Still talking tickets
Between 18,000 and 24,000 are expected for tomorrow's Hawaii Bowl
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With the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl between No. 24 Boise State and East Carolina a day away at 50,000-seat Aloha Stadium, about 26,000 tickets have been sold for the game, according to executive bowl director Jim Donovan.
Hawaii Bowl: East Carolina (7-5) vs. Boise State (10-2)
» When: Tomorrow, 3 p.m.
» Where: Aloha Stadium
» TV: ESPN
That's about 5,000 more than were sold the day before the Nevada-Central Florida contest of 2005 -- the last time Hawaii was not in its signature postseason bowl -- Donovan said yesterday.
He estimated between 18,000 and 24,000 will be in the stands for the nationally televised game, but it's "one of those where you won't know until you get there," he said.
Donovan also said that there have been no problems since the teams arrived on Monday.
"Everything's been going real well," he added. "I've been impressed with the class and organizational skills of both teams."
The 10-2 Broncos from the Western Athletic Conference and 7-5 Pirates of Conference USA will each do a closed walk-through today at the stadium in final preparation for the game. Kickoff is 3 p.m.
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When the East Carolina football team traveled 4,862 miles from Greenville, N.C., to Honolulu on Monday for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, the Pirates tossed around the usual awed adjectives upon their arrival.
One among them describes the islands another way: "Home."
Sophomore receiver Alex Taylor, whose mother recently retired as a major in the U.S. Army, was born here and attended Gus Webling Elementary in Aiea through the sixth grade before continuing a whirlwind life as a military child on the U.S. mainland and beyond.
While ECU (7-5) has had a full plate of activities all week -- preparing for No. 24 Boise State, visiting Pearl Harbor, enjoying Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park and activities like a traditional luau -- Taylor's been challenged to find time to meet with old friends, aunts, uncles and grandparents who still live on Oahu, Maui, and the Big Island.
He hasn't been back since the sixth grade after leaving with his mom, Teresa, for Louisiana, Germany and finally North Carolina, but Taylor recalls everything from his early life in Hawaii.
"I remember everything perfectly," he said. "When we drive down H-1, I look up at Aiea and I know where my school's at, where I stayed over here at AMR (Aliamanu Military Reservation) for the most part. Driving around, seeing Tripler Hospital and the old basketball court I used to play at under the freeway. It's been great."
After a successful senior year at Southwest Guilford High, N.C., (936 yards receiving with 10 touchdowns) Pirates coach Skip Holtz recruited Taylor heavily despite it being Taylor's only year of football since playing Pop Warner back in Hawaii.
As bowl selection time came up in late November and early December, Taylor kept close tabs on the status of the Pirates and other Conference USA bowl-eligible teams, pestering Holtz about their team's destination.
"When it came down to either the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl or having the opportunity to go to the GMAC (Bowl), he came up to see me and said 'what do you think? To have an opportunity to go back to Hawaii would be unbelievable for me.'" Holtz said. "I know for him there's a lot of memories for when he was back here. It's a great experience for all of our players, but it's a special place for Alex because he's been here. It's like going home. I'm sure it's really a special trip for him."
The 6-foot-4, 212-pound player was realistic about the odds of getting here.
"Oh, slim to none," Taylor said. "When we got the opportunity, I was just so surprised. I never thought going into the season we'd be going here.
"We were shooting for the Liberty Bowl, because that's our championship, that's what we wanted and we were one game out of it. I mean, if you can go to any other bowl besides the BCS game or the Liberty Bowl, it's great to be here."
Now that Taylor is, he's got an extensive list of people to catch up with, like his old teacher, Ken Morishige, and his old track and Pop Warner coaches. Many will be at tomorrow's game.
Taylor has yet to make his first career reception as a third-year sophomore under a senior-laden group of receivers, but has made contributions on special teams.
He's biding his time, but if he made his way into the game and had the opportunity to catch his first pass at Aloha Stadium ...
"It'd be great. It would reflect just going back to where it all started," Taylor said. "It'd be a great feeling to get out there and catch a pass. I know my role hasn't been as big as I wanted it to be this year, but I do have a role, especially like with special teams. We have four seniors and we're losing five wide receivers, so just having the opportunity that I've been waiting for. If it happens, that'd be great. If it doesn't I'm just happy to be home."