Saturday, September 26, 1998
Victory a must
The Hawaii football teamBy Paul Arnett
isn't taking nonconference
foe Arkansas State lightly
This one is a must.
Lose tonight's game with Arkansas State and Hawaii will be left with enough self-doubt to fill all the empty seats at Aloha Stadium.
Even Rainbows head coach Fred vonAppen conceded how important this game is to his struggling team's psyche. When asked earlier this week if he would hold back some of his injured starters to allow them to rest for next Saturday's conference game against Southern Methodist, he emphatically shook his head.
"SMU is a conference game that counts, but this one counts, too," vonAppen said. "We need to win a football game and not look past anyone. This one is a must for our guys. We're an improved team, but we need a win to feel good about ourselves and our progress."
In the old days, Hawaii would have viewed Arkansas State as road-kill. But since vonAppen took over nearly three years ago, Hawaii is 2-2 against unheralded nonconference opponents (Ohio, Boise State, Cal State Northridge and Northeast Louisiana) and 1-4 against tougher nonconference teams (Boston College, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Notre Dame and Arizona).
"We have had problems against practically everybody," UH offensive coordinator Don Lindsey said. "I don't look at any opponent as somebody we should beat. I don't see one team on this schedule that I can say without a doubt, 'Well, we'll get these guys.'
"We haven't proved that. Not since I've been here. We got our butts kicked by Ohio and we lost to Northeast Louisiana at home in overtime. Arkansas State is every bit as good as those teams. They have played some big-time schools like Georgia, LSU and Miami of Florida, so I don't think they're going to be intimidated by us."
Arkansas State head coach Joe Hollis views it as a good opportunity to win a game on the road. Since taking over last year, Hollis is 0-8 away from Indian Stadium. Arkansas State has dropped its last 11 road games since knocking off Northern Illinois in 1995.
Two of Hollis' three wins were against Southwest Missouri State. The other was a 36-35 victory over Central Arkansas. A win tonight against Hawaii would be the biggest of his career.
"We're coming in here all business," Hollis said. "Hawaii has a good defensive team and an offense that keeps getting better every week. We have some injuries up front on offense, but we can't dwell on that."
The Indians hope to upgrade their running game, and make sure the Rainbows' don't improve theirs. Hawaii is averaging a meager 78 yards a game on the ground. Arkansas State is even worse at 40.3.
Both coaches look for their star running backs to have breakout performances.
Hawaii's Charles Tharp was newcomer of the year in the Western Athletic Conference Pacific Division in 1997, but this year he has only 102 yards on 29 carries with no touchdowns.
Arkansas State features a Parade All-American running back in freshman Jonathan Adams. He made his Division I debut last week against Southwest Missouri State after missing the first two games with groin and ankle injuries.
Adams managed only 4 yards on three carries, but Hollis said he believes he's the future for the Indians. Adams holds the Arkansas high school record for most yards (6,714 yards) and touchdowns (88) in a career.
"Part of the problem for our running game has been injuries in the offensive line," Hollis said. "We lost two good ones (tackles Patrick Birdwell and Todd Frohbieter), and another guy (Justin Rhodes) has been slowed with a bad shoulder. We just don't have a lot of depth up in the O-line."
Hawaii has its own problems up front. Starting left tackle Kynan Forney has a subluxed shoulder and is doubtful. He and tight end Adrian Klemm (knee) could see playing time, but how long either can last is anyone's guess.
Hawaii backup quarterback Josh Skinner, who suffered a mild concussion Wednesday, will be available to play tonight.
"He didn't have a headache today," vonAppen said. "So he'll definitely see some playing time."
Dan Robinson will get his second consecutive start at quarterback. Yesterday, the junior said he's getting better every week.
"And so is our offense," Robinson said. "We still need to get the running game established. That's one thing we've worked hard on in practice all week."
Defensive coordinator Tom Williams said he thinks he's found the right combination in the secondary with tonight's starting foursome of cornerbacks Jovon Jiles and Quincy LeJay and safeties Phil Austin and Donnell Williams.
Williams will be without linebackers Rinda Brooks (concussion) and Yaphet Warren (hamstring). Safety Daniel Ho-Ching (hamstring) could sit out, too.
"We need to do a good job of containing their backs, putting pressure on the quarterback and keeping an eye on their receivers," Williams said. "At times, we did that against Arizona and Utah. We just need to get more consistent play by play, quarter by quarter and game by game."
Teams: Arkansas State (1-2) vs. Hawaii (0-2)
Kickoff: 6:05 p.m. at Aloha Stadium (artificial surface)
TV: KFVE (Channel 5), tape delayed, 9 p.m.
Attendance: A crowd of 25,000 is expected (50,000 capacity)
Coaches: Arkansas State's Joe Hollis (3-11, second year). Hawaii's Fred vonAppen (5-21, third year)
Weather: Partly cloudy skies with a chance of rain. Temperature at game time in the low 80s.
Radio: Live on KCCN (1420-AM)
Point spread: Hawaii is favored by 11.