CINDY ELLEN RUSSELL / CRUSSELL@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii safety Lamar Broadway and Shawndra Singletary, wife of defensive line coach Vantz Singletary, shared a laugh yesterday during a Thanksgiving feast at the Singletarys' home. The family hosted UH players yesterday for the fourth consecutive year. At left is the Singletarys' daughter, Courtney Lashea.
Badgers playing for better bowl
UH has a chance to knock Wisconsin into a lesser game
Two college football programs in transition for different reasons meet today at Aloha Stadium when Hawaii hosts No. 24 Wisconsin in an ESPN2-televised game at 4:05 p.m.
A crowd of close to 40,000 -- including about 5,000 from Wisconsin -- is expected.
The rebuilding Warriors (4-6) have a chance to beat a ranked team for the first time since 2001 and remain on track for a fifth consecutive non-losing season. The Badgers (8-3) want to give 16-year coach Barry Alvarez a victory in his last regular-season game and get picked for the Capitol One Bowl, instead of a lesser postseason game.
"Most teams don't have a chance like this to be here," Wisconsin outside linebacker Dontez Sanders said. "But this is a business trip first, especially since we want to win for Coach."
Wisconsin is a 6 1/2-point favorite. But UH was also an underdog against Big Ten teams Northwestern and Michigan State at the end of last season. The Warriors won both games to finish the regular season at 7-5 and earn a Hawaii Bowl berth.
No bowl is possible this time, but a young UH team hopes to use today's game and next week's against San Diego State as a jump-start into next season.
Wisconsin beat Hawaii twice in visits here in 2000 and 1996. But UH, led by All-American defensive tackle Al Noga, beat the Badgers 20-17 in 1986.
Freshman receiver Davone Bess is confident Hawaii can move the ball against Wisconsin, which is 102nd nationally with 431.3 yards allowed per game.
"I watched them, seems like every other week, on ESPN, and I think we have a good chance to beat them," Bess said. "They're not used to the kind of offense, speed, quickness, routes. I think we have a good chance to put up some numbers. If the defense can come through ... we're a different team at home."
"The running back is scary. He's the fastest guy on their team. He's a little like Barry Sanders."
UH coach, on Wiscconsin's Brian Calhoun
The Warriors haven't fared much better defensively, allowing 426.7 yards for 98th nationwide. UH may be without starting defensive end Melila Purcell, which could make it more difficult to stop Wisconsin running back Brian Calhoun.
"It's going to take everything for us to slow them down. At one time, everybody was thinking they were going to win the Big Ten conference and looking at them on film, I see why they thought they were going to win it," Warriors coach June Jones said. "I think they're bigger and more powerful on the offensive line (than USC). The running back is scary. He's the fastest guy on their team. He's a little like Barry Sanders."
Calhoun has 1,830 all-purpose yards, but was held to 56 rushing yards on 35 carries in Wisconsin's last two games, losses at Penn State and against Iowa.
But the Badgers have other offensive weapons, including receiver Brandon Williams. He is the program's career leader in receptions with 194. The offensive line is anchored by center Donovan Raiola, a Kamehameha product. Tight end Owen Daniels and fullback Chris Pressley are also threats.
"A team like that you got to be disciplined. If you try to make extraordinary plays and stuff like that, it usually works out for the worse. You end up messing up or putting the rest of the team out of position," UH safety Lamar Broadway said. "A game like this is going to be physical, so of course you have to be aggressive, but you also have to play smart. If we focus too much on one phase another will hurt us."
Due to complaints from Michigan State and Northwestern about WAC officials, a Pac-10 crew will handle today's game.
"It'd be nice if you had neutral officials anytime you had inter-conference games," Alvarez said. "What we've done most recently, anytime we play someone (out of conference) we swap. When we play there, we take our officials. ... It used to be you used a split crew. If they don't work together, you know, no one was really satisfied with that."
Alvarez is the rare football coach going out on his own terms. He steps down after 16 seasons and will retain the post of athletic director at Wisconsin. He named current defensive coordinator Bret Bielema as the Badgers' next head coach.
UH graduate assistant Jeff Reinebold, an Indiana alumnus, said Alvarez brought the Badgers to Big Ten and national prominence through recruiting.
"The Big Ten is a physical conference with big people and they've always had that. Since Alvarez, they've also done a great job of going outside to get speed," Reinebold said. "They've also gotten into suburban Chicago, which used to be Michigan. He's gone to New Jersey to get great backs ... Florida, Texas for players, even out here. He put them in great position to win because of recruiting."