The young 0-1 University of Hawaii football team scares Ron McBride's 2-0 Utes a bit despite the Rainbow Warriors' seven-game losing streak and 0-11 mark in their most-recent ventures away from home over the last three seasons.
The Rainbows have a grudge against Utah for stealing Islands players. That goes double now because UH is in the Leftover WAC. The Rainbows hit hard and often and are vicious on defense. And the Utes don't know whether UH will pass, run or option. It did all three in a 27-6 loss to Arizona 16 days ago.That depends on which of three quarterbacks Hawaii uses tonight at 7 in Rice-Eccles Stadium, where a crowd in the upper-30,000 range is expected. The QB situation, said third-year coach Fred vonAppen in a KALL AM-910 radio interview, is "fluid."
But Utah also has to wonder about itself. Its personality will change for sure with dropback passer Jonathan Crosswhite at quarterback in place of the injured Hawaiian, Darnell Arceneaux, a scrambler and risk-taker.
No one knows whether Crosswhite will be the QB he was in the first four games of 1997 (63- for-99-872 yards, 8 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 3-1 record) or in his last five games as a '97 starter (67-122-718, 1 TD, 5 ints, 1-4 record) after apparently going gun-shy at Fresno State when he was sacked 10 times by an all-out blitz campaign.
Crosswhite says all the confidence is back and he's much smarter with a year under his belt. "I'm seeing things I didn't last year," he says. He directed two scoring drives in two stints last week against Louisville and was 3-for-6 for 35 yards. "I was ready," he says, noting his first play was a pass to Boo Bendinger for 10 yards and a first down. His second pass was 24 yards to tight end Matt Nickel, and the next was for 10 to Jerome Anderson.
His biggest problem is watching one receiver all the way. He has a number of people to watch: Bendinger, Anderson, Nickel, Andy Kassotis, Daniel Jones, Donny Utu. And he has rushers Mike Anderson (272 yards in two games) and Omar Bacon (2 TDs in eight carries vs. Louisville) to take pressure off when Hawaii blitzes.
Utah's 12 active Hawaiians (Utu, Clifford Russell, Sitivi Laulu, Wes Tufaga, Ryan Kaneshiro, Stewart Carvallo, Kautai Olevao, Rod Talaeai, Taulia Lave, Ed Ta'amu, Lauvale Sape and Maake Kemoeatu) are itching to play against their home-state school. Olevao starts at linebacker in the nickel package, and Kaneshiro kicks PATs and short field goals. Utu, Russell, Laulu. Tufaga, Talaeai, Lave and Ta'amu are first backups at their positions.
Ute noseguard Pene Talamaivao is also looking forward to the game even more than usual because he expects Hawaii to run 90 percent of the time. "That's me," he says about which players are supposed to stop that rush.
"I am not as effective in the passing game," admits Talamaivao. "The young guys (like WAC defender of the week Andre Dyson, a sophomore) played well (against Louisville), and (sophomore end) John Frank had a heckuva game. Now the guys who have been here awhile like myself have to pick it up," Talamaivao says, relishing his first opportunity to get really involved.
The game is the first that will pit a member of the WAC defectors against a member of the leftovers, and it's the first league game for either team. Hawaii has lost its last 20 WAC road games in a row. Utah has a four-game win streak, all with Arceneaux as the starting quarterback.
The game is the second of three straight games in Rice-Eccles Stadium for the Utes.