GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Hawaii's Tim Chang took off running as Rice's Jimmy Shaw pursued him last night. Chang broke school records for completions and attempts as the Warriors ran away in the second half.
Hawaii doesn’t let
a second-quarter lull
stop it from winning
its WAC opener
For a few minutes late in the first half, Hawaii looked like the team that bumbled its way to a loss at UNLV last week. But the Warriors owned Rice the rest of the time last night, ending a two-game losing streak and winning its Western Athletic Conference football opener.
UH jumped way ahead, took an ill-advised break before halftime, and turned up the defensive pressure in the second half to beat the Owls 41-21.
A turnstile crowd of 30,180 at Aloha Stadium saw the Warriors shut down the Owls' high-voltage running game, limiting Rice's spread option to 186 yards.
"Practice makes permanent," said UH defensive end Houston Ala, who was in on five tackles. "We've worked on how to beat them a lot and it showed tonight."
"That was the best defense we've played since I've been here. I looked up with a few minutes to go and saw that they had only nine first downs," Hawaii coach June Jones said. "I don't think anybody has stopped them like we did. We defended them really well."
Also, UH finally did not lose a turnover battle -- the first time that's happened since Hawaii beat Rice 33-28 last year, eight games ago.
With last night's win, UH (2-2) beat Rice (0-4) for the first time at home after two losses.
Warriors quarterback Tim Chang completed a record 42 of 70 passes for 397 yards and two touchdowns to former high school teammate Gerald Welch.
Chang broke the school records for completions and school and WAC marks for attempts. The old records were 37 completions by Dan Robinson in 1999 against Navy and 64 attempts by Chang against San Jose State in 2000. He broke the WAC record of 68 attempts set by New Mexico's Jeremy Leach in 1989.
But Chang's best number was zero; that's how many times he was intercepted for the first time this season.
"Obviously, he has a great feel for what we're doing," Jones said. "He's getting better and better and everybody benefits when you've got great players around you."
Chang completed passes to 11 different receivers.
"I think we showed we have a lot of guys who can play," Chang said. "People who know us see that every day in practice. The same is true on defense. Lots of guys contributed."
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Hawaii's Gerald Welch (No. 38) celebrated after catching one of his two touchdowns last night against Rice at Aloha Stadium.
Linebacker Ikaika Curnan led UH with 10 tackles, and the Warriors' defense created five Rice turnovers, including a first-half fumble recovery and an interception by David Gilmore that set up touchdowns.
Hawaii scored the game's first 24 points, but let the Owls back into the game with sloppy play late in the first half.
"I was just hoping this wasn't going to be like two years ago when we were up 21-0 when we came in at half and we lost," UH cornerback Kelvin Millhouse said. "I was just thinking we can't let them come back, can't let them score any more points."
Rice scored on an 85-yard fumble return by linebacker Brandon Boyd and a recovery in the UH end zone by rover Terry Holley after a bad snap on a punt.
That was after the Owls got on the board with 6:00 left in the half on a 5-yard reverse to Marcus Battle. Greg Henderson hit Battle (who caught five passes for 156 yards) for completions of 15 and 69 yards on the possession.
"They were overplaying the run, so we threw the ball," Rice coach Ken Hatfield said.
Before and after the Owls' brief outburst, Hawaii dominated the game.
West Keliikipi bulled in from the 1 at 3:54 of the first quarter as UH took a 7-0 lead.
The drive featured a 33-yard pass from Chang to Jeremiah Cockheran. Flushed out of the pocket, Chang rolled right and hit a diving Cockheran at the Rice 1.
UH scored again quickly, after Gilmore recovered a fumble forced by Chad Kalilimoku. Chang immediately went deep to Cockheran for a 54-yard pass. Two plays later Chang completed an 8-yarder to Welch for a 14-0 lead with 1:03 left in the first quarter.
Chang found Welch, his favorite target when they were at Saint Louis School together, again for a 10-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-0 with 14:10 left in the half.
Justin Ayat knocked through a 33-yard field goal at 8:32 before the break, expanding the lead to 24-0.
UH outgained Rice 324 yards to 176 in the first half. The Warriors held the ground-pounding Owls to 62 yards rushing on 17 plays before the break.
Rice had a chance to tie during a scoreless third quarter, but Brandon Skeen's 37-yard field-goal attempt was blocked by Abraham Elimimian into the hands of Kalilimoku.
John West dived in from 3 yards out with 11:05 left to give Hawaii a 31-21 lead. Chang drove the Warriors steadily downfield from his own 36, covering the distance in 12 plays with the longest gain a 14-yard pass to Michael Miyashiro. He completed seven of eight passes on the drive to five different receivers.
Lui Fuga recovered Henderson's fumble at the Rice 27 on the next series, setting up Ayat's 35-yard field goal. UH led 34-21 with 8:29 left.
Elimimian and Millhouse added fourth-quarter interceptions to seal Rice's fate.
"We were able to change the momentum of the game when we had to with the turnovers," Ala said.
Mike Bass completed the scoring with a 6-yard TD run with 1:21 left.
In a role reversal, it was Hawaii's run-and-shoot, not Rice's ground game, that dominated time of possession, hogging the ball for 36:09 while piling up 516 yards.
"I can't put a finger on it as to why we couldn't keep the momentum going in the second half," Boyd said. "We were out there for almost a hundred plays."
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM|
June Jones, center, and his Hawaii team celebrated after last night's win over Rice, as the Warriors improved to 2-2 overall and 1-0 in the Western Athletic Conference.