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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, November 7, 2004

Right 'Guy' for run-and-shoot

 •  The Top 5: Ferd Lewis' picks
 •  15,303 ... and counting

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

As much as the kapa-trimmed "H" on the helmet he wears, quarterback Tim Chang has become a symbol for the University of Hawai'i football team.

Whether he knew what he was in for or not when he signed the national letter of intent to attend UH in 2000, Chang has long since become the face — as well as the arm — of the Warriors' run-and-shoot offense, a position cemented by his breaking of Ty Detmer's NCAA career passing yardage record.

It wasn't something Chang demanded or even appeared to seek. Heisman Trophy candidate? Record-breaker? Star of his DVD and publicity campaign? At times, you suspect Chang has been surprised at the depth of the role and even overwhelmed by the responsibility that's been thrust upon him in the-world-according-to-Jones.

As calculated as the change in logos and as scripted as the evolution of nicknames were, so too has been the elevation of Chang to poster player.

Where Dan Robinson, the Warriors' quarterback in 1999, was just asked to win games, and Nick Rolovich (2000-01) was commanded to win bigger ones, Chang has been tasked to be Triggerman Tim in branding an offense and a school.

With 117 schools playing football on the Division I-A level, it is hard for one to stand out in the crowd, especially when you are more than 2,500 miles off the beaten path. To separate itself, a school either has to win big and win often or carve a niche.

For UH — where bumper stickers sold in the RainbowTique proclaim, "June would throw" — there has never been any doubt what form that would take. UH would try the passing lane to renown.

Robinson, who played his final year in June Jones' system after surviving, but just barely, the Fred vonAppen era, and Rolovich, a junior college transfer who got two seasons at UH, both saw from under center the record-setting potential in the offense Jones was preaching. Both saw where this was heading.

For all the 25 school passing records Robinson set, he knew not to get too attached because they came with a short shelf life. "Somebody is going to come along soon and break them before you know it," Robinson said. "Wait until they get somebody who will be around three, four years and then see what kind of records they set."

It was just a matter of time until Jones got his hands on a quarterback who would run the offense for a full career. And, neither the wait nor the distance to find one were long.

From not much more than a few spirals down the road at Saint Louis School, where he passed for more than 4,000 yards and 64 touchdowns, one short of the then-national high school record, came Timmy Chang.

From an offense that paralleled Jones', sprouted the air apparent. And, in the best of all possible worlds, came a local player, to boot, somebody for fans to identify with while tugging at the imagination of Mainland media.

"The first training camp (for Chang as a freshman), we had our first two-minute drill and he was, I think, the second or third quarterback in," Jones remembers. "And, he took the guys the length of the field, bang, bang, bang ...

"He (completed) about nine in a row, touchdown. I remember him coming in that day," Jones said. "I remember thinking (of) him as The Guy."

Watching Chang climb the depth chart by leaps and bounds, leapfrogging Mike Harrison, the most experienced returnee the first week, you could almost see the wheels turning under Jones' cap: "If Chang could start for four years ..."

In that Chang wasn't a freshman as much as he was the complement to a grand vision. Jones didn't just want somebody to break Detmer's coveted mark, he saw in Chang and his youth and abilities somebody capable of setting a record that, "will stand for 50 years."

From that point on, Chang would be groomed, shaped and managed. His already laser-quick release would be honed, his remarkable field awareness sharpened and his horizons expanded.

Whether anybody but Jones knew it at the time or not, UH had found its poster passer, and, suddenly, the days became numbered for Detmer's hold on the NCAA career passing record.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.

• • •

The Top 5: Ferd Lewis' picks

1. Oct. 25, 2002

Hawai'i 31, Fresno State 21

Down 21-9 in the fourth quarter in front of a raucous sellout crowd in Fresno, Chang coolly came of age.

He rallied the Warriors to their first win in Bulldog Stadium's 22 years, directing UH to 22 points by completing 14 of 22 fourth-quarter passes for 203 yards and two touchdowns.

Overall, Chang completed 36 of 61 passes for a then-career-high 462 yards.

"This was a big one for all of us and he took us there," tri-captain Vince Manuwai said. "He made a name for himself."

2. Oct. 11, 2003

Hawai'i 55, Fresno State 28

With a birthday (Oct. 9) that falls during the season, Chang says, "there's (usually) no celebration to it."

But on this night at Aloha Stadium there would be plenty to celebrate in a five-touchdown, 353-yard performance in which he completed 40 of 60 passes without an interception.

"He did a heck of a job," FSU coach Pat Hill said. "Most of his passes were right on; (he) caught guys in stride. My hat's off to him."

3. Dec. 25, 2003

Hawai'i 54, Houston 48 (3 OT)

Chang started the game on the sidelines, the result of a violation of team policy. But he came off of it in relief of the injured Jason Whieldon in the second quarter to rally the Warriors to a Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl victory.

"Timmy was like a magician out there," marveled running back Michael Brewster after Chang's sleight of hand slipped him a two-handed shovel pass. It was one of five touchdown passes Chang authored while completing 26 of 42 passes for 475 yards and one interception.

4. Oct. 18, 2003

Hawai'i 44, Louisiana Tech 41

What started as one of Chang's worst afternoons with four interceptions in the first three quarters turned into one of his better ones as he led the Warriors to 20 fourth-quarter points and a come-from-behind victory at Ruston, La.

Chang passed for three touchdowns in the final period, the decisive one coming on a 51-yard drive during which he completed six passes. Overall, Chang made good on 33 of 46 passes for 534 yards and five touchdowns.

5. Dec. 7, 2002

Hawai'i 41, San Diego State 40

With 93 yards separating the Warriors from victory, Chang drove UH to the end zone and its 10th win of the year in the regular-season finale.

He completed all three passes for 49 yards and the second of two fourth-quarter touchdowns (8 of 12 for 112 yards in the quarter) that rallied UH from what had been a 40-29 deficit.

Overall, Chang completed 33 of 54 passes for 437 yards and three TDs overcoming four early interceptions.