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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, September 4, 2002

Jones: Attitude will beat high altitudes of Utah

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

The horn had sounded, signaling the scheduled end of yesterday's practice, but University of Hawai'i football players were hardly pau.

For the next 15 minutes, in shoulder pads and helmets, they ran 100-yard sprints.

"We're trying to prepare as much as we can," said center Lui Fuata, whose team left last night for Provo, Utah, for Friday's game against Brigham Young. "We're doing double conditioning every day."

The Warriors are hopeful their improved stamina will offset the effects of Provo's high altitude. Provo is 4,553 feet above sea level, while UH's grass practice field is 28 feet.

For newcomers to high altitude, the thin air turns the inside of mouths into cotton candy, drains energy and dries the skin. It usually takes a week for a person traveling from sea level to become acclimated to the thin air.

UH coach June Jones said the best strategy is to rotate players and "suck it up." Unlike many visiting teams, the Warriors will not have oxygen tanks on their sideline.

"We don't make a big deal out of it," Jones said. "We tell them it's going to be a certain way and to just play a certain way."

UH quarterback Tim Chang, who wears a specially made brace on the broken right pinkie of his throwing hand, said he is not concerned the dryness will make it difficult to grip a football.

"I played in Utah and Reno before, and it was all right," Chang said. "It takes a while to get used to the altitude and breathing, but I didn't notice any problems gripping the ball."

If he needs moisture, he said, he will wipe sweat on his hands.

Jones said the receivers, who are trained to play an entire game, should be fit enough to adjust.

The daily sprints, Jones said, "definitely help the little guys, no question about that. They're not going to feel the altitude as much as the big guys because they run so much more in what we do. I know that for a fact, just from taking teams to Denver year after year" as an NFL coach.

Jones said the defensive linemen will rotate frequently, but that he expects few substitutions on the offensive line. Jones said the blockers are "not chasing 11 guys to the football, like the defensive linemen. They are not using quite as much energy."

Last season, the Warriors played one game in high altitude, at Nevada. They lost, 28-20.

"The heat and the altitude were crazy," middle linebacker Chris Brown said of that game. "I've never been around anything like that. Knowing what we went through, we're going to have to push ourselves this time. That's why Coach always makes us run with our pads on. Every play (in practice), we're sprinting to the ballcarrier and we're running back to the huddle. It gets us that much more in shape."

Said right tackle Uriah Moenoa: "Altitude will not be a factor this week, because we're not going to make it a factor. We know we're going to be sucking wind, but we're going to play through it."