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Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, September 8, 2000

U H _ F O O T B A L L

UH Football

UH, fans ready
for football

Jones' long-awaited second
season-opener just
one day away

By Paul Arnett

If Hank Williams Jr. walked out onto the grass fields at the University of Hawaii and shouted out at the Warriors, "Are you ready for some football?" He'd be trampled in the crowd.

A month ago, the newcomers arrived on campus and have been practicing nearly every day since. Even the veterans will have worked out three hard weeks in preparation for tomorrow night's season opener with Portland State at Aloha Stadium.

"I think we're tired of hitting each other," Warriors head coach June Jones said. "In some ways, it helped us to have this extra practice time by Texas dropping off the schedule. It also helped get some of the guys back who were nicked up early on in practice.

'We had some excellent practices
this week. But keeping guys focused
for nearly a month was challenging.'
June Jones

"But this is too late to start the season. We had some excellent practices this week. But keeping guys focused for nearly a month was challenging. It's good we're finally going to play a game."

Now, if Jones can only convince his Warriors this isn't a typical Division I-AA opponent, things will be fine.

"I didn't realize how good they were when we scheduled them," Jones said of Portland State, a team that finished 8-3 last year and is ranked No. 12 in Division I-AA. "But I think we'll be ready. Our players know what's at stake."

One thing working in Hawaii's favor tomorrow night is the defense should match up well with Portland State's high-powered offense. Quarterback Jimmy Blanchard and running back Charles "Chip" Dunn have amassed nearly 10,500 career yards between them.

"And they still have another year to add to those totals," UH defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa said. "I look at that and just shook my head. This team will be a real test for us because they use a lot of motion and shifting trying to disguise what they want to do."

Run sets up pass

What Portland State does best is establish the run to set up the pass. In last week's win over Western Washington, Blanchard passed for 409 yards and three touchdowns, Dunn rushed for 159 yards on 26 carries, and all three wideouts -- Orshawante Bryant, Terry Charles and Antonio Jackson --managed at least 100 yards in receptions.

"We feel like we have a chance to come in here and win this game," Blanchard said. "It would look good for us if we could."

First-time starting quarterback Nick Rolovich will do everything he can to send his counterpart back to Portland, Ore., with a loss. Blanchard may have the experience, but Rolovich is coming off a mythical national championship at City College of San Francisco and an eight-month battle to be the No. 1 Warriors quarterback.

His challenge may not be quite as difficult -- if Portland State has a weakness its on defense -- but still, the first-game butterflies will be roaming free in Rolovich's stomach come kickoff.

"I'm going to be nervous and excited," Rolovich conceded. "But once the game starts, it's just a matter of executing the plays Coach Jones calls.

"In this offense, somebody is always open. What I need to do is make the right read and squeeze the ball in there. I've been looking forward to this moment for a long, long time."

The play of Rolovich and the four new starters on the offensive line will be keys to Hawaii's success. One area on defense where Portland State is strong is in the secondary where Oregon transfer Tamoni Joiner and returning starter Rashad Floyd man the corners.

Returning UH receivers Ashley Lelie, Channon Harris and Craig Stutzmann will have to shake loose in a hurry in order for the Warriors to have success.

"Everybody knows what we have to do," said Harris, who caught 56 passes last year for 860 yards and six touchdowns. "We got a taste of what it was like to be a champion and go to a bowl. We want to do that again."

For that to happen, the Warriors will need continued improvement on special teams. Last week, Portland State averaged a staggering 50 yards in net punting, good enough for first in Division I-AA in the nation.

Hawaii has a new punter in junior college transfer Greg Kleidon and a new kickoff man in senior Jake Huggins. Senior Eric Hannum will handle PATs and field goals.

"Special teams accounts for one-third of a game," assistant Dennis McKnight pointed out. "You may not always win a game because of special teams, but you can certainly lose one if you don't come mentally prepared."

A crowd of about 35,000 is expected to attend Jones' second season opener. He says crowd problems fans experienced at last year's opening day sellout against Southern California is a cause of concern for fans.

"I'm sure there are some residual effects," Jones said. "But if we keep winning, I think our fans will come to the games."

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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