Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Opener should be
something to remember

TWENTY points. That's the line tonight. That's mine, anyway. UH should pound these guys. Hawaii should roll.

Yes, you can talk all you want about "athletes," and apparently Appalachian State has had a few, in its 75 years of football.

And, as everyone here knows all too well, you have to come to play every night or you could lose to anyone, as we've seen recently with Portland State, a couple of days ago with Northern Illinois, and, of course (and if you can't read this next word, it's because I'm mumbling), Tulanamemnanmn.

But you can't go around saying a Division I-AA team could win the WAC, or at least you can't expect anyone to believe it. (And if it is true, I'm out, I'm pau, I'm leaving.)

No, we'll see the differences tonight, much like we did last year, against Eastern Illinois, and the year before, against Montana. Hawaii is a good team -- or at least it will be, when it gets injury and suspension out of the way -- and tonight we get to see the first glimpse. A defense, with speed, and depth. Four receivers, all of them good, with more guys on the side just waiting for a chance.

Twenty points. That's my line.

Oh, Appalachian State has come 5,000 miles for this, and Appalachian State is going to have fun with this, will just lay everything on the line and give UH all it wants to handle. There will be no going quietly, and I fully expect a big play or two, to give the fans something to see.

But it's like going 5 mph faster than another car. It doesn't sound like much difference, doesn't seem like it side by side. But in a few minutes -- by the fourth quarter -- you can barely see them in your rearview mirror.

That's Division I and Division I-AA, even if both teams are good.

Still, this should be fun, even if the game has turned into a chance to let the injuries heal and the younger guys play. Or maybe it'll be fun because of that. Phil Kauffman at guard, Jason Whieldon at QB.

How excited must Kauffman be?

I'm excited for him.

And Whieldon. "Ready," he said, and it was a gift, really, to see a guy smile like that. To be around someone that happy, just to play this silly, serious game.

Whieldon will remember this night for the rest of his life, the night he started at quarterback against Appalachian State.

He doesn't realize it now, how much he'll treasure this night. We never do.

But his kids will know this story by heart.

He'll throw for 300 yards, it says here. It might look good or it might look bad, but at the end of the night he'll have 300.

And Appalachian State, having come 5,000 miles for a night like this, will have had a wonderful time.

They'll remember this too, years from now. It'll always come up, every time two or more of these guys will get together. "Do you remember?" they'll say, and everyone will.

The hotel. The trip. That big, big plane. The stadium and the game and the guy they played against. And that great play, the big hit, that stayed through the years.

I don't think the final score will come up much.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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