By Ferd Lewis
HOUSTON It is getting so that you can't believe any of the old myths about the University of Hawai'i football team anymore.
Like the one that says the Warriors can't win on the road.
That they can't handle an option offense.
Or, that UH can't run the ball to save itself.
And that the Warriors can't win consistently year in and year out with the run-and-shoot offense.
All of them gone in the dusk of a chilly Texas evening, shattered to smithereens, in the Warriors' 33-28 precedent-setting victory over Rice University yesterday.
By the time defensive end Houston Ala who better to clinch a game in this city? slammed Greg Henderson for a 4-yard loss on fourth-and-3 at the UH 11 with eight seconds remaining, a lot of long-held notions about the Warriors had crashed with the Owl quarterback.
Not only had the victory ensured UH, now 8-2, back-to-back winning seasons for the first time in 12 years, it came on the Mainland where they have won three out of five games this year, and here in Houston, the furthest point (3,907 miles) from home they have ever won a road game.
The Warriors' seventh Western Athletic Conference win against one loss keeps them in the running for a share of the title with their best-ever conference record while being notable for the way it was accomplished.
UH finally beat Rice, the only conference opponent it had been unable to defeat, in a manner it wasn't supposed to be capable of: Slowing down the Owls' option offense and revving up its own running game.
On an afternoon when two teams had to change their modus operandi to have a chance to win, it was the Warriors who did it best by doing what they do least.
The Warriors stepped away from their trademark passing game just long enough to average 5.7 yards a carry on the ground and get a pair of touchdown runs from Thero Mitchell. That provided the needed change of pace to make the passing game more effective, especially in a 23-point second half.
Meanwhile, the Warriors, in holding the conference's top running game to 227 yards, slightly under its 250 per game average, forced the Owls to take to the air for 183 yards.
It was two sides of UH rarely seen, especially on the same day. But it is what good teams occasionally have to do to win and something the Warriors, putting to good use their open week, made the most of.
"We did a lot of things people don't think we can do," quarterback Tim Chang said. "This is a pretty solid team. We can surprise people."
"We can do whatever it takes to win," said offensive tackle Uriah Moenoa. "We're a lot more versatile than some people give us credit for."
Rice coach Ken Hatfield is no longer among them.
"They've been hearing how they just pass all the time, and I think it is two things: With three games left, they want to work on their running game and second, at the same time, they wanted to let those other three teams know they can run the ball. They can run the ball, there's no doubt now."