Southern Methodist team arrives, weary and winless
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
A slightly tired and mostly concerned Southern Methodist football team arrived in Honolulu yesterday afternoon.
"I'm not pleased at all with the progress," first-year coach Phil Bennett said of the Mustangs' 0-4 start. They play their first Western Athletic Conference game, against Hawai'i, Saturday at Aloha Stadium.
The Mustangs had little time to recover from last Saturday's 52-16 loss to Oklahoma State. They returned to Dallas at 3 a.m. Sunday, then had a light practice that night. They took off Monday, practiced for two hours Tuesday, and then departed yesterday morning for the 8 1/2-hour flight from Dallas to Honolulu. They practiced at 5 p.m. yesterday at Aloha Stadium.
"That's 10 o'clock our time," Bennett said. 'It's not an ideal setting."
Bennett said he would have preferred to arrive today, at the earliest, but school officials "bought the tickets a year in advance. Coming in on a Wednesday is too hard. You miss (practicing with) your scout team. It's too much of a transition."
Bennett endured a series of bad news during the offseason. Wideout Chris "the Comet" Cunningham will not play this season after breaking two bones in his left foot during a preseason scrimmage.
In January, quarterback David Page quit football to accept a job with an accounting firm. Quarterback Ashton Nixon moved to wide receiver, and another quarterback, Kelan Luker, left to pursue a music career. Quarterback Tate Wallis, who will start against UH, was a tight end last season.
"It's been tough," Bennett said. "There's a lot of inexperience back there."
Family ties: UH linebacker Kilinahe Noa, who had a 70-yard reception off of a fake punt in Saturday's 31-6 victory Texas-El Paso, has long ties to UH coach June Jones.
Noa's father, Henry, and Jones were UH teammates in the early 1970s. In the spring game in Hilo in 1973, Jones said he threw a scoring pass to Henry Noa.
"We hung out, played basketball, did a lot of different things," Jones said.
A whole new world: Former UH linebacker Marcopolo Chavez has transferred to Southern California.
Chavez, who played at Palomar College in California last year and signed a letter of intent with UH in December, competed in UH's spring practice and training camp. But he left the Warriors three weeks ago and enrolled at USC.
Players who transfer between Division I-A programs are required to sit out a season. Ordinarily, Chavez would not be eligible to play for USC until the 2004 season. But because he transferred during USC's enrollment period, Chavez might be able to count this year as his transfer season. In that case, Chavez would be eligible to play in 2003. USC is scheduled to host UH next year in Los Angeles.
Last week, UH's Jones said Chavez left because of family reasons.