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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, September 17, 2007

Jones took road less traveled

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

That the University of Hawai'i football team is off to its first 3-0 start since 1992 is noteworthy.

How the 18th-ranked Warriors have gotten there is even more so.

That would be a Honolulu-Houston-Monroe (La.)-Ruston (La.)-Monroe (La.)-Houston-Las Vegas-Honolulu routing, not exactly a well-beaten path to success. You won't find it on the AAA-recommended travel guide for college coaches.

What the Warriors just endured in back-to-back road games at Louisiana Tech and Nevada-Las Vegas wasn't a road trip as much as a 12-day, 8,000-mile, 5 time zone-hopping expedition. It is already as much as some NFL teams will travel this season and the Warriors still have treks to Idaho, San Jose and Nevada ahead.

Small wonder that once they had performed the postgame haka a lot of Warriors were less excited about celebrating in the aftermath of Saturday's 49-14 victory over Nevada-Las Vegas than just getting home. A place they hadn't glimpsed since Sept. 5.

Only once before in the NCAA Division I-A era has a UH football team chosen to stay on the continent to play back-to-back road games. That was in 1991 and the rigors of that one, doubling up on Wyoming and Iowa for a split, apparently were enough to dissuade further attempts. Last year, for example, the Warriors came home between back-to-back road games at Fresno State and New Mexico State.

But never let it be said that head coach June Jones is a man who rests on the status quo or bows to convention, whether it be on offense or cross-country travel. Frankly, this might have been his most far-fetched scheme since, well, moving defensive lineman Reagan Mauia to running back. Amazingly, it has the potential to pay the same dividends.

It was a heck of a time to roll the dice, too, since one misstep resulting in a loss and the Warriors' season of portent could get ruined before it really got rolling. Something Jones acknowledged before the season in saying, "to be something special we know we need to win on the road early."

This gambit gave them that chance. For after their struggles at Louisiana Tech, it was a crisper, sharper Warrior team that took the field at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday. One that might not have had as much energy had it just stepped off a plane from Honolulu instead of Houston.

But by the time they took on UNLV these had become road Warriors. That many days spent together away from home; that much travel leaves its mark one way or the other. Either the challenges involved magnify a team's weaknesses or forge its strengths. So far, you'd have to say the latter has carried over for UH, which has won five road games in a row, matching the second-longest streak in school history.

It is becoming a heck of a story. If not for ESPN, then maybe the Travel Channel.

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