Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Chang was giant after
Wildcats woke him up

THE call was borderline, the push wasn't really that bad. But then Tim Chang went sprawling into the Northwestern bench, hard. The yellow flag flew. Chang was down. He was down for what seemed like a long, long time.

And then he got up.

And then it was over.

Northwestern blew it. There are just some things you shouldn't do, things that turn games, things that always catch up. Northwestern shouldn't have hit Chang late and outside. Of the many things you shouldn't do in life, this is about eight of them. This was more than a 15-yard penalty. This would be the game.

The Wildcats' zone coverages had stifled the run-and-shoot like we hadn't seen here in a long, long time. There were interceptions, hurries, hits. Northwestern was getting pressure, and Chang was flustered and he served up turnovers, two of them.

His guys couldn't catch. The ball bounced off their fingertips. The defensive scheme was one of beauty.

But if you're going to hit a struggling quarterback late and out of bounds, you'd better knock him out. You'd better make sure he's shook up for good. If not, he'll wake up every time. You can bet on it. Take that to the bank.

Chang woke up. Of course he did. Suddenly he was tough-guy Chang, fifth-year-senior Chang, robo-Chang, Rolo-Chang.

He got up and slung a long one to Britton Komine, nice catch from a guy who has been out of character in that department for what seems like all season. But Komine reeled it in, just like old times. They were making catches for him now.

Then Chang squeezed one in to Chad Owens for Hawaii's first score, and Northwestern's 13-point lead seemed to evaporate with a single pass.

Then Owens to the deep corner, then West Keli'ikipi bowling over Big Ten beef. A split end screen went for far longer than a split end screen ever should, and then Owens down the seam for a touchdown with :07 left in the half.

It was already over, then. No, Northwestern's coaches didn't panic, no, its players didn't quit. (Which was refreshing in itself. We've seen too many teams simply deflate when faced by a UH onslaught, several thousand miles from home.) There was still fight. It was interesting to the very end.

But Owens unleashed one of the greatest punt returns in the history of this school. (It was so good, I suddenly sound like June Jones.) There was an old-style goal-line stand. Even with fourth-quarter fourth-down heroics, even with a miraculous blocked punt, there was always a score or two too many for Northwestern to overcome.

It was a final you have to like. Hawaii 49, Northwestern 41, Emotional Public Breakdowns 0.

So there it is. Hawaii will finish at least .500. The Jasmine Trias concert is still in the picture. Hopefully there will be no more talk of negativity, at least for a week.

No matter how it ends for UH -- and an avalanche of ugly feelings have come crumbling down, giving us a lot to think about, whatever the final record -- it will know it did this on this night. There was a game-saving interception in the rain and a Big Ten team went home without a bowl. Northwestern's season is over. No soup for you.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com



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