Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Backup QB leaves
’Bama seeing red

JUNE Jones did it. A triumph. Hawaii beat Alabama on national television last night, and in the final minutes it wasn't close. They smoked 'Bama -- it was 37-29, officially, because this time it was the big-name school that had to score a touchdown in the final seconds to make it look better than it really was.

This was Alabama. This was TV. This wasn't a fluke, and history will not remember that this Hawaii team lost to Tulsa, or that this particular Crimson Tide outfit just may be the worst Alabama squad in almost 50 years.

No, this will just be Hawaii over Alabama.

That's what a win like this will do for you.

That's what kind of night this was.

"Everything went according to plan," UH running back Michael Brewster said. "Everyone did what Coach told us to do. We believed it because he said it. And everything just worked out for us today."

And today Jones is worth that $800,000. Today his boasts rang true.

Just one problem.

He may need another $10,000 for a Jason Whieldon DVD.

Jones said last night that he has no quarterback controversy, and he doesn't. Whieldon has to be the pick. Has to be. There's not even a question, not if you saw Whieldon against Alabama, exploding in the night.

The guy sitting next to me said it best: "They're all pulling plays out of their (okoles) today."

For Whieldon, they did. The redhead lifted an entire stadium. To steal a Jones line, he lifted an entire state.

What was the feeling when Whieldon joined the huddle?

"Confidence," Cockheran said.

The game was different. The night was different. Suddenly the Hawaii defense was hitting, the offense was moving, the stadium was rocking and punter Kurt Milne controlled the game like a maestro.

"We had the momentum, then we lost the momentum," Whieldon explained. "And then we got it back."

This season is a winner now. This team is a good one. This game is a landmark.

This is everything Jones promised.

Just one problem.

Timmy Chang's bittersweet saga took another turn last night. Whieldon is, in his own words, "a spark plug." Chang is the more polished QB. But there were boos, last night, when one sparked and one didn't.

It was shameful, and sad, and it marred Hawaii's finest moment this year.

After the game, Whieldon found Chang. "The first thing I told him in the locker room, 'You're a great quarterback,' " Whieldon said. " 'You're going to bounce back from this.' "

He will, perhaps as early as this week. But again he tastes the other side of fame.

That's life. That's sports. There was proud Alabama, embarrassed, humbled. It was everything Jones had promised. But with the backup at the controls.

"It was like a dream, like a movie," Cockheran said. "You knew after (Whieldon's) second touchdown pass that he threw that we were really not supposed to lose the game."

That was a wobbly 4-yard pass to Se'e Poumele, and after the extra point Whieldon came running off the field in a frenzy, red hair blazing, a fist in the air. Hawaii had just tied mighty Alabama. There was a rainbow over the field.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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