Warriors overcome injury to Fuga
in scoring slugfest with E. Illinois
Chang passes for 374 yards in limited duty
as Hawaii overwhelms Panthers, 61-36
By Paul Honda
Saturday, Aug. 31, 2002
HALAWA—Sometimes, it takes an artist time to get into a flow, a sync, a rhythm.
Tim Chang, bouncing back from wrist and pinky finger injuries, needed more than a quarter of football to return to form. Once he did, the sophomore slinger was unstoppable, leading Hawaii to a resounding 61-36 win over upset-minded Eastern Illinois Saturday at Aloha Stadium.
Chang, who played less than three quarters, finished 19-of-30 for 374 yards and three touchdowns—all after being doubtful to start until a few days ago.
The win was punctuated by a 35-yard interception and return for touchdown by true freshman defensive tackle Albert "Abu" Ma'afala. His return, which followed a left-handed attempt of a pass by EIU's Tony Romo, brought a lighter flavor to an evening that began with unbelievably bad news for another defensive tackle.
On the game's sixth play from scrimmage, Lui Fuga sustained a fracture of the lower fibula in his leg. Hawaii coach June Jones was visibly upset with the play, arguing with an official about the legality of the act. Jones declined comment about the play that left Fuga injured for a second year in a row.
The Warriors responded to Fuga's injury with a heartfelt effort, including that of Pisa Tinoisamoa. The outside linebacker worked out daily with Fuga and was a tackling machine on the field with eight solos and five assists. He was decidedly somber and far less enthusiastic than usual during post-game interviews.
Hawaii finished with 578 total yards, including 453 in the air. Backup Jason Whieldon finished 5-of-10 for 79 yards with one touchdown.
Romo, two-time Ohio Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year, completed 30-of-42 attempts for 319 yards. He threw for four scores, but was picked off twice and sacked four times. Taylor rushed for 110 tough yards on 21 carries against a swarming UH defense.
Chang was slightly erratic during Hawaii's first two possessions, completing 2-of-6 attempts for eight yards. He was intercepted once, by linebacker David Bentley, on a crossing route as Bentley stood there motionless.
That turnover led to EIU's first score, a 19-yard run off right tackle by J.R. Taylor. The PAT kick sailed right as kicker Steve Kuehn's plant foot slipped on the slick AstroTurf, and the Panthers led 6-0 with 1:12 to play in the first quarter.
Chang answered immediately, launching a 49-yard strike to Clifton Herbert. That set up Justin Ayat's first field goal, a 34-yarder, as Hawaii broke the scoreless drought.
A flood of near-mythic proportions ensued. Warrior safety Hyrum Peters came up with the first of two Hawaii interceptions that were returned for touchdowns. Peters picked off Romo's pass at the 33 and raced into the end zone with plenty of blocking help, and Hawaii led for the first time—and, for good. Ayat's PAT kick made it 10-6 with 14:51 to go in the second quarter.
Peters, touted by Jones after the game as the team's best all-around player, led with nine solo tackles.
The Panthers, ranked No. 3 in NCAA Division I-AA by Sports Illustrated, were relentless behind the savvy and arm of Romo. The 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior guided the Panthers on a seven-play, 80-yard drive. His 34-yard pass to Nick Eller set EIU up at the Hawaii 16. Two plays later, Romo hurled a perfect fade pass to Will Bumphus in the corner of the end zone, and EIU led 13-10 with 12:07 to go in the half.
Tennessee transfer Michael Brewster gave the Warriors a jolt with a 60-yard kickoff return. From there, Hawaii scored in four plays. Chang opened the possession with a 17-yard pass to Nate Ilaoa, and closed it with a 13-yard strike to Ilaoa as EIU blitzed the house and left nobody home to cover the end zone Hawaii led 17-13 with 11:35 before intermission.
Momentum continued to shift as the Warrior defense shut EIU down on four plays. Chang connected with Justin Colbert on a streak for a 60-yard touchdown, and the Warriors led 23-13 with 7:26 remaining in the half.
Kuehn added a 39-yard field goal to bring the Panthers back within 23-16 with 2:44 to go in the half, but EIU got no closer.
Mike Bass got his first touch of the game, turning a little shovel pass from Chang into a 46-yard play. Thero Mitchell banged his way in from the 1 for another Warrior touchdown and a 30-16 lead with 17 seconds left in the half.
Hawaii recovered on the ensuing kickoff as the squib kick was recovered by Keni Alapa at the EIU 36. After a quick 11-yard pass from Chang to Neal Gossett, Ayat drilled a 29-yard field goal as time expired. Hawaii led at intermission, 33-16, and the Panthers were visibly worn out.
The Warriors opened the second half with a six-play, 69-yard touchdown drive. Chang came up big again, scrambling and firing a pass to Mitchell for a 51-yard play. Whieldon, playing a role of red zone quarterback from start to finish, ran the option with Mitchell and executed a perfect draw-and-pitch to Mitchell, who scored easily from four yards out.
Ayat's kick lifted Hawaii to a 40-16 lead with 12:16 left in the third quarter.
Chang's final action came on the next possession. Bass sparked the drive with runs of 18 and eight yards before Chang found Gossett open for nine yards, and then for 14. Chang then read a safety blitz perfectly and delivered a bullet to Colbert in stride for a 19-yard touchdown play. Hawaii led 47-16 with 6:19 to go in the third.
The Warriors substituted liberally from that point on as the game began to resemble an Arena League tilt.
More to come: Post-game interviews.