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StarBulletin.com

UH senior night a sour affair


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POSTED: Sunday, December 06, 2009

It was a somber night in Halawa for Hawaii's 24 seniors.

One that stretched on .... and on. Three hours, 23 minutes seemed more like painful eternity.

Wisconsin ended the Warriors' bowl dreams and season with a 51-10 trouncing last night at Aloha Stadium.

UH broke from tradition and introduced its seniors individually before kickoff, in addition to the traditional senior walk festivities afterward.

That pregame fanfare turned out to be the high point of the evening, as the Badgers steamrolled through the Warriors for 554 yards of total offense, including 301 on the ground.

The seniors became the first UH class to leave without a bowl game since 2005. That year ended with a loss to Wisconsin as well.

There would be no 2004-esque heroics this time with a victory over a Big Ten team to clinch a berth. The Aloha Stadium crowd of 37,018 never was a factor; it was silenced by the end of the first quarter as Wisconsin led 14-0.

“;Sorry to the seniors that we weren't able to get that win for them,”; said quarterback Bryant Moniz, who finished 15-for-34 for 197 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He was harried all night and sacked six times. “;I feel really bad. You always want to send your seniors out on a good note and I'm just bummed for them.”;

Hawaii loses 10 starters, including running back Leon Wright-Jackson, who had some big moments in the Warriors' late-season, four-game winning streak—which allowed the team to entertain thoughts of a bowl game after being 2-6.

He chose to cherish the positives on his final college game in the stadium.

“;(The other seniors and teammates) are always family. That's my family now,”; said Wright-Jackson, who rushed five times for 42 yards. “;I'm always going to keep in touch with them. We just got so close through this process, from sophomore year, when I got here. It's unbelievable, they took me in. They're always going to be my brothers, I'm never going to forget them.”;

Senior linebacker Blaze Soares, lei-draped and tearful afterward, notched 11 total tackles (nine solo) in his final game as a Warrior. R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane, another senior linebacker, added nine solo tackles. Senior defensive lineman Fetaiagogo Fonoti added two tackles for loss.

Besides that, one of the few bright spots last night happened in the final minute of the game, when fan favorite Inoke Funaki—a starting quarterback as a junior—took two snaps and rushed for 16 yards. He got a loud cheer from those who stayed in the stands.

“;It was great, despite it didn't turn out exactly how we wanted it to,”; Funaki said as he exchanged hugs with well-wishers. “;Blaze, John (Estes), a lot of the senior leaders, they were trying to keep us up in the half, trying to get us motivated (when we trailed 27-3). Try to finish strong. Sometimes it goes in your favor, sometimes not. It's all a part of the journey, I guess.”;

“;We felt like we did (have a chance to come back at half),”; Wright-Jackson said. “;We just had to pick it up. But it was tough, they're a good team.”;

Funaki, ever the optimist, laughed about his final career chances to move the ball.

“;It was fun,”; he said.