Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Monday, November 15, 1999

Rainbows’ WAC title

THE trouble with this year's Hawaii football season, is that it's difficult to put it into words. Which is embarrassing for someone whose job is putting it into words.

But what can you say about the 1999 football Rainbows?

Astonishing? Remarkable? Unbelievable?

Well, what can you say about UH's 31-24 victory in double overtime over Fresno State Saturday night at Aloha Stadium?

Let me count the ways:

A share of the Western Athletic Conference football championship at worst. At best, an outright WAC title should Fresno State and Texas Christian lose another game.

The first postseason bowl appearance since 1992.

Seven wins, ensuring the Rainbows' first winning season since 1992.

It's one of the greatest turnarounds in college football, considering they were 0-12 season the year before.

And, surely more votes to put June Jones over the top as college football's coach of the year.

"I tell you one thing," said Rainbow quarterback Dan Robinson. "Without coach Jones, all of this would not have been possible. We're WAC champs, babe."

There were a lot of people among the 35,417 fans watching the game wearing T-shirts that said, "June Jones for governor."

Which makes you wonder why Jones would even want such a thankless job like that anyway?

"This was why I came here," Jones said. "To bring this football program back. I knew it could be like this."

NOT that he harbored the slightest inclination that he could win seven games in his first year as coach, let alone lead a team that went worst to first in the WAC.

Or even earn a bowl bid.

A few scenarios have to be played out before the Rainbows can play in the Oahu Bowl on Christmas Day at Aloha Stadium against a Pac-10 team, most likely Oregon State.

"No question, our players would rather be at home," Jones said.

But Fresno State would have to beat San Jose State for that to happen.

Should the Bulldogs lose, the Rainbows will have to play in the Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 18.

Fortunately, the Bulldogs will be at home against the Spartans and Fresno State, as we have all seen first hand, is not a team that travels well, having lost 12 of its last 17 road games, including three in a row here.

The Bulldogs arguably played heir worst game of the season Saturday night against the Rainbows, losing four fumbles that led to 21 points.

JUNIOR safety Dee Miller recovered three Bulldog bobbles for a UH single-game record. And, as a born-again Christian, Miller was thankful for his bountiful harvest, considering he hadn't recovered even one fumble in a game before. Ever. Not even in high school or youth football.

So God worked in mysterious ways for Miller and the Rainbows.

The Big Guy also has a thing for redemption and Robinson and kicker Eric Hannum wound up getting blessed as well.

Robinson, who threw two interceptions, connected with Craig Stutzmann for the winning TD pass in the second OT.

Hannum came back after blowing a 29-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to kick a 21-yarder that gave the 'Bows a reprieve in the first overtime.

Put it this way.

If Hannum had made that 29-yarder, the fans would have missed out on one of the most thrilling, foot-stomping UH games ever seen.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

E-mail to Sports Editor

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