Thursday, October 21, 1999
The Golden Hurricane are inBy Paul Arnett
disarray but still dangerous
TULSA, Okla. - If this game were at Aloha Stadium, it wouldn't be whether Hawaii would win, but by how much.
After all, the Tulsa football team has lost five games in a row for a third consecutive season. The Golden Hurricane also had 20 injured players miss Monday's workout, including starting quarterback Michael Wall and top tackler Ashon Farley. If that weren't bad enough, Tulsa athletic director Judy MacLeod and many local fans are openly critical of head coach Dave Rader.
But before you bet the house on the Rainbows, remember the game is not being played at Aloha Stadium, but on the road, some 4,000 miles and several time zones away. And while they shook off their away-demons a month ago in Dallas, it's not as if they're road warriors. As Bob Dylan once put it, "The past is close behind."
"It's always much more difficult to win on the road, I don't care how good or bad the teams are," UH head coach June Jones said. "We're not going to go in there, throw our helmets on the field and win. Because if we take that attitude, we're going to lose."
Still, Tulsa is struggling. The Golden Hurricane are giving up 40 points and 429 yards a game. Tulsa is also having problems offensively. Rader's boys are averaging only 17 points and 282 yards a game. They've been prone to give up big plays on special teams as well.
DEFENSEHawaii defensive coordinator Greg McMackin isn't so concerned with what Rader runs - the Golden Hurricane do a little bit of everything - but how he runs it.
Tulsa is one of the few teams that uses the no-huddle concept all the time. The goal of this offensive philosophy is to keep opponents from having time to send in substitutes for certain situations.
"They want you to stay in your basic package, no matter what they're running," McMackin said. "But we have a plan for them. If they send in substitutions, we're going to send in ours based on who they have on the field."
McMackin has been working on his substitution pattern all this week in practice. Most of the time, Tulsa will line up in a two-tight end, one-back set. But the Golden Hurricane have been known to go to four-wide, especially if it can get this formation on the field before the defense has time to make the necessary adjustments.
"They want to keep us from getting our nickel packages in if they can," McMackin said. "But we'll be ready for them. We're going to try to play them like we would any other team, but the no-huddle can pose problems."
With Wall out for the season and freshman quarterback Josh Blankenship forced to take his place, Rader is concerned the Rainbows' zone blitz will cause his youngster some problems.
"We're definitely going to go after him and see if we can rattle him," middle linebacker Jeff Ulbrich said. "We don't want to give him time to stand in there and find the open receiver."
The receiver Hawaii has to worry about the most is All-WAC performer Damon Savage. Not since USC has Hawaii faced a wideout of this caliber.
"Like UTEP, they like to run the wide receiver screen, especially to Savage," McMackin said. "The last three games, they've probably run it 25 times. So, we have to be aware of it."
Savage is the lone bright spot on offense. He has caught 38 passes for 359 yards and three touchdowns this season. In his career, he has scored 15 touchdowns and amassed 2,559 receiving yards.
OFFENSELike the offense, Tulsa's defense will employ a multitude of formations. The Golden Hurricane's base is the standard 4-3, but don't look for Tulsa to stay in it the entire game.
"On the back end, they like to play man defense, a lot more man than we've seen," Jones said. "I don't know if they'll keep that same approach with us or not. But I assume that's what they'll do.
"We like to study what they do against spread teams. A lot of times, they just stay in their standard 4-3, but they'll also switch around to a variety of things."
As an example, Tulsa will change its front from a 4-3 to a 3-2 and even a 3-3.
"They'll even go 4-2 and 4-1, depending how many defensive backs they use in obvious passing situations," Jones said. "This is not a bad defense. Sometimes when you play teams of the caliber of TCU, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, they make you look worse than you really are."
To muddy the waters even further, Rader will be without leading tackler Farley for as many as three weeks with a sprained knee. His leadership on the field will be sorely missed.
Middle linebacker Jeremy McClure will try to pick up the slack. He is second on the team in tackles with 37. McClure also has one interception and two fumble recoveries.
"I'm sure they're going to miss Farley," Jones said. "But they have capable athletes who can hurt us if we don't come to play."