Thursday, October 26, 2000
Warriors go upYou would think playing the last-rated team in the nation in total defense would have University of Hawaii head coach June Jones calculating how many points the Warriors can score in this Saturday's Western Athletic Conference game.
Spartans have a potent offense,
with backs Whitaker and Julien
running behind a rock of a line
By Paul Arnett
But instead of predicting a repeat performance of last year where Hawaii rang up 62 points in a big win over the Spartans, Jones prefers to downplay San Jose State's well-documented woes on defense. It's not that the Spartans are that bad. The competition was that good.
"Statistically, they aren't real good right now," Jones said of the Spartans, who are yielding 484.9 yards a game, good enough for No. 115 in the country. "But they play a better defense than their stats are because they've played a real tough schedule, a lot tougher schedule than we have."
You can't deny that. While Hawaii has struggled with the likes of Tulsa, Portland State and Southern Methodist, San Jose State was busy playing No. 1 Nebraska, Stanford and Southern California. The only team that handled the Spartans were the top-rated Cornhuskers.
San Jose State also lost to Texas-El Paso at home, leaving Dave Baldwin's team at 3-1 in league play. Stumble and fall again this Saturday night at Aloha Stadium, and the Spartans can kiss goodbye any real shot at playing in the Silicon Valley Bowl.
"They're in a similar position that we were in last year when we played them up in San Jose," Jones said. ""We needed to get a win to keep our chances alive for the postseason. They need to win this year, so I expect a tough ballgame."
Jones also believes that Afatia Thompson will return this weekend. The senior running back missed several weeks with an ankle sprain. He not only gives the Warriors a better base for running and passing, he also can be a calming influence in the huddle for freshman quarterback Timmy Chang.
"He needs that and he needs us to let him know what we're seeing," Thompson said. "We want to get the threat of a running game going again. I think I can help us do that. I still have a little twinge in my ankle when I push off or cut, but I'll definitely be ready to go on Saturday."
Hawaii is averaging only 52.5 yards a game on the ground, good enough for No. 113 nationally. Thompson also is excellent in the blocking schemes and can flair out into the flat and catch passes as well.
"They are doing a lot of different things defensively than they were last year," Jones said. "Actually, they are playing a little bit like we do. They zone blitz a lot and try to get you into situations where you're giving up the football.
"But like I said, statistics are a little out of whack because of the teams they've played. Those kinds of team will skew you statistically. I think we're fairly well balanced and it should be a very good ballgame. We need a win.''
Nobody is feeling the need of a win more than defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa. His unit hasn't played as difficult a schedule as San Jose State. But the numbers are equally grim. Hawaii is ranked No. 103 against the run, yielding 211.3 yards a game.
The Warriors are also No. 99 in scoring defense and No. 111 in turnover margin. If this calculated gambling defense isn't producing turnovers -- Hawaii is averaging minus-1.67 a game -- then trouble awaits.
What San Jose State is good at is producing points and yards. The Spartans are ranked in the top 50 nationally of eight major offensive categories thanks in part to running backs Deonce Whitaker and Jarmar Julien. Fortunately for the Spartans' opponents, they can only beat you one back at a time.
"That's because they use a one back set that lines up behind a line that goes about 6-foot-6 and 300 pounds across," Lempa said. "Whitaker is kind of small, but very quick in through there. He kind of hides behind his offensive linemen where you can't see him or get a good shot on him before it's too late.
"This is another good offensive team we're facing. They like to run and they have two very good backs who can do it. That Jarmar Julien is bigger and stronger, and runs more on a direct path. With Whitaker, he's bouncing in and out of there pretty quick."
Barring injury, Whitaker will likely crack the 1,000-yard barrier on Saturday night. He already has 11 touchdowns. Julien has managed seven of his own to make the one-two punch a dangerous one for the Spartans.
"They also throw the football well," UH secondary coach Rich Miano said. "We may try some of our younger players back there to see what they can do. This is a very dangerous football team that can beat you deep if you concentrate too much on the run."
Spartans quarterback Marcus Arroyo had his first 300-yard game against Rice earlier this year. He has thrown for 1,613 yards and 10 touchdowns. Wideouts Edell Shepherd and Rashied Davis are the leading receivers with a combined 56 catches and 14 scores.
"It looks like we're going to get a few of our injured players back up front and that should help us defend the run better," Lempa said of the pending return of Doug Sims, Mike Iosua and Joe Correia. "We were pretty banged up against Rice last week. Hopefully, we'll bounce back and play more like we did in the win over SMU."
2000 UH Football Special