Archive for October, 2012

Norm Chow Monday news conference Q and A

October 29th, 2012
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Here’s most of what Hawaii football coach Norm Chow had to say to the assembled media at today’s gathering

Opening remarks: Frustration continues. If you’re a stat guy which I’m not you can see the numbers were all in our favor. … but the dad gum turnovers killed us. We got 5 on them, they got 5 back.

No panic involved. Not going to change quarterbacks. I have a quarterback and I intend to stay with this quarterback. (No matter) what anyone says.

Any questions?

Q: More happy with the defense or frustrated with the offense?

A: As an offensive coordinator I would be upset. But as a head coach I think our defense really bought in to what Tom them are teaching. Murrell Jackson, Brendan Daley played very well. We need to shore that up, we can’t be just one half. We’ve got to play the whole game. Certainly we have a challenge this week. Certainly in a different manner. They’re gonna throw it around pretty good. So we’re gonna have to see. But right now we’re still pleased with the effort. We just need to get better. We need to find some guys that will make some plays for us.

Q: You have seen some progression?
A: Obviously the second half was a pretty good deal. I think they were 1 for 6, we got them off the field. Three straight turnovers. And couldn’t capitalize. That hurt us. We should’ve. Again, maybe it’s some of the play calls. I’m cursing myself as well.

Q: Did the offense get tired?
A: That’s the problem with the no huddle. You worry about your own guys. I thought we tired them out a little bit. 93 plays is very unusual. Usually between 60 and 70. 75 you’re doing a nice job. We didn’t seem tired. It might have affected us but we kept rotating backs. We ran Will, we ran Joey, we ran Lister. We had to change at offensive guard twice. David sprained an ankle. And Chauncey sprained an ankle. So we did change some. We changed our receivers pretty regularly. I think our guys are in good shape. Our guys work hard. I love their effort.

Q: Joey, is he healthy?
A: He did give us a hundred yards. When you get on a plane, these poor kids, what bothers me the most is I see the hurt in their eyes and the limps they have getting on that airplane and you forget they’re just 19, 20 year old kids. Joey’s hurt a little bit. That’s part of the deal. The foot itself (is OK). Now it’s a little bit of a knee.

Q: The nature of things with football, the quarterback is questioned. Can you talk about that, standing behind Sean Schroeder?
A: People talk about the quarterback. My first question would be, well, the coverage. Tell me which play you writers decided he couldn’t play. If you tell me the coverage, tell me the receiver route then I’ll tell you, I’ll tell you what happened. He got hit 20 times. Twenty times after he threw the ball. I counted. I looked at the tape. Receivers didn’t always run right routes. Yeah, he made some bad decisions. But you can never blame the quarterback. It’s too easy. It’s too easy to give him a lot of credit. Right now he gives us the best opportunity. No one’s hurting more than Sean Schroeder. I hear some of the criticism, actually it pisses me off. Any other questions?

Q: Fresno. Derek Carr’s a slinger.
A: He’s a gunslinger. My son worked for the Houston Texans back when his brother was a quarterback and I went down there and saw this little kid running around. I reminded Derek about that. He was a little kid running around the practice field watching the older brother play. They have such good talent they’re not necessarily an over the top team. They’ll throw some intermediate balls and then break tackles. They’re so talented they make good plays and they present a real problem. The offensive coordinator and I were coaching together at Utah last year. Dave Schramm, a wonderful, wonderful fellow. Very good football coach. He loves to spread people out. Last year he liked to spread them out and I liked to pack them in so we combined them both. He’s a very good football coach and presents some real tough problems.

Q: This is an offense your defense matches up with, playing man to man?

A: That’s a good thought. If we can put heat on him. If you can’t put heat on the quarterback and give him time to throw … any good quarterback if you give him enough time. They have good concepts. Good schemes. We’ll have to mix it up. We can’t stay strictly in man coverage.

Q: How much does Jackson’s emergence help the secondary against this type of offense?

