Warrior D hands
Jones win No. 10
TEN. In the 13th game of his fourth season, June Jones reached the plateau of 10 wins. A nice number indeed. Double digits. And while I'm not ready to say it yet, you could certainly make an argument now that Jones has placed his name up there with that of the white-haired guy up in the TV booth.
(No, the other one.)
And though the score was 41-40, in this tilt with San Diego State, he reached this milestone thanks to his defense.
For most of the game, Hawaii's offense just wasn't clicking. The quarterback had a rough night, offering up four interceptions. In one night, he went from Timmy Chang, Son of Hawaii, to Timmy Chang, sophomore. And in the stands, there was murmuring. How fleeting fame is.
One of UH's best drives was a third-quarter march filled with little more than 7-yard outs and John West draws. Not exactly bombs away.
(Note to Tulane. When No. 20 is in the game, it is going to be a draw play. This light never quite came on for San Diego State.)
Twice, San Diego State players burst into the open field, long gone for sure touchdowns. Twice, Hawaii players caught them, and the Aztecs settled for field goals.
But there were other big plays. J.R. Tolver took a perfect pass, in the third quarter, a beautiful arcing lob. UH safety David Gilmore was late by inches, and Tolver walked home for the go-ahead score.
Then the Aztecs got lucky, pouncing on a Hawaii fumble in the end zone to turn away a potential scoring drive.
And then another long pass to Tolver, and Kassim Osgood made a nice grab for the score. The Aztecs led by 11 points.
Not yet. Because UH's offense was humming now, yes. But mostly because nobody in the WAC travels 3 yards swifter than Pisa Tinoisamoa does. And nobody can close the distance of 5 yards faster than Travis LaBoy.
LaBoy called for more noise, as the fourth-quarter clock ticked. And then Tinoisamoa hit the quarterback like a door slamming. SDSU was forced to give Hawaii the ball back.
Nate Ilaoa had a nice run, and then Britton Komine had a great catch. Ilaoa plunged over the goal, and then it was Hawaii's lead by a point with less than five minutes left.
"We just hung in there," Komine said, "and Timmy made some great plays. He made up for a couple mistakes, but he just did a big job."
But then -- anybody nervous here? -- the Aztecs were marching again.
"Throughout the game sometimes we thought that we had them covered and the quarterback would make a good throw and (the receiver) a good catch," said UH corner Kelvin Millhouse. "They had some tremendous receivers."
But when it counted, Hawaii held. On fourth down with the crowd going bonkers and the game on the line, LaBoy collapsed the quarterback. And Hawaii would win.
"We just rallied up around him," Millhouse said of LaBoy, who had five tackles for losses.
What a game. What a night. Ready for the bowl game yet? Do games like these -- a game that didn't count for anything, really -- get that blood pumping?
Ten wins. Defense. Merry Christmas. Good night.
"I'm just glad," Jones said, "we pulled it off for our seniors."
Kalani Simpson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org