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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, May 15, 2006

Same game, different approach

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

When their football team led 62-3 in the final minute, spiking the ball to stop the clock and set up a field goal, Dan Morrison and Wes Suan were reminded they weren't in the Western Athletic Conference anymore.

And when the coaches from both sides bowed and went out to dinner together afterward, the University of Hawai'i assistant coaches knew they were far away from the United States in more than miles.

They were, in fact, in Japan this month as spring consultants and grid ambassadors to Kwansei Gakuin University. Ostensibly in Nishinomiya halfway between Kobe and Osaka to teach the finer points of a run-and-shoot offense.

Along the way they found the learning went both ways. That while the Xs and Os were the same, the approach sometimes came with eye-opening differences.

"I think it was as good an experience for me as it will ever be for them," said Morrison, the UH quarterbacks' coach. "Going there, seeing their approach, was refreshing."

Just don't expect to see the UH coaching staff knocking back a few with the staffs from Boise State or Fresno State after a blowout.

"In Japan, they believe if you take a knee and don't try to score, that would be more insulting to the opponent," Morrison said.

"Their feeling is what happens on the field stays on the field and, after that, they let go," said Suan, UH's offensive line coach. "That kind of camaraderie is kind of forgotten here in the U.S."

It was the third year in a row that UH coaches have gone to Japan. And, perhaps, the biggest step yet toward building a bridge between Warrior football and Japan. There was, for example, dialogue about a possible exchange whereby someday a capable player from Japan might come to UH to play.

"It would probably have to be somebody like a slot(back) or DB, but they've had some players who might be able to do it," Morrison said. "A couple of years ago they had a defensive lineman who matched up well with Houston Ala."

But the UH coaches found even language gaps could be overcome with a laugh. Suan identified players by nickname: "Akebono," "Smiley" and so on.

One day Morrison wore a T-shirt from the Hukilau Cafe in Kahuku that proclaimed "ono food" initially mystifying the KGU players who had a coach named Ono.

When Morrison explained the meaning of "ono" in Hawaiian, the players quickly adapted.

"Now," Morrison said, "they call him 'Coach Delicious.' "

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