The record-setting Warriors QB and the inimitable coach have the SMU Mustangs poised for more glory in the Hawaii Bowl
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 21, 2012
The last time they shared a sideline in Aloha Stadium, June Jones and Timmy Chang helped orchestrate a late-season charge that sent the University of Hawaii football team into a bowl game.
A somewhat similar scenario this fall in Dallas led to their return to Halawa this week.
The former UH head coach and Warrior quarterback reunited this season on the Southern Methodist staff and found themselves back on the Aloha Stadium turf Thursday for the Mustangs' practice in advance of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.
SMU got off to a 2-4 start this season, giving the Mustangs little room for error in pursuit of bowl eligibility. They went 4-2 the rest of the way, closing the regular season with a win over eventual Conference USA champion Tulsa in win-or-stay-home game.
Back in 2004, Chang's senior year at UH, the Warriors were a loss away from bowl elimination before stringing together three wins to qualify for the Hawaii Bowl.
"Coach Jones pointed that out in one of the team meetings, that we had to go a stretch and beat Northwestern and Michigan State" said Chang, now a graduate assistant. "The kids knew what they had to do against Tulsa. We had a lot of confidence and a lot of pride in these players. They didn't just hand it in."
Where the 2004 finish gave UH a third straight postseason appearance, SMU's second-half surge led to a school-record fourth consecutive bowl trip since breaking a 25-year postseason drought and winning the 2009 Hawaii Bowl. The Mustangs will be seeking a third win in that span when they face Fresno State — a former Western Athletic Conference nemesis for Jones and Chang — on Monday.
"Whenever you win and go to bowls, expectations go higher," Jones said. "Same thing happened in Hawaii. You just expect to win, the fans and the players."
Chang, who averaged 399 yards and threw 14 touchdowns in his final three regular-season games at UH, played in three Hawaii Bowls and exited the program as the NCAA's career passing yardage leader.
SHERATON HAWAII BOWL>> Who: Southern Methodist (6-6) vs. Fresno State (9-3)
>> Where: Aloha Stadium
>> When: 3 p.m. Monday
>> TV: ESPN
The Saint Louis graduate will complete his first season at SMU in the stadium where he racked up many of his 16,910 yards.
"I thought I was spending Christmas in Dallas with my family and we were blessed to have a chance to come here and be (bowl) eligible. So it's amazing," Chang said.
"This is home. This is where a lot of my high school games were played and a lot of our college games. Very excited and very grateful to be back here."
The trip also brings former UH staff members Dan Morrison (associate head coach), Wes Suan (running backs) and Mel deLaura (strength and conditioning coach) back to Hawaii.
Chang's initial plan for this season would have brought him back to Aloha Stadium much earlier this fall. He'd signed on as offensive coordinator at Mililani, where he helped implement the run-and-shoot with the Trojans before getting a call in April offering him a shot at the GA position at SMU.
"It was hard for me to talk to Coach Rod (York), but he understood what I wanted to do," Chang said. "I think it was even harder telling the players because we were working really hard."
Chang said he got to watch several of the Trojans games this season as quarterback Jarin Morikawa threw for 3,583 yards and 36 touchdowns.
"Jarin was a great quarterback before I got there. I got lucky being able to coach him," Chang said.
Chang's spot on the Mustangs staff served as a step toward his goal of being a college coach. He assisted Jones and Morrison in working with the SMU quarterbacks.
"He's grown up a lot; he's matured and he's going to be a good coach," Jones said. "He has a good feel for the kids and he's applying himself."
For his part, this season has given Chang a different perspective on working with Jones after spending five years playing for him.
"He's not like any other coach. He does things differently, so I've been really blessed to have this opportunity so I'm just taking full advantage of it," Chang said.
"It's unbelieveable getting both sides of it. Hearing him talk to the players and then going into meetings and putting the game plan together."
Homecoming for Holyfield
SMU receiver Marcus Holyfield is enjoying a second holiday homecoming in his college career. The Mid-Pacific graduate made the Hawaii Bowl trip as a redshirt on the 2009 team and is back to close his junior season.
"It's definitely a big blessing to be down here and see my family for free," Holyfield said. "Everyone knows how much that ticket costs."
Holyfield was an all-state basketball player at MPI and will join the SMU basketball team upon returning to Dallas, where he'll play for legendary coach Larry Brown.
"I'm blessed to be in the situation I am right now. Two pro coaches, there's not a lot of people who get that kind of opportunity," Holyfield said.