A: It’s huge. I think Murrell has the chance to be an outstanding player. And the really good thing is we’ve got him three more years. There’s some problems, especially the option against New Mexico. The safety has the quarterback and he has to come downhill Murrell wasn’t doing that, he’s doing that now. That outside run stopped after awhile.

Q. We saw some frustration after the pick six, what happened?

A: That one, Sean checked. We may have given away the check. Couple times checked we checked to throws. The slant guy, they jumped the slant. (Receiver’s) job if they jump the slant you become a defender. Even if you get pass interference. Our guy stopped. Flatout stopped. Continue on, cause a collision. Even if it’s a pass interference. The guy read it very nicely. Our kid stopped. He should not have done that. The check was done properly. Maybe it was a bad check, and that’s me, that’s coaching. It’s not all Sean and that’s what irritates me, the concerns about Sean. Sean gives us the best chance to win. And no one felt worse after that ballgame than Sean Schroeder.

Q: How good is it that this is the last two in a row road game?
A: Whoever set the schedule. … It’s tough. I really feel for these young people. I’m not used to it. I’m used to getting on a bus, get on a charter with a first-class seat. They’re crammed in the back, 6-5 guys crammed next to a grandma going to Disneyland with her grandkids, sitting like this (scrunched up) for five hours. It’s hard. It’s really, really hard. You gotta give them credit, they hang in. They don’t complain. We get a good night’s rest in LA and get on another plane. The second plane’s OK, it’s a charter. But that first flight is hard and I feel for them. Not one guy complains. They literally sit like this (scrunched up) and play with those crazy machines. You all do the same. I do the same. I’m sitting right next to them.

Q: Same thing this week, but drive to Fresno Friday?
A: Decided to save some money and do some bonding. When I took the job we were promised a charter to Fresno but somehow that got lost in the shuffle. We did get the best charter bus available. Three to four hours. Four busses. Tried to stop halfway at Bakersfield for Inn-And-Out Burgers, but they won’t serve us. They’re too busy.

Linebacker High

October 22nd, 2012
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I’m pretty sure this is the first time this has happened: Two players from the same Hawaii high school are semifinalists for the Butkus Awards, which go to the nation’s best linebackers at pro, college and high school levels each year.

Isaac Savaiinaea, a Punahou senior, is among 12 semifinalists for the high school award. Buffanblu alumnus Manti Te’o of Notre Dame is among the dozen remaining for the college honor.

Te’o won the high school Butkus Award in 2008 when he was a Punahou senior, and was also a semifinalist for the college honor last year.

Finalists will be announced next month and winners in December.

RIP, Shep Killen

October 19th, 2012
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You always heard Shep Killen before you saw him, and in a good way. You would hear his bellowing laughter and you knew the good times were rolling once again.
Shep was one of my first regular customer when I started bartending in 1989 between newspaper jobs. We quickly became friends. We talked and laughed about everything. Sometimes we even discussed football, which he played at the University of Hawaii as a wide receiver and tight end in the early 1980s. But mostly we laughed, at the same crazy and silly stories we told each other repeatedly, and never tired of.
He was one of the friendliest people I’ve ever come across. Gregarious, outgoing people often are not good listeners, but Shep somehow gave others his full attention despite his big personality.
He died the other day, a few weeks short of his 50th birthday. One of the tributes I read about him was from a teammate who noted that as a veteran player Shep was helpful to freshmen, getting them acclimated to the team and Hawaii. That sounds like my friend Shep Killen. He will be missed by many.

Gib Arnold on Joaquim, Fotu, recruiting and the Big West

October 17th, 2012
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Here are questions and answers from my interview on Tuesday with Hawaii basketball coach Gib Arnold that didn’t get into today’s column.

Q: Vander Joaquim looks significantly stronger.

A: “He’s gained strength, quite a bit of strength. When he got here he was out of shape. He was able to take a big body and make it a strong body. He’s what you want in a big. He’s about 250 pounds now.”

Q: His demeanor seems more assertive.

A: “Oh yeah, oh yeah. He was unsure of himself when he first got here. He hadn’t had that much success and had been a lot of different places. He didn’t trust a lot of people. Part of it was the language issue. Now he has a great relationship with his teammates and me. He was quiet. Now he’s vocal and we look up to him for leadership.”

