Tulsa hopes to continue its turnaround season

Friday, September 29th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

HONOLULU (AP) -- A new year, a new success story.

Hawaii was the talk of the collegiate football world in 1999 -- reversing an NCAA-record 0-12 campaign to an 8-4 mark, plus a postseason bowl victory. They were more than enough to earn June Jones a slew of coaching honors.

It appears first-year coach Keith Burns is on the same highway to success at Tulsa.

The Golden Hurricane, coming off a 2-9 record, have already matched their win total of last season and are gearing up for more wins.

Burns is confident of that.

"I knew we had talent when I took this job," he said. "It was just a matter of realizing our potential.

"We got off to a rough start, losing our first two games (to North Carolina and Oklahoma State). But I saw some good things in those losses that we could build off this season."

Should the Golden Hurricane finish with a winning season, it would be their first since 1991.

Despite the initial success of the program, Burns is taking it cautiously.

"There's so many highs and lows in this game that you want to remain consistent," he said. "When we were 0-2, we approached practice in a businesslike, professional fashion. Our goal is to get better each and every practice and improve each and every Saturday."

When he took over a year ago, Hawaii coach June Jones said it would take time to turn the program around.

That's Burns' mantra, too.

"We're beginning to get our plan in place," he said. "But it's going to take some time to get the program moving in the direction I want it to.

"So far, our guys are buying into the offensive and defensive schemes. Going to Hawaii will be a challenge, but at least we're starting to believe in ourselves, and that's a positive first step."

Meanwhile, the success Hawaii enjoyed last year has not translated into success this season. The Warriors are winless in two games and have suffered on both sides of the ball.

Opponents are scoring an average of 42 points a game in yielding 400 yards. Nationally, Hawaii is No. 113 in scoring defense and No.

97 in total defense.

"We just haven't been getting it done, especially against the run," defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa said. "That has to change.

"Injuries have been a part of it, but that's no excuse."

Offensively, it's been dropped passes, putting the Warriors No.

102 in passing efficiency.

For those reasons, Jones emphasized concentration in practices leading up to Saturday night's Western Athletic Conference game.

"We need to worry more about ourselves and start executing our own game plan before we worry too much about that they're going to do," Jones said.

"We're hoping all those dropped footballs will run their course. We don't want to dwell on too many of the bad things. We want to do those things well to help make our offense go.

"right now, we've stopped ourselves more than anything else.

For our offense to work, we have to execute at every position. So far, we haven't done that enough."