SHERATON HAWAI'I BOWL
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis sacked Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter yesterday.
Ends of a final chapter
In their final game as bookends on the University of Hawaii defensive line, Ikaika Alama-Francis and Melila Purcell helped ensure their final chapter together would be a joyful one.
The senior defensive ends combined for three sacks to spark the Warriors defense in their 41-24 win over Arizona State in yesterday's Hawaii Bowl.
"This was our last game playing at Aloha Stadium and we were just telling each other, 'every snap you just have to play 100 percent, play like it's our last snap and that's what we did," Purcell said.
Purcell closed his Hawaii career by recording six tackles, including two sacks of Arizona State quarterback Rudy Carpenter. He was also credited with four quarterback hurries.
Alama-Francis also had a sack among his three tackles and recovered a fumble in the third quarter as the Warriors battled back from a 10-3 halftime deficit to end the season with the program's fifth bowl victory.
"We knew coming in it would be our last game, but we didn't think about that, we were just thinking about getting a victory," Alama-Francis said. "It just feels so good to end the season with a win."
With the offense getting shut out of the end zone in the first half, the Hawaii defense kept the Sun Devils within a touchdown going into halftime.
The Warriors then took control in the third quarter, covering 247 yards in total offense while limiting Arizona State to 14.
"Coach (Jerry) Glanville gave us a green light to attack the quarterback and that's what we did," Purcell said. "Everybody was just firing out."
"We told ourselves if we wanted to win we had to turn it up a notch, and we were just flying around," Alama-Francis said. "We just told ourselves we have to hang together, play as hard as we can play."
Purcell ended his senior season with a team-high 15 1/2 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for losses totaling 47 yards. Alama-Francis had 10 tackles for losses for 51 yards.
When the outcome was decided and the team gathered at midfield to accept the trophy, Purcell and Alama-Francis shared a long embrace.
"Mel's an unbelievable player," Alama-Francis said. "I'm blessed to be on the same team as him.
"I love him to death. No matter what he does I know he's going to be a success."
Devils burned again: Arizona State has the dubious distinction of being the opponent of both David Klingler and Colt Brennan when they set the records for single-season NCAA touchdown passes.
Klingler threw seven touchdown passes for Houston against the Sun Devils in the teams' season finale in 1990 in Tokyo to boost his record total to 54.
Last night, Brennan had five TD tosses for the Warriors to finish with an all-time best 58.
"I didn't know that," said ASU safety Josh Barrett when told of the double whammy. "It's pretty ironic. But my regards go to Brennan. He did a great job. I could see him (in the NFL). He can fling that ball. He needled it in there a lot. I wish him the best."
Quick thinking: You could say the Brennan touchdown pass that tied the NCAA single-season record was the biggest play of the game, or the one that broke it, or any of the ones that added to it; or Leonard Peters' big fumble-causing sack.
But the biggest play of the night wasn't any of those. It was Hawaii tackle Dane Uperesa diving on a Jason Rivers' fumble, on the first drive of the second half.
"Huge," UH offensive line coach Dennis McKnight said.
Arizona State was leading 10-3 at the time, and had it recovered, the turnover might have changed the game's entire outlook.
Instead, the next play did. With Hawaii in possession, Brennan hit Rivers for 38 yards, touchdown, the game was tied. The tide had turned.
That fumble recovery was the game's biggest play.
"I didn't realize how big it was until people were telling me," Uperesa said. "Natural instinct."