Q: Why do you think he stayed when so many other players left early?

A: “Foreign players don’t have that pull. Vander came to find something special and change his life.”

Q: Did you ever think he would leave?

A: “I can guarantee you 100 percent of the time I said that’s not the case.”

Q: Headed into your third season expectations are going to be fairly high. How do you feel about that?

A: “I think they’re right where they should be. It’s fair to say when we took over the program was down. Attendance, a lot of things were dwindling. It is not easy to turn momentum. Ups and downs both years, and then growth.

“I think we have a solid foundation of youth and upper classmen. My idea coming in was build with youth and build a program. I played and coached junior college, I’m not anti-JUCO. But if you want to build a program that can weather the storms you have to have freshmen who stay and mature, learn your system and eventually teach freshmen. You have to be able to redshirt freshmen and let them mature physically.

“I believe that kind of team plays harder.”

“It’s different than programs with one-and-done players. I’ve coached a lot of one-and-done guys. It’d be a good problem to have here.”

“We have to recruit young men who want to come for the college education and unique experience. We need guys who think more globally than the average 17-year-old. Think beyond their own fence and their own town.”

Q: Isaac Fotu chose Hawaii over some pretty good basketball schools. How did this come about?

A: “He’s Tongan. We don’t get him if not for our Polynesian community. He has family here. We went to the churches. Asked, ‘Any Fotus here?’ And there were.

“He felt very comfortable, like he’s coming home”

“We have to create our own (recruiting) advantages. I’m tired of hearing we can’t do this, we can’t do that.”

Q: Can you tell us a little more about Isaac?

A: “His dad played pro rugby. He’s used to pounding inside. We’re working to develop his outside game. He was 300 pounds as an eighth-grader. He’s got great feet, mobility. 6-7. Zero questions about toughness (dislocated shoulder). Very coachable.”

Q: What are your thoughts on joining the Big West?

A: “I like it. I was one of the coaches who voted against it. But I can see the reasoning behind it after seeing what happened to the WAC.”

Q: It should help your recruiting in the Los Angeles area, right?

A: “Yes. Now we can tell a mom she’ll see her son every other Thursday and Sunday in the winter.”

“San Diego State and Boise State add immensely to the conference because of their profiles.”

Q: Some don’t like that only one team from the conference makes it to the NCAA Tournament. Do you think this can change?

A: “When I was at Pepperdine I saw the WCC become a two-bid league. It’s up to the new teams to raise the level and do that.”

Freitas loses a friend in passing of teammate Karras

October 10th, 2012
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Alex Karras was one of those rare people in life who enjoyed significant success in more than one field. He was one of the NFL’s best defensive linemen of his era, and then went on to a productive and entertaining career as an actor.

Karras died Wednesday of kidney failure at age 77.

University of Hawaii vice president and acting athletic director Rockne Freitas knew him well and counted Karras as a “good friend.” They were teammates on the Detroit Lions from Freitas’ rookie season of 1968 to 1970, which was Karras’ last.

“I studied him every minute of every day,” said Freitas, who was an offensive tackle. “He was the best pass rusher from the defensive tackle position that I’ve ever seen. He was incredibly quick and had all the moves. He was so quick he could throw two or three moves at the offensive guard before the guard could engage him. Shuffle, skip, feint a head slap, then come back with a double head slap.

“One game that stands out was my rookie year when we played Green Bay. We won, and Vince Lombardi said Alex was the reason why. He had five or six solo sacks, beating Jerry Kramer and Forrest Gregg. He was beating Kramer so badly that they moved Gregg over, and he beat him, too.

“He was a fantastic player. I didn’t line up against him much in practice, but there was a short-yardage drill one day that he was on the outside. I was thinking, ‘I’m gonna knock out Alex.’ But he was so quick. Before I could get to him he disappeared.”

“He was good friends with (quarterback) Bill Munson. When I was a rookie once in awhile they’d invite me to join them for a beer. Just once in awhile. Eventually we became good friends.”