Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Hawaii uglies its way
into Hawaii Bowl

HOLD it. Cancel everything. Cancel Christmas. Cancel the Ultra Seven theme song. Cancel the column I'd already written about what an ugly, penalty-filled game this was.

This. Just. Got. Interesting.

Juan Walden just streaked 90 yards for a San Jose State touchdown, and everything changed. Suddenly the game that Hawaii had been cruising through was within two points with just under seven minutes left, and anything could happen.

What now? Now UH needed a drive to put this thing away, a drive to seal it, a drive to save the day.

An out to Neal Gossett. A screen pass to Gossett. To Justin Colbert.

June Jones and Timmy Chang were putting together a march that would be crucial.

Then Thero Mitchell. Touchdown.

"We all had confidence in each other," Colbert said.

Game on again. UH would win. UH would bowl on Christmas Day. Festivities would go on as planned, after some unexpected drama.

"I knew," UH defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa said. "You can ask anybody. I said this was going to be a nightmare."

How can a team with this much firepower -- Lempa put it best: They've got guys! -- come in as a 27-point underdog?

Simple, really. Penalties. Turnovers. Missed tackles. Missed opportunities. You knew this game was over when the ball hit "the next Randy Moss" in the head on a San Jose State fourth down.

This is how you lose a game, ladies and gentlemen. It wasn't pretty. It never is.

For the second time this season, there was actually a public address announcement asking the visiting team's bus driver to report to the vehicle. This time it came in the first half.

For the second straight week, the opposing team cooperated in Hawaii's big win.

UH had this one in the bag. It was ugly and it was slow, but Hawaii had it in hand. Until a funny thing happened. UH stumbled. And the "guys" showed up.

And the penalties added up. The penalties! Twenty-eight in all, and those were just the ones that counted.

It was Code Yellow at Aloha Stadium last night. It was Flag Day. It was a running joke. San Jose State was penalized for overcelebrating after an extra point. Not the touchdown, the extra point. Apparently for raising their arms.

There were penalties on three straight plays. There were "multiple fouls." They ran out of flags and threw hats.

"I've never been associated with anything like it," SJSU coach Fitz Hill said.

"We weren't at our best, nobody was at their best today," Jones said.

"Booooo," the crowd said.

At one point, a flag put Hawaii in second-and-one million, but UH made it on the next play thanks to another penalty.

It was an ugly, ugly game.

Of course, UH will take it, take 40-31, take win No. 7 and take that bowl bid smiling. Every win is a beautiful one. It's a Merry Christmas now. Cue Bing Crosby.

"We survived and that's the bottom line," said Lempa. "We survived and won. It was ugly. Who cares. We won. That's the bottom line."

Jones added his wry touch. Hawaii had pulled it out. "So ESPN did good," he said.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at

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