R A I N B O W _ F O O T B A L L

’Bows hope to
keep Falcons grounded

Air Force just might be the best team
Hawaii has played this season

By Paul Arnett

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - The last time the University of Hawaii played at Falcon Stadium, the Rainbows were on the threshold of a championship.

Oh, nobody knew it at the time. It was only the second game of the season and the first Western Athletic Conference matchup, but it was a portent of things to come.

A young redshirt freshman quarterback named Rodney Glover came to the rescue after Michael Carter went down with a leg injury.

Glover directed a 6-3 victory that would set the stage for that unforgettable season. A pair of Jason Elam field goals and a defensive effort that former coordinator Chris Smeland thinks about to this day, were the differences.

Hawaii returned home on that September weekend in 1992 to an island chain still talking about the wrath of Hurricane Iniki that struck hours after the Rainbows left for Colorado Springs.

The road win was duly noted, but not much was made of it. Other than the players and coaches, nobody really thought Hawaii would win the Holiday Bowl three months later by defeating Illinois, 27-17.

Boy, how things have changed.

This time around, Hawaii is so far removed from that historical high, it's hard to believe things have fallen so far, so fast. In four years, the Rainbows have gone from the top 20 to the bottom 20.

Tomorrow, it's the Falcons of Air Force fighting for the league title. Even if God granted a miracle and allowed Hawaii to win its last four games, the best the Rainbows can do is 6-6.

"We'd take that, no questions asked," UH head coach Fred vonAppen said, then smiled. "But I have a feeling the last four teams we play wouldn't go for it, especially Air Force. Those guys aren't usually in the giving mood."

Already saddled with a Pacific Division loss by the unbeaten Cowboys of Wyoming, Air Force (4-2, 3-1) can ill afford to stumble.

Granted, the Falcons are coming off a stunning overtime win at Notre Dame, but coach Fisher DeBerry guarantees their heads won't be elsewhere. An unexpected loss could keep them home for the holidays.

"We've watched the film and I see a Hawaii football team that keeps getting better every week," DeBerry said. "Russell Grant is gaining some big yards and we all know what Glenn Freitas can do.

"I think this team is buying into the new system and starting to see some payoffs. This won't be an easy game for us. We've got to let our guys know that we can't afford another league loss."

No argument there, but can the Rainbows really stop the precision Air Force option offense and score against the disciplined 3-4 defense? Those are the questions vonAppen will seek to answer.

Coordinators Guy Benjamin and Don Lindsey have devised game plans they hope will work to keep it close. Benjamin's offense is facing the league's best defense, while Lindsey's defense will try to control the nation's No. 2 ground game.

"We've got to watch for plays they like to run," Lindsey said. "One of their favorites is for quarterback Beau Morgan to fake to the fullback, fake to the halfback on the perimeter and then follow in right behind him with the halfback becoming the lead blocker.

"We also have to be aware of their counter plays they run out of the option alignment. If you lose focus, they can break big plays on you."

Morgan is the catalyst of the option attack with 750 yards rushing and 610 passing. He has accounted for seven touchdowns rushing and three through the air.

Benjamin will counter with a mix of the veer option and the West Coast Offense.

"We've asked a lot from Glenn and will continue to do so," Benjamin said. "It will be difficult to score on these guys because they play with discipline and precision. But it's also good for our guys to face a defense like this one."

The Rainbows are 0-3 on the road this year, losing three games to Wyoming, Fresno State and San Diego State by a combined score of 142-8. Dating back to October, 1992, Hawaii has dropped 15 consecutive WAC road games.

"This is our last chance to get a win on the road this year and snap that grotesque streak," vonAppen said. "We'll have to come ready to play and we haven't done that so far. Hopefully, we can change all that this weekend."

The facts

Records Hawaii (2-6, 1-4 WAC) vs. Air Force (4-2, 3-1)
Kickoff 8:05 a.m. Saturday at Falcon Stadium
TV Live on KFVE
Radio Live on KCCN 1420-AM
Coaches Hawaii's Fred vonAppen (2-6, first year). Air Force's Fisher DeBerry (96-57-1, 13 year)
Weather Chance of snow, temperatures in the 30s
Point spread Air Force is favored by 31

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