Star-Bulletin Sports


Wednesday, September 22, 1999


R A I N B O W _ F O O T B A L L




Mustangs rested,
ready for ’Bows

Southern Methodist has had
two weeks to prepare for Hawaii's
run-and-shoot offense

PLUS: Rainbow Notebook

By Paul Arnett
Star-Bulletin

Tapa

If June Jones is concerned about Hawaii's first-half blahs and second-half raves, the Hawaii head coach isn't saying so. In fact, this is a tendency he first noticed as a coach at the professional level.

"I think the last two years I was a head coach in the NFL, our teams always performed better in the second half," Jones said. "The thing is, you don't want to fall too far behind and not be able to catch back up.

"As far as our team, there isn't anything magical about it. We call the same plays. We didn't change anything we were doing. We just did things better."

Through the first three games, Hawaii has been outscored in the first half, 77-17. After the break, the Rainbows have outdone their competition, 55-31.

"I don't go in there and give some kind of Vince Lombardi speech," Jones said. "We just discuss what our options are and what plays are available to us if we execute them properly."

Execution on both sides of the football will be emphasized this week in practice as Hawaii prepares for conference foe Southern Methodist.

The Mustangs are coming off a bye. During the break, SMU head coach Mike Cavan assumed the role as offensive coordinator in an effort to simplify matters.

UH defensive coordinator Greg McMackin isn't too concerned about the switch. He believes the Mustangs will play the same way they have since Cavan was named head coach three years ago.

Defense

Last week, the Rainbows faced a Boise State team that ran first and checked out the passing lanes later. SMU may take a similar approach.

"What they have done might not be what they do," McMackin said. "Because they've been behind quickly in their losses (to Arkansas and Tulane), they've had to throw a lot, which is something I don't think they were prepared to do.

"What they would like to do is be a balanced attack. We expect them to go back to running the football out of two-back, one-back formations. And then throw off play-action."

SMU employs multiple formations. The Mustangs not only line up in one-back sets, but in an I formation as well. They often line up their two backs in near and far sets.

"What that means is one back is lined up behind the quarterback," McMackin said. "And the other is tilted away from you or toward you. Sometimes they line up on the right side. And other times it's the left side. It's usually the fullback and he's usually used as a lead blocker on the run or as a pass protector whey they throw."

Rodnick Phillips is listed as the starting tailback, but McMackin believes the Mustangs are going to move him to fullback to allow freshman Johnnie Freeman more playing time.

Last year, Phillips was among the best running backs in the league. He became only the sixth SMU back to crack the 1,000-yard barrier. So far this season, he only has 39 yards. Freeman has 146 yards rushing on seven carries. The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder may be the Mustangs' back of the future.

"We think they're going to try to cut him loose in this game and move Phillips to fullback to provide a double threat," McMackin said. "This young kid they have is very fast."

UH middle linebacker Jeff Ulbrich will likely be at the center of things, no matter which back carries the football.

"Phillips is an OK runner," Ulbrich said. "I thought last year that we should have beat these guys, but we didn't. If we go up there and play sound football, we've got a chance to stop them."

Sophomore Josh McCown is scheduled to start at quarterback, but don't be surprised if freshman Kelan Luker gets a hard look, especially if McCown struggles. The two quarterbacks are a combined 30 of 74 for 373 yards and two touchdowns. They have thrown four interceptions. The top receiver is Tony Newsome. He has 10 catches for 135 yards and no touchdowns.

Offense

SMU employs a basic 4-3 package, but has been known to use a 3-4 on certain occasions. Jones believes the Mustangs will spend a majority of their time in a nickel package to try to offset the Rainbows' run-and-shoot.

"They've had a couple of weeks to get ready for us, so I'm sure that will help them in what they run," Jones said. "Their down linemen are good, and their linebackers and defensive backs are like ours. They have ability and are trying to work on getting better each week."

The leader of the pack is first-team all-Western Athletic Conference linebacker Jason Simonton. Last year, he led the Mustangs in tackles with 131. He has 25 through two games this year.

Simonton is the emotional leader of the SMU defense and has been its leading tackler in 11 of the last 14 games. Throw in talented defensive end Luke Johnson, who had 10 quarterbacks sacks two years ago, solid safety Raymon Brown and senior defensive back Tracy Hart, and SMU could prove to be formidable.

Hart started the first two games at cornerback. Cavan shifted him to safety, a position he played well a year ago, during the off week.

"SMU has some talented players," Jones said. "It will be up to us to execute our offense against whatever they throw at us. My goal is to play two good halves because we're going to need to in order to have a chance to win our first conference game."


TODAY'S RAINBOW NOTEBOOK

Tapa

Team will stay close
to local time

If someone had come up to associate head coach George Lumpkin minutes after Hawaii secured a 41-21 victory at Texas-El Paso and said, "Coach, this is the last time the Rainbows will win a league road game for as many as seven years," his reply would have been:

"You're out of your mind."

Crazy or not, it has happened. The Rainbows haven't won a WAC road game since that Halloween afternoon in 1992. They make their first road trip of the season this week, playing Southern Methodist Saturday afternoon at the Cotton Bowl.

Lumpkin said there are a lot of reasons why Hawaii hasn't managed to win on the road over the years. But the main one is, "Psychological, pure and simple," Lumpkin said.

"I really think it's just a matter of playing as hard as you do at home, getting focused, taking care of your responsibilities and everything will take care of itself.

