San Diego State
put on an air show

UH rallies past Aztecs
UH seniors enjoy last regular-season game

By Cindy Luis

It was appropriate that, on Armed Forces Day at Aloha Stadium, there would be an Air Craft. Last night, this one was on cruise control outside Pearl Harbor until it ran aground in the final three minutes.

San Diego State (4-9), behind pass-happy first-year coach Tom Craft, chewed up and spit out the No. 1 passing defense in the Western Athletic Conference. The Aztecs bit Hawaii for 507 yards in the air, but it was the Warriors (10-3) who had the final bite, pulling out a 41-40 win over their former WAC rival.

"Hawaii did what they had to do to win at the end and we didn't," said SDSU receiver J.R. Tolver after setting a UH opponent record for receiving yardage with 283. "Kudos to them. We had them down and they never gave up. They had us down and we never gave up.

"I thought it was a great game by both teams."

And Tolver left everything on the field, including some skin when failing to hold onto the ball with 2:29 left. The Aztecs were driving with a third-and-seven situation when senior quarterback Lon Sheriff went for the home-run ball.

Tolver streaked down the left sideline with UH defensive back Abraham Elimimian on his heels.

"I tried to grab it with my left," he said. "I laid out, came down and it came out. It was real close."

Instead it led to a fourth down and Sheriff getting mauled by Travis LaBoy on the 46. Hawaii got the ball inside the 5, but chose to run out the clock, defeating SDSU for the first time in the last 10 meetings.

The end of the game was a far cry from two weeks ago in the brawl-marred contest with Cincinnati. The Hawaii fans cheered the Aztecs' players as they left the field.

It was a well-played game, according to Craft, a former Aztec quarterback who was on his 366th day on the job last night. He was a little disappointed, however, by some of the penalties -- the Aztecs had 7 for 61 yards, the Warriors 7 for 45.

"Well, the officials made some calls that hurt us," he said. "I just wish it had evened out in the end.

"But Hawaii has an awfully good football team."

Hawaii came into the game yielding an average of 201.8 yards per game on pass defense. SDSU had 286 yards in the air by halftime, including 101 by Kassim Osgood and 97 by Tolver.

The senior combo of Osgood and Tolver pushed their NCAA single-season records of passes caught by teammates to 236 and receiving yards by teammates to 3,337.

Tolver, the leading receiver in school history, finished his career with 3,572 yards on 262 catches. He had 18 receptions last night, the most for a single player in college football this season, and two touchdowns.

Osgood added 126 yards on five receptions and a touchdown. Eighty-seven of those yards came on the opening play from scrimmage for the Aztecs when Osgood caught a pass 2 yards in the end zone from Tolver -- making his first start at quarterback-- and scampered down to the 12. It tied the second-longest passing play in school history and was 6 yards shy of breaking the mark set by Brian Sipe to Robert West against Fresno State in 1971.

Making it a true senior celebration was Ronnie Davenport, who added 87 yards on seven catches.

The Aztecs played eight bowl-bound teams this season, beating one: No. 23 Air Force, 38-34, on Nov. 23. Against the host Falcons, Sheriff engineered his team's biggest fourth-quarter comeback in seven years as SDSU scored 21 points in the final 15 minutes.

Sheriff, a starter as a sophomore and junior, lost the job to junior Adam Hall at the start of the year. But when Hall was injured in the second quarter of the Nov. 16 loss to Colorado State, Sheriff took over.

Last night, the senior dominated until the final drive. He connected on 31 of his 47 attempts for 420 yards and no interceptions.

At one point in the first half, Sheriff hit 15 consecutive passes as the Aztecs rallied from a 22-3 deficit to close to 22-20 by halftime.

The Aztecs struck quickly and often in the third quarter, taking a 33-29 lead into the fourth quarter.

Osgood's touchdown catch 2:14 into the fourth put the Aztecs up for what would be their last time at 40-29. But SDSU didn't have the same magic that had won the game at Air Force, with the Warriors snapping a four-game losing skid to the Aztecs at Aloha Stadium.

