Chang makes a name for himself on the road
By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Columnist
The fans in sections 31 and 32, immediately behind the University of Hawai'i football team's bench, didn't bother much with first names, substituting colorful adjectives instead.
But by the time he sauntered off Jim Sweeney Field, it had become like "Cheers" for quarterback Tim Chang: everybody in the place knew his name.
The University of Hawai'i's milestone, 31-21, victory over Fresno State would be a rousing coming-out party of sorts for the redshirt sophomore, who punctuated it with a triumphant fist in the air and a redemptive howl into the frosty night.
In Bulldog Stadium, where he had been the four-quarter target of verbal abuse, they would ultimately acknowledge Chang as the difference in the comeback victory over Fresno State and even stop him for autographs.
At home, where the reception has, at times, been only slightly less disparaging, he would be celebrated as a leader coming of age for finally winning a big one on the road by rallying the Warriors with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes.
And on television they would take note of his career-high 462 yards and 36 completions on 61 attempts.
It was, Chang would observe out loud to no one in particular on his way back to the locker room, "quite a night."
A night of portent he claims to have seen coming and mentally circled on his calendar months before. "I looked at that date, Oct. 25th, and just knew it was going to be a big game for me and the team," Chang said.
Quite a vision for a team that, as Fresno State coach Pat Hill would remind them, had not only not won in the 22 years of Bulldog Stadium's existence, but hadn't even come close in four Western Athletic Conference visits.
Quite a leap of faith, too, for a quarterback who had been just 1-5 in road starts and was pulled in the one win (Texas-El Paso) he did have. At home this season, Chang had completed 63 percent of his passes and thrown 10 touchdowns to three interceptions. But on the road in 2002, he had completed just 46 percent of his passes and been intercepted six times to two touchdown passes.
So, when he broke the team from the huddle on fourth-down and 4 yards to go from the Fresno State 13-yard line with 2 minutes, 30 seconds to go and UH trailing 21-16, Chang knew all to well the importance of the moment.
"I looked at that as the biggest play in my career so far and took a deep breath," Chang said. "A real deep breath."
Then, he, coolly and with precision, he threw a 13-yard touchdown strike to Britton Komine that would give the Warriors the game.
In doing so, he had shaken off an earlier fourth-quarter interception at the goal line and a lot more.
Where interceptions had rattled him in the past and on the road especially this time it would not.
Chang, the quarterback who couldn't win on the road or hit the must-complete passes, had pulled a big one out masterfully.
"I congratulate Tim getting us that big win on the road," said Vince Manuwai, the right guard and a tri-captain. "This was a big one for all of us and he took us there. He made a name for himself out there."