"You're on a football field preparing for a game. I don't know what the distractions could be. We won in 1992 because we wanted to win. And of course, we had good football players."

Lumpkin and head coach June Jones spent the summer working on travel details. Because they only have three road games, the two coaches decided to go up a day earlier to Dallas to get acclimated to the surroundings.

Tomorrow evening, they will hold a practice at a local high school. On Friday, the Rainbows will have a workout in the Cotton Bowl. By Saturday, they should be fit for duty.

"I think June has the right idea to keep us as close to Hawaii time as we can," Lumpkin said. "I told him how we used to travel with Wags (former head coach Bob Wagner).

"June understands what it's like to go on the road. It just makes sense to take the red-eye today, get in tomorrow morning, check in and get some rest, and then have an evening practice."

Jones said the Rainbows will work their way slowly through the five-hour time difference of being on Central Daylight Time.

"I think having morning practices will help because it won't be that big of an adjustment," Jones said. "Our kickoff at SMU will be at around 9 a.m. Hawaii time. So, it won't be that big of a change."

Injury update

The team is fairly healthy as it leaves for Dallas.

The main concern is defensive end Joe Correia. For the second consecutive day, he didn't practice because of a knee injury and a broken hand.

Jones said Correia will have his broken hand in a cast and his knee inside a brace. How long he plays Saturday will depend on him. If he plays, Correia can't seek a medical hardship. At this time, the coaches aren't considering that route.

"Joe won't be 100 percent, but we think he can still be able to play," Jones said. "It's just something he's going to have to play through the best he can."

The only player on the depth chart not expected to make the trip is safety Daniel Ho-Ching. Jones said he wants to rest him the next few weeks to get his dislocated shoulder in shape."

Movin' on up II

The Rainbows jumped in the Scripps Howard computer rankings again this week, rising 29 spots to No. 116. They have a power rating of 77.81.

By comparison, Florida State is the top-ranked team with a rating of 114.6, meaning that on a neutral field the Seminoles should be 37-point favorites.

SMU is ranked No. 107 with a rating of 79.43. Throw in the four points for home-field advantage and the Mustangs should be six-point favorites.

In Las Vegas, the Mustangs are favored by 14.


By Paul Arnett, Star-Bulletin


YESTERDAY'S RAINBOW NOTEBOOK

Tapa

LeJay’s trip home
was inspirational

Quincy LeJay's trip home to Southern California last week provided a measure of inspiration.

In Los Angeles one day for his grandfather's funeral, the talks the Hawaii cornerback had with family and friends made the trip worthwhile on several fronts.

"It was good to be back home with my family during a tough time," LeJay said yesterday morning. "They also made me feel a lot better about what I'm coming back to here and how proud my grandfather would be of me. I kind of took that to heart."

He did it by intercepting a Boise State pass and returning it 54 yards for a touchdown. The game was not yet two minutes old, and already Hawaii was on top.

It was LeJay's second return of an interception for a touchdown this year. He is the only player nationwide to turn that trick.

"It was tough for him to play last week, but he was up to it," head coach June Jones said. "That was a big play for us."

It was big enough for LeJay to earn honors as WAC defensive player of the week. Return man Jamal Garland also received honors as WAC special teams player of the week.

Jones said Garland's 46-yard punt return in the third quarter keyed the turnaround, this despite fielding the punt on the Rainbows' 3-yard line.

"If a ball goes inside the 10, we tell the guys to use their own judgment," Jones said. "We don't have a rule not to field it just because it's inside the 10."

Injury update

Jones has asked senior safety Daniel Ho-Ching to sit the next game because of a shoulder injury.

"I said he could see how he felt for the Rice game in a couple of weeks, but I'd rather him not come back until after our bye (on Oct. 16)," Jones said. "I want to give that shoulder as much rest as possible, so he can go hard the last half of the season."

Ho-Ching injured the shoulder in the win over Eastern Illinois. It's the same shoulder he dislocated the last play of the spring game.

The Long Beach, Calif., native didn't take part in yesterday's drills. UH defensive coordinator Greg McMackin said there were several other players nicked up, including Joe Correia (knee and hand) and Nate Jackson (knee).

"We're just going to put Joe's knee in a brace and see how it goes," Jones said. "It's worse than Robert Kemfort's knee injury, so we'll have to see."

Jones said the Rainbows have remained relatively injury-free because of the way they practice.

"We're trying to keep contact as limited as possible," Jones said. "I think that it's made a big difference so far."

Other players on the injury list are wideouts Davey deLaura (hamstring) and Attrice Brooks (sprained thumb). Brooks will make the trip to Dallas this weekend. It's doubtful deLaura will be ready.

Making a change

Southern Methodist has been so inconsistent on offense, Mustangs head coach Mike Cavan relieved offensive coordinator Greg Briner of his duties and gave them to running backs assistant David McKnight. In fact, Cavan is now the official offensive coordinator.

"I felt like there were some things that needed changing, so as the head coach, I made the moves," Cavan said. "We're back to the basics this week. Once we master those plays as an offensive unit, then we'll move a little deeper into the playbook. Right now, David will call the plays."

Despite this personnel move, Jones said he doesn't expect any major changes in SMU's offense.

"They may add a new wrinkle or two, but at this point, I don't see any wholesale changes," Jones said. "I'd expect them to go back to what they were doing well last year and that's running the ball."


By Paul Arnett, Star-Bulletin



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