Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

This is what season
openers are all about

YOU want to know why you schedule Eastern Illinois? This is why you schedule Eastern Illinois. Hawaii needed a game like this. Everybody does. Have you seen the rest of these "preseason" games we've watched all weekend? This is what you need to do. (This is what Florida State thought it was getting into against Iowa State.) This is College Football 101.

"It seems like we've started slow all the four years I've been here," June Jones said after last night's 61-36 tune-up. Exactly. "But Timmy (Chang) got in synch a little bit." Exactly again. This was exactly what UH needed. You can't start slow, not at BYU.

"In the first quarter, we didn't play good enough to beat anybody," Jones said.

But at the end of the game, against this I-AA opponent, Hawaii was humming, Hawaii had timing and confidence and that's what season openers are supposed to be about.

"It wasn't only to be," tackle Uriah Moenoa said, "it was to dominate, to show we are ready."

Hawaii did. After a slow start, Timmy Chang did. And after sitting out most of the year, after getting hurt in camp, he needed to.

On a thrilling run he pulls out the move of the day -- the pump fake 25 yards down the field. This is the moment he won the hearts of Hawaii fans everywhere. Of course, it was a little shakier on the very next play when he threw an interception, pulled an ole! on the tackle attempt, and then got knocked on his can in the ensuing melee.

He needed this game. He was rusty, he was missing things (like linebackers and safeties). And then he found them. That'll happen when you miss almost two weeks of practice. That'll happen when you've played only four games since the start of the 2001 season.

You don't want him having this game next week.

You don't want to send this guy into Thunderdome without a trial run.

But now he's had it, and he made some quick reads and some nice throws and he personally congratulated every single lineman after every single score. Now he's seen the speed of the game and his teammates have seen his talent, and for the first time in a long time, they've won together.

"He was like a leader out there, man, like a military leader," Moenoa said. "He was out there calling shots, like telling guys what to do. 'Eh, you do this, you do that.' I was like, 'Ay, man, welcome back, buddy!'"

Welcome back? Moenoa said he'd never seen that from Chang before. But on this night it fit.

And by the time Chang left in the third quarter, it looked easy, even if he was sometimes playing not to get hurt. After every throw he backpedaled faster than the people who brought you van cams.

But he needed to do that, too. This week at least. Now he is ready, or as ready as you can be to go into Provo.

It was important for Chang to have a good night. To play again, feel it again, to connect.

"He's more eager," Moenoa said. "That's what I saw tonight. And that's great, because when he's eager, we're eager."

It was, Jones was quick to point out, important for everyone to have a good night.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at

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