniz said. “Everybody wants to be that next Greg Salas or Kealoha Pilares.”

On that list, three potential starters -- Darius Bright, Billy Ray Stutzmann and Jeremiah Ostrowski -- have all missed time during preseason camp with injuries. Meanwhile, Hawaii also will be breaking in an entirely new offensive line for the third straight season.

For Moniz, all the changes mean more of a leadership role. He is ready to take that on.

And if there is a little bit more attention on him, too? He is ready for that as well.