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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, November 9, 2000

local boys put
in plenty OT

A LL eyes are on Florida -- no, not the Gators -- ever since the presidential election went into sudden-death overtime.

However, the eyes of University of Hawaii football fans will be focusing on who starts at quarterback against Nevada Saturday at Aloha Stadium.

It will be Tim Chang with Nick Rolovich a helmet-beat away, according to June Jones.

After all, quarterback is football's glamour position. Especially in Hawaii's high-risk passing offense.

High risk because the run-but-mostly-shoot offense can go 3-and-out as quickly as it can score a touchdown. Both of them can take only a matter of seconds, as we have learned all too well this season.

It's no wonder that UH is last in the Western Athletic Conference in time of possession with an average of 25 minutes and 24 seconds in a 60-minute game.

And no wonder, too, that the overworked defense is giving up a lot of yards and points like they're going out of style.

Not surprisingly, safeties Jacob Espiau and Nate Jackson and middle linebacker Rinda Brooks are among the six leading tacklers in the WAC.

They should be getting overtime for the playing time they're putting in.

It's all part of the job as a safety, says Espiau, who started as a walk-on from Kalaheo High, earned a scholarship and won a starting job. Now he leads the WAC in tackles.

Espiau had all of 16 tackles in five games last year. Now he's averaging 10.9 tackles a game going into his ninth straight start Saturday.

To say the 5-foot-10, 190-pound junior has been a pleasant surprise this season is an understatement.

"Jacob's one of those kids you can't have enough of," said Jones. "He's one of those real physical players and he sets the tone for us on defense. He's a leader and he's smart."

Jones feels Espiau can be a role model for other relatively unheralded players coming out of the local high schools.

"He's like so many of the players here that we have to keep home. We just can't have enough Jacob Espiaus."

"All he needed was his shot to prove that he can play," said Jackson. "Now, he's proved to everybody that he can play."

"Nothing better than hard work and working up to getting something," Espiau said. "It's a lot more reassuring on yourself to know that if you work hard, someone will notice you."

NOW everybody knows his name. He has certainly drawn around the league. But Espiau views the notoriety that he's the WAC's leading tackler with mixed feelings.

"It's a good stat for me, but it's a bad stat that the safeties are making all the tackles."

Jackson feels it's because of the team's defensive schemes. "It allows us to make a lot of tackles," said the junior from Waianae High who had a career-high 17 tackles against Texas Christian.

Injuries haven't helped the Hawaii defense, which is giving up 396.5 yards and 38 points a game.

"We've had a lot of injuries this year, a lot more than last year. And a lot more serious injuries," added Jackson, who along with Espiau, have played hurt all season.

"We still have to pick it up. It's nobody else's fault but ours."

Espiau agrees, but adds, "I would say it's a mix of everything that's gone bad this season. Injuries, possession time and us mentally breaking down on defense at times."

But one thing's for sure. It's not because of a lack of trying. Especially on the part of safeties Espiau and Jackson, two hard-hitting local boys on a defensive team that has been putting in a lot of overtime.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.
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