Wednesday, November 10, 1999
The run-and-shoot offense employed by Hawaii has been compared to a lot things over the years, but this week's explanation by Pat Hill that it is similar to the wishbone might make even June Jones blink.
The Fresno State head coach is fresh off a big win over Rice in last week's Western Athletic Conference showdown that left the Bulldogs alone in first place.
Get a victory here Saturday night and Hill is headed back to California with at least a share of the conference title in one hand and a likely bowl bid from Las Vegas in the other.
Asked during this week's conference call how difficult it would be for his defense to go from the run-run-run of Rice's wishbone to the pass-pass-pass of Hawaii's run-and-shoot, Hill caught everybody off-guard with this response.
"We look at the two teams as both option teams," Hill said. "One just does it through the air and the other does it on the ground. It still comes down to the players understanding where their help is and what the defensive call really means to them.
When: 6:05 p.m. Saturday
HAWAII VS. FRESNO STATE
Where: Aloha Stadium
TV: 9 p.m. on KFVE
Radio: Live on KCCN-AM (1420)
RealAudio: Click here
Records: Hawaii is 6-3 (4-2 WAC) Fresno State is 7-3 (4-1 WAC)
Spread: Fresno State by 3
"There's a big difference of course because one is more physical to stop, but I think both have to be dealt with the same way in terms of preparation. In these two offenses, you're going after a concept. The concept you need to stop, you have to understand the concept you're using to stop it.
"What you do on paper and what you do in the meeting rooms, you have to translate it and it has to be done on the field. It just happened last week against Rice that everything clicked. And what we need to do is get the players in the same frame of mind and the same belief that what we're doing will work so we can click again on Saturday."
Over the past three years, clicking at home and clicking on the road have been two different things for Hill. As Fresno State's head coach, the Bulldogs have a mediocre 5-11 record on the road.
Throw in the fact that Fresno State has won only once at Aloha Stadium, and it's easy to see why Hill hasn't broken out the champaign bottles yet.
"We're going to be going into a great environment for football," Hill said. "The stadium will be packed, first place is on the line. You can't ask for much better than that. That's why you coach and that's why you play.
"We know what's on the line. We've had a lot of what I call must-win games this year. There are a lot of big things laying on this game. We haven't had a lot of success there over the years, but we're focused and ready to play."
How focused top-rated WAC quarterback Billy Volek will be is key. In recent days, he has had to worry about the birth of his first child. It's possible that could take place this week.
Volek is fourth in the country in passing efficiency with a 154.32 rating. He has completed 179 of 273 passes for 2,013 yards and 24 touchdowns. He has thrown only three interceptions.
His top receivers are Rodney Wright and Charles Smith. Between them, they have caught 94 passes for 1,307 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Fresno State is strong on the ground as well. Derrick Ward and Paris Gaines have fought through a variety of injuries this season, but they still have rushed for 1,232 yards and eight touchdowns.
But as well as the offense has executed this year, all eyes will be on a defense that has been plagued by injuries. The return of Payton Williams at cornerback gives Hill some comfort, but how this unit responds to the challenges of the run-and-shoot will go a long way in determining whether Fresno State leaves the islands with a win.
"We've got to keep them guessing as a team," Hill said of UH's offense. "You have to get pressure on the quarterback and you have to supply coverage. It's the same thing when you play the wishbone. You've got to have different ways to defend the run-and-shoot or they'll figure you out too soon."
Hawaii standouts Adrian Klemm, Kaulana Noa and Jeff Ulbrich have committed to play in the Senior Bowl, the Star-Bulletin confirmed today.
TODAY'S RAINBOW NOTEBOOK
3 Bows opt for
Klemm said after this morning's practice that the three players already had sent in the paperwork . They will report to the bowl in Mobile, Ala., on January 14.
"I wanted to go there because they say the practices are very regimented," Klemm said. "You get a chance to work out against the best in college football in a one-on-one situation.
"The head of the Senior Bowl told us that only Florida State had more than three guys signed up for the game. For me personally, this is the game I needed to go to to see how I compare with other players around the country."
Ulbrich will also be making the trip to Alabama. He, Klemm and Noa already have been invited to the NFL combine in Indianapolis next February. The Senior Bowl is an extension of that game.
"I need the scouts to see me in a practice situation like the ones they have at the Senior Bowl," Ulbrich said. "Since it's the game run by the NFL, I thought this would give me the best chance at getting a good look."
Because the Senior Bowl and the Hula Bowl are played on the same weekend, none of the three will compete in the game on Maui. It's not known if any other Hawaii players will be invited to the Hula Bowl to take their places.
UH seniors who might be considered are cornerback Quincy LeJay, punter Chad Shrout, wide receiver Dwight Carter, and offensive linemen Andy Phillips and Dustin Owen.
Steinberg in townPowerful agent Leigh Steinberg is in town and will have an informal meeting in the president's office tomorrow afternoon to discuss marketing plans for the Rainbows football team.
UH head coach June Jones confirmed after this morning's practice that Steinberg is here to help make the Rainbows a marketing icon in the Pacific.
"It's kind of an informal deal," Jones said. "He just wants to give our president a framework to look at and discuss.
"We did find out that we can play a game in another country once every four years and it won't cost us the postseason as we originally thought. I don't know if we can get a game in place in Japan this year, but we'd like to do that as soon as possible."
Recruit commitsHawaii received its first verbal commitment of the season from Mililani High offensive tackle Ryan Santos. He can't sign a letter of intent until next February, but he could be the first in a long line of local recruits interested in playing for the Rainbows.
"You take a look at a guy like Keani Alapa," Jones said of the freshman linebacker from Kamehameha Schools. "He's the type of player we need to get into our program to help our local numbers. He's going to be a good one for us. There are a lot of athletes locally like him we believe can help us down the road."
Santos is a 6-foot-5, 295-pounder who will be joining a UH offensive line that will be young and inexperienced next season. Jones said the early signing period for junior college transfers begins next month. Hawaii has as many as nine openings for JC players at midterm, but it's unlikely they will sign that many.
Injury updateDefensive lineman Matt Elam has a stress fracture and will not be able to play in this week's game with Fresno State.
UH defensive coordinator Greg McMackin expects Lui Fuga to fill in for Elam. Fuga missed the last game at San Jose State with a sprained foot.
"But we expect Lui to be able to go," McMackin said. "We've got a lot of guys playing hurt up front. But they're tough and willing to step in there and do what's necessary to get the job done."
Everyone else is up and ready to play. Wide receivers Scott Sims (shoulder) and Attrice Brooks (knee) are seeing repetitions with the top units.
Offensive linemen Noa (bruised leg) and Phillips (bruised knee) practiced today in preparation for Saturday's critical conference matchup with Fresno State.
By Paul Arnett, Star-Bulletin
Ka Leo O Hawaii