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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, November 11, 1999



UH has long history
against Fresno State

THEY'RE now members of the WAC. But Hawaii and Fresno State met 24 times before being in the same conference.

They first met in 1938 and the Rainbows have played the Bulldogs more times in football than any other team.

Even BYU.

Game No. 32 Saturday night at Aloha Stadium might be the most significant of them all -- for both teams.

Riding on the outcome will be the Western Athletic Conference championship.

At least a share of it for the Rainbows, who hope to go from worst to first in the WAC by beating the Bulldogs.

For Fresno State, a victory over the 'Bows would reduce the magic number to one for its first outright WAC football championship.

The Bulldogs shared the crown with Hawaii and BYU in their first WAC season in 1992.

They got a piece of it again with BYU and Wyoming in 1993, but haven't finished better than 5-3 since then.

Beat UH and then a victory over San Jose State next week or one more loss for Texas Christian and Rice, and the title is theirs. To heck with sharing.

Winning the WAC though wouldn't be a surprise. Fresno State was the preseason pick by most football publications, including Street and Smith's.

But, what a storybook tale it would be if the Rainbows could pull it off to the surprise of everyone, even their most diehard fans.

Who would have thought?

Yet, they're this close to doing it.

NOTHING would put UH's turnaround in better perspective than noting what happened the last two times these teams played.

The nadir of the 0-12 season was the 51-12 hurting that the Bulldogs put on the Rainbows at Fresno last year.

That helped to extend UH's losing streak to 19 games -- the nation's longest -- before this year's Rainbows under new coach June Jones finally ended the victory famine by beating Eastern Illinois.

Interestingly, the last team that the Rainbows beat before starting their school-worst losing streak was . . . Fresno State.

Somehow, the Rainbows put together their best game of the season -- even better than the opening 17-3 victory over Minnesota -- to stun the Bulldogs and first-year coach Pat Hill, who's now back with a vengeance.

Also, as it turned out, that game against Fresno State was the very last one that Fred vonAppen would win as the Rainbows' coach.

Now, suddenly, the Rainbows are winners with the same 18 of 22 starters who played so dismally at Fresno State last year.

Now, they're meeting the Bulldogs in their most meaningful game in years, let alone of this season.

Tapa

STRICTLY PERSONAL: Sometimes being No. 1 isn't the best. Like leading the league in penalties.

But that's the ignominious position the Rainbows find themselves in as the most penalized team in the conference.

I wouldn't be surprised if the Rainbows also have been flagged for the most personal fouls.

At last count, they've committed 16 in nine games, 10 by the not-so-special teams. And that's not counting five unsportsmanlike penalties -- three for end zone celebrations.

You don't suppose it's the new black helmets, do you?

The Rainbows aren't the Oakland Raiders of the WAC. They're the Darth Vaders of the league.



Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.
bkwon@starbulletin.com



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