Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, November 11, 1999

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

Bulldogs have
mean bite

Hawaii must be wary of the
Fresno State football team both
on offense and defense

By Paul Arnett


Fresno State sitting atop the Western Athletic Conference standings is no more surprising than Brigham Young holding court in the Mountain West.

Last summer, the Bulldogs were tabbed as the team to beat by Lindy's, The Sporting News and Street & Smith's. They have the WAC's top quarterback in Billy Volek, one of the best running backs in Derrick Ward, perhaps the best cornerback in Payton Williams and a scrappy linebacker in 5-foot-7 Tim Skipper.

"This is a good football team as their record would indicate," UH head coach June Jones said. "They have a balanced attack on offense and a defense that can make things difficult for your offense."

When Hawaii's on offense ...

One thing Jones likes about the Fresno State defense is its similar style to what Hawaii tries to do on that side of the football.

During this week's practices, Jones has allowed the No. 1 units to face off for as many as 30 plays because the styles are so similar.

"Usually, we would have our No. 1 offensive unit go against the scout team," Jones said. "The usual problem with that is the scout team can't give you the fast look you're going to get in a game.

"Because our zone blitz philosophies on defense are similar, we've been able to go harder in practice against our top unit. It gives us a quicker look at what we'll see on Saturday."

Jones said the main difference between the defenses is the type of coverages in the secondary. While Hawaii gives teams more of a zone look, Fresno State prefers to lock up man-to-man.

Having Williams back at full speed in the secondary gives Fresno State a fighting chance against the Rainbows' run-and-shoot. Injuries have kept the senior from being as effective as he would like. But he is still a very capable cover-corner.

"They like to disguise their coverages in certain situations so they don't give away who's coming on the blitz," Jones said. "Our main concern will be protecting Dan (Robinson) because like us, they like to pressure you from all points on the field."

Fresno State is rated second in the WAC in scoring defense, allowing 22.2 points a game. The Bulldogs are also third against the rush and fifth against the pass.

Skipper and fellow linebacker Giachino Chiaramonte are the enforcers against the run. Last week, Fresno State came up big, limiting Rice to only 99 yards.

Free safety Vernon Fox is the leading tackler with 82. It's not a group with one standout athlete, but together, the Bulldogs could cause the Rainbows problems.

"What we have to do is execute our offense and try to take what they give us," said Robinson, who is fourth in the conference in passing efficiency and first in total offense. "If my guys continue to protect as they have all year, then we have a chance to move the football on them. I'm not so worried about what they do, but how we do against them."

When Hawaii's on defense ...

While the two defenses may be alike in mind and body, the two offenses are not, a fact not lost on Hawaii defensive coordinator Greg McMackin.

"They like to run first and then set up everything off of that," McMackin said. "They have a good offense. They're balanced. They like to pass the football off of play-action and if they establish the run, they're very effective in the passing game."

Volek's numbers reflect that. He is first in the WAC and fourth in the nation in passing efficiency with a 154.32 rating. By comparison, Robinson is fourth in the league and 50th in the nation at 123.1.

As much as the Bulldogs like to run, they will throw early and often. Volek has connected on 24 touchdown passes and thrown only three interceptions in 273 pass attempts. In his career, Volek's touchdown-to-interception ratio is one in every 71.2 attempts. He has 12 interceptions in his career. Robinson has thrown 12 this season.

"He won't force it in there," said UH cornerback Quincy LeJay, who leads the league in interceptions with five and set a UH record this season after returning three of those for touchdowns. "He's the most accurate quarterback we'll face. I'd like to get a pick against him, but it's not going to be easy."

McMackin will continue to employ zone coverages in the back end and try to put pressure on Volek from off the edge. Hawaii is tied with TCU for most quarterback sacks with 25. Fresno State is one behind at 24. Matt Paul and Jeff Ulbrich are tied for third in the league with five sacks apiece.

"They've got a lot of ways they can beat you," Ulbrich said. "You have to respect the running game and then be ready when they start throwing the football. They have a good scheme."

McMackin believes Fresno State employs nearly every formation in the pro set. Bulldogs head coach Pat Hill tries to confuse defenses with all these looks and motions, but when it comes down to it, Fresno State doesn't run that many different plays.

"But they run them out of so many different formations, it's tough to get a read on what's coming," McMackin said. "I'm sure there will be a lot of adjustments in this game.

"We have to pressure their quarterback, because if he has time to throw, he's going to get it in there. He's probably the most accurate quarterback we'll face."

Hawaii vs. Fresno State

Bullet When: 6:05 p.m. Saturday
Bullet Where: Aloha Stadium
Bullet RealAudio: Live Internet broadcast
Bullet TV: Delayed, 9 p.m. on KFVE
Bullet Radio: Live on KCCN 1420-AM

Rainbow Notebook

3 'Bows opt for Senior Bowl

Hawaii standouts Adrian Klemm, Kaulana Noa and Jeff Ulbrich have committed to play in the Senior Bowl, the Star-Bulletin confirmed yesterday.

Klemm said after yesterday 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 town

Powerful agent Leigh Steinberg is in town and will have an informal meeting in the president's office this afternoon to discuss marketing plans for the Rainbows football team.

UH head coach June Jones confirmed after yesterday 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 commits

Hawaii 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 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 update

Defensive 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

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