Texas-El Paso focusing on keeping Chang off the field

Updated: October 23, 2003, 7:51 PM ET

HONOLULU -- Hawaii quarterback Timmy Chang puts opposing teams in a quandary.

Blitz him and they'll have one less defender on the receivers. Drop back in coverage and he'll have more than enough time to make a play.

Texas-El Paso coach Gary Nord says the only way to prevent Hawaii's star QB from having a big game is to control the clock and keep him off the field.

"You're never really going to take him out of it. I think you're just going to have to overcome it," Nord said. "That's our plan this year. We're going to have to overcome his great leadership, accuracy and passing ability."

UTEP (2-5, 1-1 Western Athletic Conference) looks to snap a four-game losing streak at Aloha Stadium when it faces Hawaii (4-3, 3-1) on Saturday night. The Miners have been outscored 193-31 in the past four games in Honolulu.

Hawaii has won its last six conference home games dating back to last season and is trying to keep pace with Boise State and Nevada in the WAC.

Chang, who leads the WAC and is second in the nation in total offense with 362.8 yards per game, has been virtually unstoppable at Aloha Stadium this season. In his two starts, Chang has completed 82-of-130 passes for 750 yards and seven touchdowns. All 10 of his picks have come on the road.

"It's a lot better playing at home. There's no seven-hour flights," Chang said. "I've got to be able to play anywhere, in any circumstance, any environment, any climate. But nothing beats home."

The junior is coming off a 534-yard, five touchdown, four interception passing performance in Hawaii's 44-41 victory at Louisiana Tech last week.

"He's definitely the key to their offense," Nord said. "He throws the ball so accurate and throws the ball so quick, you can't get to him."

Warriors receiver Britton Komine said the offense is playing with confidence and momentum.

"We're rolling high right now," he said. "UTEP is a better team than their record shows, but we're ready to show them something.

"Really, we can throw and catch all day," Komine said. "I don't think anybody can stop us."

The Miners are coming off a bye week, which Nord said helped them prepare for the Warriors and the long trip to the islands.

UTEP quarterback Jordan Palmer is returning after being sidelined two games with a hairline fracture of his shin bone. He is expected to start against Hawaii.

Palmer, a redshirt freshman whose brother is Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer, hurt his leg in the second half of the Miners' 42-14 loss at Louisville Sept. 20.

Despite the injury, Palmer made his first start the following week against Sam Houston State and completed 13 of 23 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns in a 59-14 victory. Palmer has thrown four touchdowns and four interceptions in five games.

After averaging a dismal 8.5 points in their first four games, UTEP's offense has been resuscitated by running back Howard Jackson and is now producing an average of 38.3 points and 452 yards in the last three games.

Jackson had 297 all-purpose yards in his last start and is averaging 129.8 rushing yards in his last four games.

Hawaii coach June Jones called the 5-foot-10, 160-pound Jackson, "a big-time player."

"He can make you miss and he can take it to the house on any given play," Jones said. "We know they're going to hand it off to their tailback. We have to stop the run."

Stopping the run is something the Warriors have had difficulty with. Last week, they allowed 267 rushing yards to Louisiana Tech's Ryan Moats.

"We have a lot of potential and a lot of talent but we haven't had a perfect game yet," said Hawaii linebacker Ikaika Curnan, who leads the team in tackles.

Despite being favored by four touchdowns, Hawaii insists it is not overlooking UTEP.

"You can't underestimate any team," Chang said. "From Pop Warner all the way up to the pros, any team can beat anybody on any given day. It's just about making plays and executing what you learned and doing your best out there."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index