RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Hawaii's Kelvin Millhouse tried to take down UTEP's Howard Jackson in the second quarter last night at Aloha Stadium.
Hawaii’s play is unspectacular
yet effective against UTEP
Texas-El Paso once again brought out the not-so-spectacular in Hawaii quarterback Tim Chang, but the Warriors used the Miners' own implements -- a pick and a couple of shovels -- and some stout defense to slog by UTEP last night 31-15.
An Aloha Stadium homecoming crowd announced at 34,971 saw the Warriors win their third consecutive game and improve to 5-3 and 4-1 in the Western Athletic Conference, with the biggest plays an interception by David Gilmore and shovel passes from Chang to Michael Brewster. UTEP fell to 2-6 and 1-2 with their third consecutive loss to UH and fifth in a row in the islands.
Hawaii improved its home record this season to 4-0, and the Warriors haven't lost at home to a WAC opponent since falling to Boise State in 2001.
"It was a good win," UH coach June Jones said. "Any win is a good win."
Chang's numbers weren't bad -- especially considering he was suffering from the flu. He completed 27 of 54 passes for 426 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, as Hawaii generated 463 yards on offense.
And, for the first time this season, the Warriors allowed zero sacks.
But as it was in last season's 31-6 victory at El Paso, Hawaii's attack was inconsistent.
"I wasn't very accurate in the first half," Chang said. "They played a lot of man-to-man, and when they do that, I have to be on target."
This was one for the kickers, as both offenses struggled once they got past midfield. Hawaii's Justin Ayat kicked four field goals, and UTEP's Keith Robinson made three.
UH played some of its best defense of the season as two sophomores led the way; linebacker Ikaika Curnan was in on 13 tackles and defensive end Mel Purcell had 12, including two of the team's nine for loss. Hawaii did not allow a touchdown until 6:07 in the fourth quarter, when UTEP quarterback Jordan Palmer ran in from a yard out to make it 25-15.
By then it was too late for the Miners.
UTEP had its chances earlier, but squandered the best when Gilmore intercepted Palmer's pass in the Hawaii end zone early in the third quarter. At that time, the Miners trailed only 15-6, and Adrian Ward had just intercepted a pass by Chang.
"The turning point was when we got the turnover and threw the interception in the end zone," Miners coach Gary Nord said.
The Warriors yielded 414 yards to the Miners, including 112 yards rushing by Matt Austin and 100 by Howard Jackson. But Hyrum Peters and Chad Kalilimoku forced fumbles that were recovered by Ikaika Alama-Francis and Lui Fuga; Hawaii won the turnover battle three to one.
"We played a solid game with the exception of a few plays here or there," said Gilmore, who also knocked down two passes. "We had a few busts, but for the most part we played good. When we had to keep them out of the end zone we did."
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Hawaii's Se'e Poumele was brought down by UTEP's J.D. Hearn, right, and Marshall Sanford last night.
On the play following Gilmore's interception, Chang completed a 71-yard pass to Britton Komine. But the Warriors again settled for a field goal, as Ayat converted from 27 yards for an 18-6 lead.
UTEP went three and out on the next series. The Warriors took advantage by mounting an eight-play, 72-yard drive that ended with Michael Miyashiro's first career touchdown, a 6-yard pass from Chang. Hawaii led 25-6 with 7:47 left in the third.
Robinson answered with a 45-yard field goal on the next series, closing the gap to 25-9.
UTEP penetrated to the UH 6 early in the fourth quarter, but was pushed back to the 18 for holding. Leonard Peters broke up two passes and Robinson's field-goal attempt from 35 yards hit the right upright.
Hawaii led 15-6 at halftime as Ayat kicked three field goals before the break.
UTEP took the opening kickoff and scored on a 44-yard field goal by Robinson with 9:42 left in the first quarter.
Hawaii came back two series later with a six-play, 69-yard drive highlighted by a 41-yard shovel pass from Chang to Brewster and capped by Chang's 10-yard touchdown pass to Se'e Poumele. Ayat missed an extra-point as the Warriors led 6-3 at 1:42 of the first.
Ayat's field goals of 33 and 25 yards made it 12-3, and Robinson converted from 40 yards to cut it to 12-6 with 38 seconds left in the half.
Another Chang-to-Brewster shovel pass, this one for 44 yards, set up Ayat's 25-yard field goal on the last play of the half.
"They watch the receivers more than me," said Brewster, who had a game-high eight receptions for 138 yards. "Coach is watching for the right time to run (the shovel pass) all the time and he picks good times to run it."
After Palmer's fourth-quarter run gave UTEP its first touchdown against UH in eight quarters, Chang completed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Jeremiah Cockheran, leaping in the back of the end zone, with 2:28 left in the game to complete the scoring. Ayat missed the extra point.
"(Chang) had a little virus, an infection and we challenged him to throw the ball more accurately, and he did. He made some big plays in the second half," Jones said. "Jeremiah got that ball that we were throwing away."
The Warriors move on to road games at San Jose State and Nevada with their conference championship hopes alive.
"We've got a tough task at hand," Jones said. "We've got to win on the road twice and if we can maintain our home-field advantage, we have a chance to win the WAC."
The Miners rushed to the airport for a flight back to El Paso and time to think about what they might have achieved if not for their own mistakes.
"We just couldn't get the ball in the end zone," Nord said. "When we got down there we got an interception, then when we got down there again we got a holding penalty. ... You can't turn the ball over three times against a team like that."