Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Hawaii took it easy
while WAC took it
on the chin

SO we'd seen Miami run wild at Louisiana Tech, and we saw Fresno State flounder at mighty Tennessee. And we'd heard about the carnage in The Swamp -- Florida and its 65 unanswered points, over San Jose State. Minnesota 49, Tulsa 10. UTEP got spanked in the Arizona night.

It was ugly out there.

So it became apparent, as game time drew near, last night. Hawaii would be battling to uphold the honor of the Western Athletic Conference.

Against Appalachian State.

Go ahead. Laugh. This one was just as ugly as any of the others, this I-AA laugher that was even worse than the 40-17 score indicated.

This was truly a tune-up. As in, "Eh, I going tune you up."

And Hawaii kicked little grains of rubber FieldTurf sand in Appalachian State's face.

So what the heck do you get out of that?

"A win," June Jones said.

(He's had plenty of practice at answering questions like these.)

But really. While the rest of the conference was taking it on the chin from heavyweights, Hawaii was cruising. Breezing. It was like playing catch. These guys would have gotten more from just going hard against each other.

So, with USC looming, how does this help you?

"We're just brushing up on our skills," running back Michael Brewster said.

"It's like another practice," left tackle Samson Satele said.

"It's still a confidence booster," right tackle Dane Uperesa said.

It certainly was.

On the first play of the game, K.T. Stovall ran over Uperesa and he ran over Jason Whieldon and Jones, apparently, had seen enough. Then came a steady diet of shovel passes to keep Appalachian State in line, like a master yanking a dog back by its chain. Deal with that, Jones was saying, and by then it was already over.

(And Uperesa was instantly better.)

The talent level was already unfair. Then came adjustments to stay one step ahead.

Superior firepower, superior intelligence.

It's Miller Time.

You see, Appalachian State had a slight problem.

You can't run a zone against a run-and-shoot offense, and you can't go man-to-man if you're I-AA.

One play best illustrated the difference. It was a mistake, a bad pass. Jeremiah Cockheran snatched the ball out of midair, snagging a sure interception from two guys. It was sleight of hand, a magician's move. It was a Division I stud taking the ball away from two small college players who weren't quite sure how to seize the moment.

Touchdown, UH.

And it looked like The Swamp on a sunny day, Florida beating up on some poor, sympathetic, overmatched foe.

Defensive line coach Vantz Singletary compared it to the recent scheduling philosophy being carried out by his alma mater, Kansas State. And we've all seen how well that works there.

Now Hawaii has games like these. That's how far the program has progressed.

But we saw another game yesterday, too, USC at Auburn. And that one was even uglier than it looked.

And in the UH locker room, line coach Mike Cavanaugh was lecturing. Something about having to grow up quickly. About having to do it right now.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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