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Sports Notebook

Sunday, September 5, 2004


art
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Florida Atlantic defenders broke up a pass intended for Jason Rivers last night at Aloha Stadium. Rivers had six catches for 56 yards.


Akpan’s heroics
go for naught

» Owls outlast Warriors
» FAU no surprise to Chang
» Crissinger-Hill shows value of tight end


Although he wasn't in the mood for celebrating after Hawaii's 35-28 loss to Florida Atlantic last night, Nkeruwem Akpan had a big hand in sending the Warriors' season opener into overtime.

After Florida Atlantic tied the game at 28 with 23 seconds left in regulation, Akpan, a converted basketball player, broke through the left side of the line and blocked an extra-point attempt to keep the score knotted and send UH into its second straight overtime game.

"I did what I've been doing in practice," Akpan said. "It was teamwork. Everybody pinching into the gap, I got in and I blocked it. It was how my coach taught me to do it."

Akpan didn't record a tackle coming off the bench at defensive end, but came up big with his special-teams effort.

"We're a team and we just had to help each other," Akpan said. "At that point everybody was looking to the two ends and the corners coming off the edge to try to block it. I had to and I'm happy about that."

The defensive line was one of the major question marks entering the game and the Warriors struggled to stop the Owls on the ground and in the air.

UH gave up 445 yards to FAU, which mixed the run (147 yards) and pass (298) effectively.

"It was basically what we did in practice, it was just executing," said UH defensive end Kila Kamakawiwoole, who had 3 1/2 tackles, including a sack. "It was what we did in practice, nothing different."

New faces: Several true freshmen got their feet wet at the college level last night.

Defensive tackles Clarence Tuioti-Mariner and Keala Watson got into the action on FAU's first offensive series of the game, while Khevin Peoples and C.J. Allen-Jones played on the kickoff coverage team.

Watson finished with one tackle for loss. Tuioti-Mariner had one tackle.

"I was kind of nervous to see how I would do at the fast pace of college football," Watson said. "My teammates really pumped me up and gave me the confidence to go out on the field and contribute as well as I could."

Special effort: UH punter Kurt Milne averaged 44.7 yards on his first three punts of the game, placing all of them inside the 15-yard line.

Florida Atlantic's first three possessions started at the Owls' 7, 4 and 11 and ended in two interceptions and a punt.

Ross Dickerson sparked the Warriors on kickoff returns later in the contest, returning four kicks for a total of 138 yards and a long of 40 yards.

Behind fourth-and-10: UH head coach June Jones said that his decision to go for it on fourth-and-10 from the FAU 27 with 8:10 to go in the game, holding a 28-22 lead, was based on Justin Ayat's health.

Ayat, who was a freshman All-American in 2001 but struggled with accuracy last year, hasn't quite been healthy all through fall camp. But he did earn the starting nod prior to the season opener.

But Hawaii's other kickers hadn't made a kick that long -- about 43 yards -- under game conditions. And Jones didn't trust Ayat's imperfect leg from that distance.

"It was because he was hurt," Jones said. "I had to go for it."

Michael Brewster ran a draw for 5 yards, and Hawaii turned the ball over on downs at the FAU 22.

UH got away with the move, as the Owls were eventually forced to punt.

Ayat made four extra points in the game.

First OT loss for JJ: UH is now 3-1 in overtime games under Jones.

The Warriors previously beat Fresno State (1999), Southern Methodist (2001) and Houston (2003 Hawaii Bowl).

Hawaii is now 3-3 in openers with Jones as coach.

Owens one short: Warriors slotback Chad Owens was one short of his team record for receptions in a game. He had 13 catches for 89 yards last night, including an 11-yard touchdown.

He set the record of 14 against Army last year.

Owens, who has caught at least one pass in 22 consecutive games, also returned two punts for 21 yards and returned one kickoff for 28 yards last night.

Defensive passion: Florida Atlantic coach Howard Schnellenberger looked at stopping the usually high-flying Warriors offense as a game of touch football.

The crunching hitting throughout the game -- especially by linebackers Shomari Earls, defensive backs Cameron Rodgers, Quincy Skinner and Willie Hughley and defensive end William Gray -- finally exacted its toll on UH's offense.

Schnellenberger wasn't at all surprised about his defensive hunters.

"Hitting hard is their by-word," he said. "They're just as hard hitting as any team I've been around."

Earls batted down a Chang pass to end the game in overtime.

"At the right time, everything fell into place," Earls said. "I didn't even try to catch it because I was so tired playing in such a long game. I should have tried to catch it."

Stars of the day

Chad Owens, Hawaii
The senior wide receiver had 13 catches for 89 yards and one touchdown.

Anthony Crissinger-Hill, Florida Atl.
The junior tight end caught 15 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns.

Key matchup

Florida Atlantic's offensive line against Hawaii's defensive line

Florida Atlantic's O-line was able to do enough against Hawaii's bigger defensive front so that FAU could rush for 134 yards. UH defensive end Mel Purcell made some big plays, but just as often the Warriors were being blown off the line.

Say what?

"Force is mass times velocity squared. These kids know all about that now."

Howard Schnellenberger, Florida Atlantic coach



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