GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Rice receiver Marcus Battle reeled in a pass over Hawaii's Abraham Elimimian last night at Aloha Stadium.
Elimimian redeems himself
For Abraham Elimimian, one play was the difference between a good night's rest and a sleepless morning in Manoa.
The Hawaii cornerback endured a roller-coaster ride that would have turned most people an unhealthy shade of FieldTurf green in the Warriors' 41-21 Western Athletic Conference victory over Rice last night at Aloha Stadium.
Elimimian lined up against Rice receiver Marcus Battle much of the night, surrendering five catches for 156 yards, including a 69-yard completion that set up an Owls touchdown.
But he also came up with one of the biggest plays of the game, a block of a 37-yard field-goal attempt by Rice's Brandon Skeen that would have tied the game at 24 midway through the third quarter.
"I had to or I wouldn't get to sleep tonight, honestly," Elimimian said after the game.
Elimimian's block was part of a stingy effort from the Hawaii defense, which shut out the Rice offense in the second half and allowed just one offensive score. He also came up with an interception in the fourth quarter.
The block also sparked the Warriors, who saw Rice use two defensive scores to cut a 24-0 Hawaii lead to 24-21 just before halftime.
"It was crazy because it was 21-0 and we thought it was going to be a blowout, but for some reason Rice is a thorn in our side," Elimimian said. "It's like they're leprechauns or something, they're always going to stick around. But this time we didn't let them hang around until the fourth quarter like last year. We knew if we gave them life they're going to come back and beat us."
Statistically speaking, Elimimian suffered through one of the toughest nights of his UH career, finishing with just one tackle.
On the 69-yard completion in the second quarter, Battle outjumped Elimimian for a lob from Greg Henderson and raced down the sideline and was finally knocked out of bounds at the Hawaii 5. Three plays later, Battle scored on a reverse for Rice's first touchdown of the game.
With the Hawaii safeties creeping up toward the line of scrimmage to shut down Rice's option attack, the cornerbacks were left on their own on the outside for most of the game.
"It was just one of those days," Elimimian said. "(Battle) is a good receiver. Before the game I knew I was going to have a tough time guarding him because they run the ball so much ... it lulls you to sleep."
With Elimimian struggling, Hawaii safety Hyrum Peters took it upon himself to keep his teammates' heads in the game.
"I know him -- when he gets beat he's down for the rest of the game," Peters said. "I tried my best just to talk to him and cheer him up and get a little light in him, try to make him smile."
Said Elimimian: "He started talking to me about life and stuff, how when things go bad for you and you don't have anybody, he reassured me that he was going to be there for me. That really made me feel special. ... I found out who my friends are."
Elimimian found redemption after the defense forced Rice into a field-goal attempt with the Warriors clinging to a three-point lead in the third quarter.
He lined up on the right side of the formation, just outside defensive end Travis LaBoy. With the Rice lineman concerned about blocking LaBoy, Elimimian was free to fly in off the edge and record the third blocked kick of his career.
"Travis helped me out more than anybody thinks," Elimimian said. "He came in hard and when they see No. 1 they get scared so it makes them crash more."
Even with the block and the interception, Elimimian was far from satisfied with his performance.
"It made it OK, but not OK," he said. "I'm a competitive person, and I don't like to get beat."
At least it gave something nicer to dream about.