Friday, November 26, 1999
Bows have no
pity for Cougars
The UH football team knows whatBy Paul Arnett
Washington State is going through
but wants win No. 9 tomorrow
Hawaii understands what Washington State is going through, but no mercy will be shown.
Since the magical run to the Rose Bowl two years ago, the Cougars have fallen and can't get up. They have lost their last five and don't want to become the first Washington State team since 1970 to lose 10 games in a single season.
Some might say tomorrow night's meeting at Aloha Stadium is Washington State's bowl game. Cougar head coach Mike Price isn't one of them. He sees it as an opportunity to send the seniors out on a high note and give the younger players a chance to build a better future.
The Rainbows have heard that song and dance before. Folks said it after the close loss to Notre Dame in 1997 and all that happened was Hawaii finished 0-12 the following season.
"We don't want them getting better against us,'' said linebacker Jeff Ulbrich. "We're also playing for pride, to set an NCAA record that maybe nobody will ever touch. This is a big game for us.''
The Rainbows already have set an NCAA mark for the best about-face for a winless team The eight-game swing tied a record set in 1940 by Stanford and equaled in 1943 by Purdue. Hawaii can stand alone with a win to close out the regular season.
"I'm happy for our players because they've been through a lot,'' UH head coach June Jones said. "It would be a great accomplishment for them, for the school and for the state of Hawaii. I knew it could be like this. I'm happy to be a part of it.''
Former St. Louis School standout Jason Gesser will be riding an emotional wave of his own. Two years ago, he led the Crusaders to a state championship on the same field he'll run and throw on tomorrow tonight.
Most folks figured his thumb injury wouldn't allow him to play. But this is something Gesser has been looking forward to since going away to school in 1997.
"Jason Gesser has looked OK, but not great,'' Price said during a conference call following Wednesday's practice. "He is still rusty. His grip on the ball concerns him a little. He has gotten lots of work.''
The Hawaii defense has done its best to prepare for him. Injuries have slowed this group the past few games. But fortunately for defensive coordinator Greg McMackin he has been able to hold it together.
"These guys come to work and play hard every day,'' McMackin said. "The result is a magical season none of us will ever forget. I was telling my wife I had never been around a team where things went right at all the best times. If you've been in coaching a long time, you know something like this doesn't happen very often.''
Price would like a little bit of it to rub off on his team. Much like the Rainbows of 1997, the Cougars have lost a lot of close games they could have won. The result? Washington State has dropped 17 of its last 19 games.
"I said we were going to play a lot of younger players,'' Price said. "But I'm still going to give our seniors a chance to play. They deserve the opportunity to end their careers with a win.''
Fortunately for Hawaii, this won't be the last game of the season. The Rainbows will be back here in a month playing another Pac-10 program in much-improved Oregon State in the Oahu Bowl. But that doesn't mean the Rainbows will be talking it easy.
"Not at all,'' said senior quarterback Dan Robinson, who already has set 18 school records. "As seniors, we don't have that many chances left and we're not taking anything for granted.
"I know how Washington State feels. We all do because we were part of the longest losing streak (at 19 games) in the country. That just makes you want to go out, play hard and win some more.''
That's the kind of talk coaches like to hear. Jones needed the veterans to show the way. Without the 19 seniors - 12 of them starters - the turnaround wouldn't be possible.
"We've had a lot of good things happen to us this year,'' Jones said. "The kids have worked hard and earned every minute of it. It's good to see them rewarded for their efforts.''
When: 6:05 p.m., tomorrow
Hawaii vs. Washington State
Where: Aloha Stadium
TV: 9 p.m. on KFVE (delay)
RealAudio: Live Internet broadcast
Radio: Live on KCCN (1420-AM)
Who: Hawaii vs. Oregon State
Jeep Oahu Bowl
When: Dec. 25
Where: Aloha Stadium
Tickets: $45 sideline-orange end zone, $30 and $20 end zone. Ticket also good for first game of doubleheader, the Jeep Aloha Bowl (teams to be announced).