Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, November 18, 1999

Rainbows still need
to get up for Navy

AFTER gaining a share of the WAC title -- is that all there is for the Hawaii football Rainbows?

What else can they play for when they take on Navy in their first-ever meeting Saturday at Aloha Stadium?

Pride, I hope.

You have to wonder how motivated the Rainbows will be after achieving their remarkable worst-to-first WAC turnaround and clinching a postseason bowl bid.

Coach June Jones isn't one to play the motivation card. No locker-room material to pin up on the bulletin board for him.

His approach to Navy will be the same as it has been in every other game this season, Jones said.

Preparation and focus.

That got the Rainbows to where they are right now -- a 7-3 storybook season and one victory away from setting an NCAA record for the best turnaround by a team following a winless season.

The Rainbows tied the record set by the 1980 Florida Gators by recording victory No. 7 against Fresno State in a double-overtime thriller that everyone won't soon forget, especially kicker Eric Hannum, who made it all possible.

So, if Jones doesn't think motivation is a necessary gambit, let me lay down a few motivational cards on the table for the Rainbows.

One, is telling Florida, see you later all you Gators and claim the turnaround mark outright.

Two, is convincing remaining skeptics out there that the Rainbows are not only back but that they are for real.

NOTICE, for example, that despite its eye-opening record, UH is still a 3-point underdog to Navy. Though 4-6, the Middies get the nod because of their strength of schedule.

Three, is improving the image of the much-maligned Western Athletic Conference, which could always use a few more good wins, as this one would be.

And, four, is seeing that the Rainbows go out in style. Wouldn't beating Washington State and going 9-3 into a bowl game really be something?

I know, coach, I'm getting ahead of myself. Prepare and focus, one game at a time.

But you get the idea. The Rainbows still have a lot to play for in their final two nonconference games.

They need to remain mentally up, especially for the Middies, who have lost five games by a touchdown or less. The most heartbreaking was to Notre Dame, 28-24.

"They should have beat Notre Dame," said Jones, not surprised that Navy is favored.

"They're a good team. It's difficult to defend their offense and they're well-schooled on their defensive schemes."

HERE'S a scary thought: Navy -- No. 3 in the nation in rushing -- runs the option better than Rice or Texas Christian. And you know what they did to the Rainbows.

Rice rushed for 354 yards in a 38-19 victory, while TCU rang up 237 yards on the ground in a 34-14 romp.

Interestingly, Jones didn't think his Rainbows were that bamboozled by the option offense of those two Southwest schools.

"I thought we defended them well enough to win," Jones said.

The key for the Rainbows is to keep the Midshipmen from rushing for 300 yards. That is the game's real over-and-under figure.

Third in the nation in rushing, Navy is 4-0 when it rushed for 300 yards, 0-6 when it gained less than that.

Also worrisome is outside linebacker Shaka Martin, who leads the team in sacks.

Hope he never learns the shaka sign or gets to do it.

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

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