Sports Notebook

Breaking the ’Bone
will take extra work

A bye usually means a break, but heading into its Nov. 16 date at Rice, Hawaii will take advantage of the extra time to study for a system that has given it fits in the past.

"We're going to practice one more day than we usually do (during a) bye week, just because it's the wishbone," June Jones said yesterday at his weekly news conference.

For Jones and company, this off-week couldn't have come at a better time. An unusual offense in this day and age, Rice's wishbone is about as tough to prepare for as Hawaii's run-and-shoot.

"They know how to move their offense against whatever you do," Jones said. "It's kind of like when teams adjust to what we do offensively. I've been through it enough where I know -- OK, if they're doing that, I do this. And they have the ability to adjust to whatever you have done for that game plan in their wishbone. And they counter it. That's why they're so difficult."

You can watch tape to figure it out, Jones said. And that helps. But like Jones, Rice coach Ken Hatfield has already seen all the adjustments people have made against his unique offense, and he already has an adjustment to your adjustment.

"If you don't know what their counterpunch is, and you don't have an answer to their counterpunch, they kill you," Jones explained.

Report card: Heading into the final third of the 2002 season, Jones said that Hawaii's current offensive unit is the best he's had in his four years at UH.

"I think offensively we're better than we've been since I've been here," Jones said. "From assignment-wise, execution-wise, skill-wise, I mean everything, we're better than we've been since I've been here."

On defense, Jones said the Warriors are getting the job done, are ranking near the top of the Western Athletic Conference. But he'd like Hawaii's defense to turn in some better stats.

"I think our expectations have grown over the past three-and-a-half years," he said. "I think we're getting there. We have some guys really playing good football. And we've just got to keep working at it. And those four games here, we're going to have to play good defense, because every one of them can do some things.

"I think San Diego State is one of the top offenses in the country. Alabama of course is Alabama. Cincinnati is scary on both sides of the ball. And Rice is the top rushing team in the country or thereabouts."

Thinking of Nate: Jones said that he visited former UH safety Nate Jackson last week, calling Jackson's hospitalization "a scary, scary deal."

Jackson had long been noted as one of UH's toughest players, and Jones said that quality will help Jackson in a fight against a serious viral infection. But Jones was thankful that Jackson wasn't too tough for his own good.

"He has tremendous pain tolerance, and he was hurting quite a bit," Jones said. "And they said if it had gone one more day he probably would have died.

"He's lucky he (discovered) it when he did and he's lucky he's strong enough to get through it," Jones said. "He's lucky that he had that toughness to do that."

Offensive fireworks: Jones commented on the clutch play of a pair of standouts in Saturday's 40-31 win over San Jose State.

Quarterback Tim Chang was perfect on seven passes in a drive in the game's final minutes to seal the win after the Spartans had pulled within two points. Jones reiterated that such a drive is much more pressure-packed than one that brings a team from behind.

"Knowing that if you throw a pick, or knowing if you can't convert a first down you may lose the game," Jones said. "That's more difficult, to be quite honest, than letting it all hang out and trying to win the game when you've got the ball in your hands. Just from being a quarterback, I know that."

And Jones said that there was a simple explanation for Neal Gossett's big game after playing several weeks behind Jeremiah Cockheran.

"'Goss has played better than he played the first couple games because competition makes you better," Jones said. "Chad Owens will be better because Britton Komine's playing like he is. So competition brings the best out of everybody."

Players of the week: Rice quarterback Greg Henderson, Boise State safety Wes Nurse and Boise State kicker Tyler Jones were WAC offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week.

Henderson ran for 141 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-18 win at Tulsa. Henderson had 14 tackles and two interceptions, and Jones forced nine touchbacks in 10 kickoffs in the Broncos' 58-3 win at Texas-El Paso.

Monday Night Special: The Warriors usually don't practice on Mondays, and they almost never scrimmage, period. But yesterday afternoon the non-starters went at each other in a contact scrimmage, which Jones does about once a season. The main goal was accomplished in that no one was injured.

The rest of this week's schedule includes afternoon practices tomorrow and Thursday (4 to 5:30 p.m.) and Friday morning (7 to 9 a.m.).

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