San Jose StatesThe best passing offense in Western Athletic Conference football met the worst passing defense last night at Aloha Stadium with what should have been fairly predictable results.
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By Cindy Luis
San Jose State, yielding an average of 292 yards a game in the air, gave up 215 to Hawaii in the first half alone en route to a 40-31 defeat. But it wasn't the smooth air show that the Warriors were expecting as they clinched a spot in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Day.
The Spartans (4-6, 2-3) may have extended the longest losing streak in the WAC to four straight, but they didn't go down without a fight. Until Hawaii's final touchdown with 1:34 left in the game, the outcome was very much in doubt.
Last night, the Grinch who nearly stole the Christmas Day bowl wore blue and gold.
"Our guys competed very hard tonight and I'm proud of them," said Spartan coach Fitz Hill. "I'm very disappointed with the mistakes and turnovers and the penalties. We're going to get that corrected. We made a lot of bad decisions, but that happens when you have guys trying real hard to make plays. When they do that, sometimes they lose focus.
"I thought our defense did a great job in the second half, making some adjustments. Our offense responded when it had to. But what our young men don't understand is what a fine line there is between winning and losing."
As San Jose State scrambled to make its 11:30 p.m. flight, the Spartans had some good memories to pack up. One, for the first time in four games, they didn't give up at least 200 yards rushing ... a fairly safe pregame bet since Hawaii came into the contest averaging 122 yards running. (The Warriors had 113 rushing yards to 440 passing yards).
What the Spartans can also hope to build on for next week's home game with Louisiana Tech is the continued success of multi-purpose threat senior Charles Pauley and the emergence of wide receiver Kendrick Starling, a junior college transfer.
Pauley, ranked No. 1 nationally in kickoff return yards (31.3 ppg average) and top-five in all-purpose yards, averaged 27 yards on four returns last night and amassed 321 total yards for his second career 300-yard-plus game. Starling, once tabbed as the "next Randy Moss," doubled his season touchdown total with two TDs in the first half.
The Spartans saw a reversal of fortune in opponent scoring last night. SJSU had been outscored by an average of 25-5 in the second half in the past three games, but Hawaii was only able to put 12 points on the scoreboard after halftime.
SJSU also remained among the top national leaders in takeaways. The Spartans intercepted UH quarterback Tim Chang twice in the second half to push their total to 18 interceptions among 30 takeaways.
The second interception was by junior safety Gerald Jones with 6:39 left in the third quarter. It was the seventh in nine games for Jones, who was third nationally before last night.
"This is a tough trip," said Hill. "We're not good enough or deep enough to give so many gifts. And we gave away so many gifts.
"At halftime, we decided we would give them 5-6 yards. We didn't want to give up any pass more than 10 yards. Chang is a great quarterback, but the bottom line is we helped him. It was Christmas time and they opened up all their presents against our football team."
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