Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, September 11, 1997

Reality might strike,
but it won’t be awful

LIKE the Rainbow Wahine volleyball team, which got a cold dose of reality against UCLA, will the University of Hawaii football 'Bows also get a rude jolt against the Wyoming Cowboys?

Nobody knows how good this year's Rainbow football team is, not even head coach Fred vonAppen.

Oh, he knows his 'Bows are bigger, faster and more athletic than last year. And, obviously, a little better, considering the 'Bows are 2-0 with victories over a so-so Minnesota team with a lot of name recognition and a good Cal State Northridge team with none whatsoever except in college baseball.

Neither of the two victories were aesthetic, vonAppen said. "They won't hang in the Louvre, but we'll take it." But he couldn't ask for a better scenario -- or start -- than 2-0.

But how much better than last year's team -- which also won two games, though it took 12 tries -- is the question.

We'll all find out soon enough when the Rainbows take on the Cowboys in the Western Athletic Conference opener for both teams.

VonAppen is looking forward to the game. "We're excited about playing somebody the quality of Wyoming," he said.

"It's a chance to play a WAC opponent and just measure our program at this point in time and see if we're indeed competitive with someone like Wyoming, who should be in the upper echelon of the WAC again."

THE Cowboys played Ohio State tough in Columbus and then thoroughly shellacked Iowa State in Laramie.

"Fortunately, we're not going to Laramie," vonAppen said, remembering all too well last year's 66-0 debacle -- the worst defeat in UH history.

New Wyoming coach Dana Dimel knows that it's a lot different playing in Hawaii. "It's going to be an interesting trip. They're a whole different football team in the islands."

Having been here with the Kansas State team for the 1994 Aloha Bowl, Dimel says he's familiar with what it takes to keep his players focused.

Apparently, the Cowboys haven't lost a step despite the coaching change. They're formidable as ever.

Which, vonAppen said, might not be saying much. "For us, everybody's formidable," he said.

However, vonAppen won't go so far as Iowa State coach Dan McCarney did in claiming that the Cowboys are better this season than last year, when they went 10-2 and won the WAC Pacific Division title.

For one thing, vonAppen said, they don't have the same two guys -- quarterback Josh Wallwork and wide receiver Marcus Harris.

That's nice to know.

STILL, the Cowboys are 12-point favorites to beat the Rainbows Saturday night. Swarming defense notwithstanding, don't look for the Rainbows to remain ninth in the nation in rushing defense after the Cowboys get through with them. Wyoming has scored in 137 straight games and there's no reason why this won't be No. 138.

It's doubtful that the game will be another blowout for the Cowboys. But to be competitive, the Rainbows will need to come up with another big game, maybe converting another fumble recovery into a touchdown as it did the first two games.

And it'll be incumbent on the offense to control the football so that the defense won't have to spend too much time on the field, particularly against Wyoming's huge offensive line.

"We're cautiously optimistic," vonAppen said. "We're anxious to play a WAC opponent that we haven't done well against and see if we can play them respectably. We think we can be more competitive against them this year."

I think so, too. I'm taking the points.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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