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Star-Bulletin Sports

Thursday, September 21, 2000

U H _ F O O T B A L L

UH Football

on highway to

New coach thinks UTEP
will be among the best in
the WAC some day

Bullet Warrior Football Notebook
Bullet 2001 Warrior schedule released

By Paul Arnett

EL PASO, Texas -- Texas-El Paso hasn't had a winning season since current athletic director Bob Stull was head coach. Even by Lone Star State standards, that stretches back a ways.

By first-year head coach Gary Nord's count, it has been a dozen odd years since the Miners finished 10-3. Stull went on to what he thought would be green pastures at Missouri. The Miners faded to brown and haven't been out of the West Texas deserts since.

Nord believes he's about to change all that. As offensive coordinator last year, he and former head coach Charlie Bailey felt they would cross that .500 threshold before the millennium bug bit.

But it didn't turn out that way as the Miners finished a tantalizingly close 5-7 for the 1999 season. They beat area rivals New Mexico and New Mexico State to bring back a festive atmosphere to the tired, old Sun Bowl.

This season, UTEP continued to play the big boys. The Miners were at Texas A&M last weekend and at Oklahoma two Saturdays before that. Last year, Stull scheduled games at Kansas State, Oregon and Arizona. These are attractive dates for players wanting exposure.

It also helps teams prepare for Western Athletic Conference opponents. If you go to Aggieland and come out alive, the theory is, a University of Hawaii will seem easy by comparison.

Nord and Stull also know that improvements need to be made in the facilities to attract the kind of player who can square off with a Sooner or a Duck.

"We honestly felt we were going to have a winning season last year, even with the difficulty of our schedule," Nord said. "And a break here or there and we might have done it.

"This year, our players feel like we can have a winning season and compete in the WAC. We got off to a good start by beating SMU. Now, all we're thinking about is playing a good team from Hawaii."

If you were a betting man, you might want to put a buck or two on the Warriors. For one, UTEP has been 2-0 in the WAC only once before and that was back in 1987. As they say in Vegas, "Never bet against a streak."

Nord begs to differ. Granted, he lost some quality players in defensive end Brian Young, quarterback Jay Stuckey and running back Paul Smith. But thanks to quarterback Rocky Perez, tight end Brian Natkin and wideout Lee Mays, the losses aren't too much to overcome.

"We've built a solid recruiting base here that we believe is only going to get better," Nord said. "We're putting in grass in the Sun Bowl next year and we're building a football complex to make us even more attractive to recruits. If we take care of business on the field, then it helps get things done off it."

Better marketing is one of the tools of choice for Stull. He has launched a program on several fronts that includes innovative ideas in season-ticket packages designed to target the families. Kids whose parents are season-ticket holders may buy seats as well one day.

It seems to be working. The Miners sold nearly 15,000 season tickets this year, up about 70 percent from a year ago. Texas is a state with a whole lot of athletes. The Miners figure the new digs will help bring a few their way.

"We're going to be one of the best teams in the WAC some day," Nord said. "I firmly believe that. But it's one thing to talk about it. We've got to do that on the football field whenever we get the chance.

"What Hawaii did last year is proof programs that struggle can get things moving in the right direction. You have to attack it on several different fronts to get the community involved. But it all comes down to winning. If you do that, the rest takes care of itself."

2001 Warrior football
schedule released

First-time opponent Iowa State and new Western Athletic Conference member Boise State highlight the 2001 University of Hawaii football schedule released today.

The Warriors will play nine games in the islands, kicking off the season on Sept. 1 against Iowa State at Aloha Stadium. Hawaii takes on I-AA Montana on Sept. 8, a game that will either be played at Aloha Stadium or War Memorial Stadium in Wailuku, Maui.

The first of three mainland games has Hawaii traveling to Nevada for its Western Athletic Conference opener on Sept. 15.

Other road games include SMU on Oct. 6 and Tulsa Oct. 20. The Nov. 3 San Jose State contest was origiinally scheduled as an away game but a scheduling conflict at Spartan Stadium has moved the game to Aloha Stadium.

The Warriors finish out the year with two nonconference foes: Miami of Ohio Nov. 17, and former WAC member Air Force on Nov. 24.


Bullet Sept. 1: Iowa State
Bullet Sept. 8: Montana
Bullet Sept. 15: x-at Nevada
Bullet Sept. 22: bye
Bullet Sept. 29: x-Rice
Bullet Oct. 6: x-at SMU
Bullet Oct. 13: x-UTEP
Bullet Oct: 20: x-at Tulsa
Bullet Oct. 27: x-Fresno State
Bullet Nov. 3: x-San Jose State
Bullet Nov. 10: x-Boise State
Bullet Nov. 17: Miami (Ohio)
Bullet Nov. 24: Air Force

x-denotes Western Athletic Conference game



Jackson makes
UTEP trip

Two days of running around on a broken foot without a noticeable limp was enough to convince University of Hawaii head coach June Jones to bring Nate Jackson along for this Saturday's game at Texas-El Paso. Now, whether he ever leaves the sidelines is a question for debate.

Jones said he wants to win without him, but defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa wants Jackson to help the Warriors win. He won't start and may not play, but don't bet against him.

"I don't plan on playing him," Jones said yesterday. "But I'm sure when his Adrenaline is flowing, he'll want to play. I'd like to get through the game without him. If we could do that it would be great.

"He could play. He's running around pretty good right now. But like I said, we're going to try not to play him. If he did, it would be in the nickel packages."

Lempa already has those designed with Jackson in mind. He's still amazed at the progress Jackson made this week. This past weekend, he had his foot in a cast and was receiving therapy.

"Now he's running around like nothing's wrong," Lempa said. "If he's available, we can maybe bracket him with a linebacker on (UTEP tight end) Brian Natkin. That allows Dee Miller to double up on the outside."

Espiau to start at free safety

As planned, Jacob Espiau will start at free safety. His backups are Ryan Cannon and David Gilmore. Tavis Campbell is still bothered by a shoulder sprain and won't make the trip.

Jones said the health of the team was good after Hawaii suffered several minor bumps and bruises in the loss to Portland State two weeks ago.

"We needed to get some aches and pains healed, and we did that," Jones said. "It's always tough getting the roster down to 60. I wish we could take everybody, but we can't do it."

Most of the starters in the Portland State game will get the nod this Saturday night at the Sun Bowl. One difference will be Lui Fuata, who will start at left tackle and share playing time with first-game starter Chris Pinkney.

Pinkney went to the hospital 17 offensive plays into the Portland State game with a rapid heart beat. It turned out nothing was physically wrong.

"Chris and Lui are going to share time this weekend," offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said. "I've got to see which one of those guys wants to play the most."

Happy trails

Hawaii left yesterday for Dallas, seeing the sun set on Honolulu and the sun rise today in Texas.

Jones was going to let his players sleep the day away and then hold a practice tonight at a Dallas area high school. The Warriors will spend the night in Dallas and fly out to El Paso, Texas, tomorrow morning.

"I know teams complain about having to come all the way over here," Jones said. "But it's more difficult for us because we have to do it several times."

TCU game moved up

Hawaii's Oct. 7 game with Texas Christian will be shown regionally on the Fox Network. As a result, the kickoff has been moved to 6:05 a.m. HST.

Originally, the kickoff was 1:05 p.m. local time. It is one of two regional televised games for Hawaii. The other is two weeks later at Rice University.

By Paul Arnett, Star-Bulletin

UH Athletics
Ka Leo O Hawaii

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