Charlie Weis and Hawaii head coach Greg McMackin were intimately involved in the game that eventually pushed the NFL toward its present instant replay system.
The date was December 6, 1998 and the site was Giants Stadium. McMackin was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks while Weis was calling offensive plays for the New York Jets. Seattle was clinging to a 31-26 lead in the final minute when the Jets had a 4th-and-goal play from Seattle's 5-yard line.
Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde ran a quarterback sneak and although television replays would later show that he was stopped short of the goal line, the officials ruled that he had scored, giving the Jets a 32-31 victory.
"We lost the ballgame and then they admitted that it was the wrong call and that's what started instant replay," McMackin recalled.
Indeed, the NFL instituted instant replay for the following season, but the damage had been done. While the Jets went on to win the AFC East and reach the conference championship, the Seahawks finished 8-8, one game out of the playoffs. Head coach Dennis Erickson and his staff, McMackin included, were fired.
Weis was the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots in 2004 when he next went up against McMackin, who was then associate head coach and linebackers coach for the San Francisco 49ers. The two will square off again on Christmas Eve in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
"We're really excited about it, especially representing Hawaii. We focus on playing for the state of Hawaii and the people of Hawaii," said McMackin. "We're really excited about playing a such football legend as Notre Dame. Tickets have been going very fast and I think it's going to be good for the economy of Hawaii. It's just a great opponent and we're really excited about it."
McMackin and his Hawaii staff have looked at tape, but have yet to delve into preparations for Notre Dame.
"We've started on breaking down the video and they're obviously a talented team. They're very talented and played a good schedule," he said. "They have a legendary background, everyone knows Notre Dame and all of the history of Notre Dame so they usually get the top players in the country.
"We're real early in our breakdown… Kids are finishing finals, we've been out recruiting. We've broken down the film, but we haven't got into the game plans or anything like that."
But in his early evaluations McMackin sees some similarities in what Weis is doing with the Irish and what he did in the pros.
"I think he's using some of the things that he used," McMackin said. "He's simplified some of the things so I think it's a half-and-half deal."
McMackin served as Hawaii's defensive coordinator last year before taking over as head coach this season for June Jones.
"Defensively, we wanted to get an attacking, aggressive defense that makes big plays and plays with emotion," he said. "Offensively, we just wanted to maintain what we've done in the past with the run ‘n shoot."
"We had a real struggle early with the quarterbacks learning the system. One of our quarterbacks was ineligible that we thought was going to take over so the first part of the year we had to be fairly creative," McMackin said. "But we think that we have that solved now and Greg Alexander is doing a good job and Brent Rausch understands the offense. We have some young guys so we think we're passed that and never have to go through that again."
Alexander earned the starting job midway through the season and helped lead the Warriors to wins in four of their last six games.
Hawaii will get lifts from the return of two injured players.
"We're going to get Ryan Mouton back healthy and he's our best defensive player or one of our best defensive players," McMackin said. "Then we're going to get Kealoha Pilares who is our best offensive player. He's a running back/slotback that we haven't had for about the last three weeks."
Pilares is the Warriors' second leading rusher with 281 yards and five touchdowns on 51 carries. Pilares also has 26 receptions for 230 yards and another two touchdowns.
Mouton is a cornerback who has been at less than 100% for the past few weeks with a high ankle sprain, but should be a full go by the bowl. Mouton has also played some receiver, catching eight balls for 71 yards and has a 91-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 90-yard kick return for a score.
"We were just playing him in a little bit of nickel, but he's been used sparingly," McMackin said.