Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Sunday, November 4, 2001


Warriors wake up and turn
a bad game into a win

UH finds a way past San Jose

WITH eight-and-change left in the third quarter, just as I was typing the phrase, "My eyes hurt," there was hope. Ashley Lelie adjusted, jumped over, behind and around his man, coming down with the ball and stopping that horrible, painful, nonstop noise an alarm clock makes when you're still half unconscious and you can't seem to move. A 49-yard bomb and Hawaii hit the snooze button no longer. It was time to stop sleepwalking. Time to wake up.

With Lelie's great catch, Hawaii did. Well, mostly. Nick Rolovich made a nice scramble and then Thero Mitchell scored and the stadium started to stir. All this had come just after a great end zone interception by Jacob Espiau, and it looked like UH might finally get down to business.

Mitchell would score again, to make things more comfortable. UH's offense got into an almost-groove -- Justin Colbert was wide open in the end zone to make things a little prettier. To make the game feel a little better. And the defense got the job done. San Jose State was ... San Jose State. All's well that ends well, 34-10. Another win.

They can't all be classics. Maybe last week was too much. Too much to recover from. Too much to expect again. But sitting on the 50-yard line last night there was one inescapable conclusion: This game stinks.

For much of the night, except for a few exciting moments, before Hawaii finally got warmed up, it did. But that's fine. UH will take it. On the field, they don't go for aesthetics. (As coaches always say, you have to look at the films.) All they know are hitting and effort and sweat. And the end result.

There are no BCS points to worry about here, no beauty contests. At the end of the season when they count up the wins, this one won't be diminished because it didn't look like the UTEP game. It could have looked like UTEP. It should have.

But it also could have looked like Rice.

At this stage in the season, UH has learned the value of a win, and will take one greedily any way it comes. This adds up to six of them, five in a row.

"It's a big win," Mitchell said. One more and this is a winning season. It's the mark of a good year, a good team, that UH can get a win out of a game as bad as this one.

"Like I told the guys," June Jones said, "When you don't play your best game and you win, you're getting to be a better football team. That's what's happened to us."

Yes, the first half was ugly.

"It just wasn't clicking," tackle Uriah Moenoa said.

It was sputtering, stumbling, bumbling, fumbling. The rubber band defense bailed UH out, keeping San Jose State at bay, snapping back in the second half.

"This is a different team," defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa said. He meant defensively, but he was right all around. This could have been the Rice game. But it wasn't. Ugly or not, UH had done it. This was a win.

Cornerback Hyrum Peters jumped and whooped as he headed for the locker room. You couldn't tell him that this game wasn't great. You should have seen the look on his face.

It was beautiful.

Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at

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