"It was everything I expected, coming home," said SDSU freshman defensive end Kurt Kahui, a Baldwin High product. "We almost had the win. It was so close."






First quarter

SDSU -- FG Kirovski 23, 9:41

Haw -- FG Ayat 31, 6:19

Haw -- Withy-Allen 3 run (run failed), 2:30

Haw -- Cockheran 48 pass from Chang (pass failed), :44.

Second quarter

Haw -- Komine 20 pass from Chang (Ayat kick), 13:32.

SDSU -- Tolver 2 pass from Sheriff (Kirovski kick), 9:17

SDSU -- Collins 1 run (Kirovski kick), 5:35

SDSU -- FG Kirovski 32, 1:20.

Third quarter

SDSU -- FG Kirovski 36, 13:24

SDSU -- FG Kirovski 22, 11:06

Haw -- Komine 3 pass from Chang (Ayat kick), 1:41

SDSU -- Tolver 69 pass from Sheriff (Kirovski kick), :38.

Fourth quarter

SDSU -- Osgood 6 pass from Sheriff (Kirovski kick), 12:46

Haw -- Mitchell 2 run (pass failed), 10:57

Haw -- Ilaoa 2 run (run failed), 4:45.


RUSHING -- San Diego St.: Franklin 9-88, Collins 5-31, Sheriff 6-3, Truvillion 5-3. Hawaii: West 11-83, Ilaoa 2-44, Mitchell 4-31, Bass 5-25, Withy-Allen 1-3, team 1-(-2), Chang 5-(-11).

PASSING -- San Diego St.: Sheriff 31-47-0-420, Tolver 1-1-0-87. Hawaii: Chang 33-54-4-437.

RECEIVING -- San Diego St.: Tolver 18-283, Davenport 7-87, Osgood 5-126, Truvillion 2-11. Hawaii: Colbert 8-88, Ilaoa 5-87, Komine 5-62, Cockheran 4-71, Gossett 4-41, Mitchell 3-37, Owens 3-34, West 1-17.

A -- 32,892.


LaBoy’s sack allowed
UH to run out clock

It became clear in the second half that this game would likely be won by the team that had the ball last.

When San Diego State was faced with fourth-and-seven at the Hawaii 37 with 2 minutes and 24 seconds left and trailing 41-40, the outcome was on the line.

The Aztecs lined up with five receivers -- and no blockers in the backfield.

That made it easier for defensive end Travis LaBoy to fire in from the left and sack SDSU quarterback Lon Sheriff for an 8-yard loss.

UH took over on downs with 2:20 left. A 22-yard pass from Tim Chang to Nate Ilaoa and Thero Mitchell's 25-yard run for first downs took the ball to the SDSU 4 and iced it.

Dave Reardon, Star-Bulletin


Warriors get Tulane
next in Hawaii Bowl

The Green Wave of Tulane hit Hawaii on Christmas Day for the inaugural ConAgra Foods Hawaii Bowl.

Tulane (7-5, 4-4 Conference USA) won five of its last seven games, including a 35-17 victory over Cincinnati at home Oct. 12. The Bearcats, who the Warriors beat 20-19 at Aloha Stadium on Nov. 23, are the teams' only common opponent.

The Green Wave's top player is cornerback Lynaris Elpheage, who is second in the nation with eight interceptions. He also averages 13.3 yards per punt return.

UH alumnus Curtis Tsuruda is Tulane's director of strength and conditioning. He was a strength coach at Hawaii and Louisiana State before joining the Green Wave two years ago.

Tulane hasn't played since its season-ending 31-10 victory against Southern Miss on Nov. 23.

Hawaii is 2-0 against Tulane, with a 56-17 victory Dec. 4, 1993, and a 31-26 win Sept. 2, 1989.

Dave Reardon, Star-Bulletin

UH Athletics

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