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Star-Bulletin Sports

Wednesday, October 18, 2000

U H _ F O O T B A L L

Rice returns to action
hoping to end their
five-game losing skid

The Warriors will do all they
can to extend that streak in a
WAC football game on Saturday

Warriors notebook

By Paul Arnett

By the time Rice University gets back on a field, the Owls may think it's for spring football.

Ken Hatfield's crew will be 16 days between games, giving the veteran head coach a chance to reflect on the first half of a disappointing campaign.

After winning the season opener in overtime over rival University of Houston, Rice dropped the next five, including defeats to national powers Michigan and Oklahoma. The Owls also lost three Western Athletic Conference games, a trend they'd like to reverse, beginning this Saturday at home against the University of Hawaii.

"We're starting our new season," Hatfield said during the weekly conference call. "After about 16 days off, it's a chance to play again. The break came at a good time for us, both physically and team-wise.

"It allowed us to get everybody back together and maybe be the best we can be. We're looking forward to the next five games and the challenge that brings. It will determine how this team will be remembered."

Hatfield had high hopes at the beginning of the season that Rice would be in the thick of things. But an injury to freshman quarterback Jeremy Hurd in the opener changed that outlook.

Hurd returned for the Fresno State game, falling just shy of 100 yards rushing, but it wasn't enough to change the Owls' fortunes. Despite holding an 11-point advantage over Fresno State with four minutes remaining, Rice blew the lead and any shot at being a contender for the league title.

"The week of the Fresno game, I really thought we came together as a team," Hatfield said after the 27-24 loss. "To allow them to come back took a lot out of us.

"We had gained some confidence because we were able to compete against a great team in our league.

"The loss was tough psychologically for about three days to handle. I told our team we had to make just one more play. But that game's over with. If we gain anything out of it, we need a few more players willing to step up and make that one play. We need to do it."

For that to happen against Hawaii, Rice's defense will have to improve in the passing game. The Owls are currently ranked last in the league and No. 102 nationally with a power rating of 142.3. By comparison, TCU is first in the league with a rating of 93.9.

Strong safety Travis Ortega is the leader of that group.

Last year in Rice's win at Hawaii, Ortega managed one of the hardest hits of the season, knocking out UH wideout Scott Sims. He is second on the team in tackles with 44. Ortega also has an interception, three forced fumbles and four pass breakups. He will need to be at the top of his game against Hawaii's run-and-shoot attack.

"Hawaii is an excellent football team that's getting better every week," Hatfield said. "They had a great win over SMU last week and have already been to Texas twice, so they know what the travel is all about and how to adust.

"We have to put pressure on their young quarterback, who I know June Jones is high on. Their offensive line is improving. We'll have to be at our best."

Offensively, Hurd will be the starting quarterback, but don't be surprised to see Corey Evans receive some playing time. He leads the team in rushing with 288 yards and three touchdowns.

In Rice's attack, fullback Jamie Tyler provides the first option. He is second in rushing with 189 yards and two scores. The Owls will need to get off to a fast start. If they fall too far behind, it will be difficult to catch up.

"This is a big game for us to see how we respond to what has happened so far," Hatfield said. "We need to get a win at home because we still have several tough opponents on the road (including Texas-El Paso and Texas Christian). The season isn't over. We want to finish strong after a somewhat slow start."

WAC football

Bullet Who: Hawaii vs. Rice
Bullet When: Saturday.
Bullet Where: At Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas.
Bullet Time: 9:35 am (HST).
Bullet TV: Live, FSNW (O21); digital 226; Americast channel 65.
Bullet RealAudio: Live Internet broadcast.
Bullet Radio: Live, KCCN (1420-AM) and 107.9 FM, 9:35 am (HST).


No Rice for
Sims this week

University of Hawaii defensive lineman Doug Sims won't be making the trip this week because of a slight ligament tear in his knee, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for the Warriors.

Because of the style of offense Rice University runs, Sims' size might have been a detriment. Against the crab and chop blocks of the option, it helps if you're more compact with quickness.

"I told Coach (Kevin) Lempa that we will be fine without him," defensive line coach Vantz Singletary said. "We're going to start Lui Fuga and Miles Garner, and work in Houston Ala and Lance Samuseva. If Mike Iosua can play, we'll use him, but right now, his shoulder is bothering him some. But we'll be quick at tackle."

Iosua didn't work out yesterday morning. His sore shoulder was in a sling, but he said he would play on Saturday at Rice Stadium. Defensive end Joe Correia wasn't quite as emphatic. He is bothered by a broken foot that is more painful than anything else.

"We plan on starting Laanui Correa and Chris Brown at end," Singletary said. "Both of those guys did a good job against the option with TCU. We need to work on our angles in the option game to make sure those guys don't get around the corner."

Nickel back Hyrum Peters will also be involved in defending the option. He came in for regular cornerback Shawndel Tucker in the game at Texas Christian and defensed the option well.

"Hyrum is going to see a lot of time on Saturday because he's an excellent tackler," UH secondary coach Rich Miano said. "He's one of those guys who has been coming on strong for us this season."

UH head coach June Jones also expects Dee Miller to be involved this weekend. The strong safety didn't practice yesterday morning, but is still expected to make the trip.

So is middle linebacker Rinda Brooks. The Houston resident said as many as 50 family and friends will be at the league game, but because of a bad hamstring, his playing time may be limited.

"We'll probably start Pisa Tinoisamoa and try to go without Rinda," Jones said. "He isn't able to explode in there like he normally does. We're hopeful Dee will finally be able to play. We've missed him the last three games."

Sack this

One of the main question marks entering the season was the play of the offensive line. With four new starters and Manly Kanoa shifting from right to left guard, there were concerns with protection. But no more.

In three of the five games this season, including the last two, the Warriors haven't given up a quarterback sack. For the season, Hawaii has yielded five sacks in 241 pass attempts.

"That works out to one sack every 48 attempts and that's outstanding," UH offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said. "Last year, we gave up a sack in every 24 attempts, which isn't bad."

The key to Hawaii's success has been the play on the right side. Tackle Kynan Forney and guard Vince Manuwai have protected well. So have Kanoa, center Brian Smith and left tackle Lui Fuata.

"We have five guys who want to play," Cavanaugh said. "I'm proud of those guys because they've come together so quickly. We may have been a question mark coming in, but I believe we've answered those questions."

Rising in poll

This week, Hawaii comes in at No. 117 of the 241 Division I and Division I-AA teams ranked in the Scripps-Howard computer poll with a power rating of 77.18.

By comparison, the University of Nebraska is No. 1 with a rating of 113.90. That means at a neutral site, the Cornhuskers would be about a five touchdown favorite over the Warriors.

Rice is ranked No. 113 with a rating of 77.74. Giving the Owls four points for being at home, they should be a 3 1/2-point favorite. According to the latest line in Las Vegas, Rice is favored by 8 1/2.

Paul Arnett, Star-Bulletin

2000 UH Football Special

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