By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
June Jones is one of the most revered figures in the history of University of Hawaii Athletics. Not only did he lead the Rainbow Warrior football program to its greatest heights – 2008 Sugar Bowl, anyone? – his love both for UH and the state of Hawaii continues through his philanthropic endeavors and his personal involvement in the community.
There was a time, however, when Jones was “the enemy.”
Jones transferred to UH from the University of Oregon in 1973. This was during Dave Holmes’ final year as Hawaii’s head coach. Jones didn’t see the field that season. When Larry Price took the head coaching reins in 1974, he installed what he dubbed the “Hula-T” offense – a run-heavy attack based on misdirection plays and a quarterback who could run the ball. When Price handed the starting QB job to Alex Kaloi, a talented sophomore out of Leilehua High School, Jones saw the writing on the wall. He returned to Oregon and enrolled at Portland State.
Jones total statistics as a Rainbow Warrior: 2 games, 1 pass completion in 8 attempts for 11 yards and 1 interception.
At UH, June Jones (center, #11) competed for the starting QB job with Alex Kaloi (left, #10).
One year later, in October of 1975, Jones returned to the Islands as the starting QB for the Portland State Vikings. And he came armed and loaded.
The Vikings were coached by Darrel “Mouse” Davis, who is today widely regarded as the originator of the run-and-shoot offense. The pass-heavy run-and-shoot was the exact antithesis of the Hula-T, and Jones blossomed under Davis’ tutelage. By the time the Vikings arrived in Honolulu, they boasted a 5-1 record and were averaging 43 points per game. Jones had 1,266 passing yards and 12 touchdowns. The Rainbow Warriors, meanwhile, had stumbled out of the gate and were 0-3.
Was Jones looking to prove something to the Hawaii coaching staff?
“If we win, I think I will have proved my point,” he told one reporter. To another, Jones said, “Yes, [the game] means a lot to me. But I’m trying to treat it like any other ball game. The worst thing I could do would be to get too excited about it.”
For his part, Price had nothing but praise for his former QB.
”I don’t blame June for being unhappy about the fact that he didn’t play much for us,” The UH coach told the Honolulu Advertiser’s Dan McGuire. “Any good athlete would feel the same way about sitting on the bench. He has every reason to come and play great ball against us. He is a likable, intelligent fellow and a very good leader.”
The day before the game, Price said he had a possible strategy to contain the Vikings’ aerial attack: “Maybe we’ll use 11 defensive backs.”
Oct. 18, 1975: Hawaii 24, Portland State 7.
Hawaii didn’t use 11 DBs in the game, but they did employ six (and only one linebacker) for much of the game. Jones was limited to 197 passing yards and a single TD. Hawaii’s defensive front (Cliff Laboy, Harris Matsushima, John Woodcock and Pat Richardson) applied enough pressure to keep Jones from racking up his usual numbers. Offensively for Hawaii, running back Norris Birdsong rushed for 132 yards, and fellow RB Arnold Morgado added 94 rushing yards.
Jones and the Vikings returned to Aloha Stadium for a rematch nearly a year later. The Oct. 16, 1976 game was a more competitive contest, and it took a 29-yard field goal by UH placekicker Curtis Goodman to secure the win for Hawaii, 20-17.
The game was marred by questionable officiating that impacted both teams. With five seconds left in the game, a disgusted Mouse Davis pulled his team off the field and exited to the locker room. “The officiating took the game away from he,” he later declared. “I went to the ground game in the second half because the officiating took away [our] passing. I lost a little poise, but I’ve never acted like this before.”
Jones also performed uncharacteristically, and the result was perhaps his worst game as a Viking. He was 12 for 34 for 144 passing yards, no TDs and 5 costly interceptions. (Note: If you want to joke that, even then, Jones showed his charitable ways to Hawaii – well, we won’t stop you.)
The epilogue to this story, of course, is that Jones went on to the NFL and eventually returned to Hawaii to become UH football’s winningest coach ever. He even brought along his mentor, Mouse Davis, as an offensive assistant.
For two games, June Jones went up against Hawaii. It’s safe to say all is forgiven.
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