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Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, September 29, 2000

U H _ F O O T B A L L

UH Football

Warriors aching
for a W

The UH football team is working
hard for the remedy it needs:
a win against Tulsa

By Paul Arnett

NOTHING that a win wouldn't cure.

Even when the University of Hawaii football coaches and players don't say it, they think it. It's right there in the back of their minds, on the tip of their tongues and in the prayers they keep to themselves.

Nothing that a win wouldn't cure.

When asked after yesterday's practice if there was a sense of urgency entering tomorrow night's Western Athletic Conference game with the University of Tulsa, head coach June Jones fixed that flinty stare he borrowed from James Dean and said, "Nope, other than we need to get a win. You know?"

Oh, everybody knows all right. Lose to the Golden Hurricane at home with two more trips to Texas staring you in the face next month, and this season of high hopes disappears into one of those Waikiki sunsets.

The goals will go from back-to-back bowl appearances to managing a break-even season and a victory over Wisconsin that would salvage an otherwise disappointing campaign. Jones knows that's a possibility. He just isn't willing to go there.

Ever the optimist, Jones feels the Warriors are only a dozen plays away from where they want to be. If Craig Stutzmann hadn't fumbled, if Nick Rolovich hadn't thrown that interception, if holding hadn't been called on Joaquin Avila, if only Flex Armstrong hadn't been left alone.

"It all comes down to making plays and believing in yourself," Jones said. "We had two big momentum swings in our two losses that we weren't able to overcome. We have to believe in each other and be confident when something doesn't go our way."

Nothing that a win wouldn't cure.

Nobody knows that better than Rolovich. The starter in the two losses, Rolovich would like nothing better than to come out and have that breakout game Jones believes is still in him. He wouldn't have selected him, otherwise.

Logic says Rolovich starts. Should he falter or the fates conspire against him, then Jones can turn to hometown hero Timmy Chang and say, "Go forth and conquer."

Whether that happens depends partly on the receivers, who have been about as reliable as a Firestone tire. Imagine, if you will, a wishbone offense having its running backs fumbling the ball 10 times a game. Chaos, right?

WELL, don't blame Rolovich or Chang for all the passes that slipped through the fingers or bounced off the shoulder pads of the wideouts at last week's loss to Texas-El Paso.

And let's not leave out the offensive line. There were enough jail breaks and "look out!" blocks to go around.

"We did some things right early on," offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said. "We recognized the blitz package and reacted properly.

"Then later on in the game, they did the same thing and we didn't pick it up. The guy who felt the mistakes the most was Rolo."

It certainly figures first-year head coach Keith Burns of Tulsa will attack Hawaii's left side of the line. Where the right side is solid, the left is fluid and prone to letting the water flow over the dam. Chris Pinkney has been afforded every opportunity to call the left tackle position his own. But so far, he's made no claim to it.

Tulsa's defense doesn't appear as air tight in the secondary as that of UTEP and Portland State. Both teams had outstanding corners, who were able to lock on to their targets and stay with them most of the evening.

That's something UH defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa is hoping his secondary will do. So far, it hasn't been the case. The corners and safeties have been severely challenged due in part to the front seven's inability to put pressure on the quarterback.

Jones believes the Golden Hurricane will pass first and ask questions later. He sees sophomore quarterback Josh Blankenship and wideout Donald Shoals as the real threats on offense. Considering the shaky play of the UH defensive backs, it's hard to argue with him.

Lempa wants to stop the run because the Warriors have failed to do so in the first two games. He believes eliminating Tulsa's play-action game will give Hawaii that elusive edge. Lempa realizes the availability of safety Dee Miller and end Joe Correia is doubtful. Even if they do play, neither will be at full speed.

"This is another good football team we're facing with big-play capabilities," Lempa said. "They have a good quarterback-receiver tandem and they're able to move the ball on the ground. This is a big game for us. We've had our problems."

But nothing a win wouldn't cure.

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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