[ HAWAII FOOTBALL ]
'Bows' upset inspires Warriors
Ikaika Alama-Francis and Tony Akpan missed out on Hawaii's upset of Michigan State last Saturday by a couple of years. But the basketball forwards-turned-football defensive linemen get their chance to knock off a ranked team from the Big Ten this week.
The Warriors (4-6) host the No. 24 Wisconsin Badgers (8-3) on Friday at Aloha Stadium. Alama-Francis and Akpan are on the football front line now as ends in UH's 3-4 scheme. (Also, reserve receiver Brandon Matano was once a Rainbows backup guard.)
"What an awesome game," said Alama-Francis, who watched UH manhandle MSU on television. "I'm really glad for those guys. It gets the basketball team on the map. Fourth-ranked Michigan State goes down."
Alama-Francis played sparingly in nine games as a freshman for the 2002-03 basketball team. Akpan played two years of basketball as a key reserve, including an NCAA Tournament appearance as a freshman. The two joined the football team during the 2003 spring camp.
Akpan said he wasn't surprised with the basketball team's 84-62 win over the No. 4-ranked Spartans.
"The coaches did a good job getting the guys ready," he said. "Being at home with the fans you have a lot of energy. They have (Julian) Sensley, the center who came in (Ahmet Gueye) and good shooters."
Akpan could join Alama-Francis as a starter Friday against the Badgers if Melila Purcell's sore elbow doesn't allow him to go.
"I think he'll be ready; we'll see how he is with the brace on," coach June Jones said of Purcell, who hyper-extended the elbow Nov. 12 against Utah State.
If not, Akpan -- used mostly as a pass rusher -- said he's ready for the Badgers' powerful running attack, which averages 153.6 yards per game.
"I think I've been getting better against the run since the San Jose State game," said Akpan, who played noseguard early in the season. "My strength and technique are getting better."
Akpan has five tackles, playing around 10 to 15 snaps per game.
"Tony hasn't played a lot in running situations; he's been a hands-up, apply-pressure guy," defensive line coach Vantz Singletary said. "But you're not going to take his 285 pounds (on a 6-foot-7 frame) and just knock him off the football. He has held the point."
Alama-Francis emerged as a force this season. He has 38 tackles, including five sacks and a team-high six quarterback hurries. He's also forced two fumbles and blocked two kicks.
"This is really his first year," Singletary said of the 6-6, 260-pound junior. "He's been really consistent and works hard. He could be 0-11 and he'd come at you like he's playing for a bowl bid."
Jones considers Alama-Francis, the son of former NFL player Joe Francis, a pro prospect. Scouts have asked about Akpan, and some project him as a tight end.
"I hope these aren't my last two football games," Akpan said.
Visit to Mad-town?: Barry Alvarez retires as Wisconsin football coach after Friday's game, but will remain as athletic director. He said he wants to schedule more games against UH, including a home-and-home series.
"I'd like to have every player who comes through our program be able to make this trip once," Alvarez said. "I 'd like to sit down with June and (UH athletic director Herman Frazier) to discuss it."
Jones said he would like to take the Warriors to Madison.
"That would be a great experience," Jones said. "Quite a big-time atmosphere there."
Said Frazier: "I speak to Barry often about future scheduling to include basketball and football, but we have come to no decisions at this time. We enjoy the relationship we have, and now that his coaching career is coming to close, I am sure we will discuss scheduling sooner as opposed to later."
Short yardage: Between 3,300 and 3,400 fans from Wisconsin have tickets for Friday's game, Wisconsin media relations director Justin Doherty said. ... UH kick returner A.J. Martinez will probably miss Friday's game due to a bruised knee suffered against Nevada two weeks ago. Andre Taylor is behind him on the depth chart. ... Senior cornerback and special teams player Omega Hogan is no longer a member of the Warriors team because of violations of team rules. Hogan was suspended and reinstated once earlier this season. He has been replaced as a gunner on the punt team by Khevin Peoples.