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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 1, 2002

Failed fake punt hurt, but it wasn't the only reason UH lost

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

Let's see, the University of Hawai'i lost by five points to Alabama, 21-16, and seven of those came when the Crimson Tide scored seven plays after a Warrior play off a fake punt came up short on fourth down-and-15 at the UH 22 yard line.

So, let the irate howls begin, right?

Strike up the chorus of second — also third, fourth and fifth — guessing?

Not that the man who made the call, UH head coach June Jones, would be much bothered by it, you understand.

"People will say what they want to say," Jones shrugged afterward.

And judging from the cascade of groans in an Aloha Stadium crowd of 46,580, many did.

But it would be wrong, not to mention considerably short-sighted, to blame this first Warrior loss since Oct. 5th solely on that one call. The Warriors dropped a tough one to be sure, but that isn't where — or how — it got away from them.

Not on a night of five turnovers and eight dropped passes when the only thing keeping them in the game for three quarters was a beyond-the-call defense.

For one thing, the fake punt call came less then five minutes into the second quarter, a point when the Warriors were far from out of the game even with an uncharacteristic sluggish offense.

Take away a couple of those four first-half dropped passes or four first-half turnovers and it is a different game no matter what happens with the fake punt.

With two of the dropped passes coming on that possession, maybe the Warriors don't have to punt at all, or at least not in the shadow of their end zone, if they manage to hold onto the ball.

The fake punt was a curious call to be sure but nothing we haven't seen before in a series of gambles Jones & Co. have scripted this season.

"That play shocked me; but if it works then the coach is a genius," said Alabama running back Santonio Beard. "Give them credit for keeping us guessing."

If four seasons of watching Jones repeatedly throw out the coaches' manual have taught us anything, it is not to be surprised at whatever he does. Convention is something that others subscribe to from passing on nearly every down to springing fake punts.

We saw it last night in an on-side kick and in an unexpected pass attempt on fourth-and-seven to a wide open defensive end-turned tight end Abu Maafala late in the second quarter. The opening and the element of surprise were there for a score but for being able to hold onto the ball.

And we've seen the dice rolled to a jackpot before. Recall the 31-6 victory at Texas-El Paso back in September when Chad Kapanui hit Kilinahe Noa with a 70-yard touchdown off a similar fake punt play.

If the Warriors don't try — and connect — on that one, in a game they were struggling to hang onto 14-6 at the time, maybe they don't win. Maybe they don't come into last night 9-2.

"It was the same thing as El Paso," Kapanui said. "Except it didn't work this time. It could have, but it didn't."

"Hey, it is what we do," said quarterback Tim Chang. "We believe in the guy (Jones) and what he calls and look where it has taken us these last few years."

In a week in which Jones has often been correctly second-guessed for his non-statements on the Cincinnati brawl, this is one case where the Sunday morning quarterbacking, as inviting as it might be, isn't deserved.