Sophomore Phil Kauffman gave senior guard Vince Manuwai a lei during senior night festivities following last night's one-point win over San Diego State. Freshman Pesefea Fiaseu looked on.

6 UH seniors
experienced it all

UH rallies past Aztecs
Aztecs put on an air show

By Jason Kaneshiro

After all he'd seen and all he'd been through over five years, it would take more than an aching knee to keep Hawaii linebacker Matt Wright out of the Warriors' regular-season finale last night.

Wright was in the starting lineup for Hawaii's 41-40 win over San Diego State despite suffering a knee injury last week against Alabama

And although the Warriors still have a Christmas Day date with Tulane in the Hawaii Bowl left on their schedule, last night's game held special meaning for the Hawaii seniors.

Senior La'anui Correa was covered with leis.

"This was a big game for me," Wright said. "Everyone was saying, 'You still have the bowl game.' But no. I wanted to play in front of my fans and my family for the last time in a regular-season game. I didn't want to go out with (the injury)."

Wright was among six UH seniors who played their final regular-season games in their five-year stints at UH.

Of the 19 seniors who took part in the senior walk at Aloha Stadium last night, only Wright, Thero Mitchell, Chris Brown, Sean Butts, Lui Fuata and Shawn Withy-Allen had been around to see the depths of the 0-12 season in 1998 and persevered to experience two bowl seasons.

"We're the last of the old blood," Wright said. "To go through what we went through, I wouldn't want to wish it on anybody. But it's a long learning process that only makes you stronger in the end."

At times in last night's game, the Warriors' defense had three senior linebackers lined up across their formation with Wright, Brown and Pisa Tinoisamoa.

"I trust these guys, they're my brothers out there," Brown said. "I wouldn't want no other guys out there with me. Just to see Matt on one side and Pisa on the other was just an unbelievable feeling.

"Coming out of Damien and not knowing what it felt like to be a winner, it's just unbelievable feeling to go out like this. Not everybody gets to do what we do. I'm one of the lucky ones."

Brown finished with four tackles in the win, while Wright had three. Tinoisamoa had eight stops including a key sack late in the contest as Hawaii rallied from an 11-point deficit in the fourth quarter to close the regular season at 10-3.

"We really came together as a whole," Wright said. "It took us a while, but we came through and we did it for each other. It wasn't just for the seniors, it was for everyone here. We wanted it for each other."

Mitchell helped spark the rally by running for a 2-yard score in the final period to cut the deficit to 40-35. After the Warriors took the lead, Mitchell's 25-yard run on Hawaii's final drive sealed the game.

"We have a special character makeup on this team," Mitchell said. "We just know what it takes to win, and we always hang together, and we were able to come out with a win."

UH Athletics

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