Warrior Report

Hawaii quarterback Jason Whieldon was mobbed by teammates after scoring a touchdown against Alabama during the fourth quarter last night at Aloha Stadium.

Hawaii Rolls

The Warriors turn back
the Tide for a big win over
Alabama on national television

It's easy for detractors to pick away at Hawaii's 37-29 football victory over Alabama yesterday at Aloha Stadium.

All they have to do is look at the Crimson Tide's final record -- 4-9.

But it's just as easy to look at it the other way. Those who want to argue back can point at Alabama's loss to No. 1 Oklahoma. The score of that one was 20-13 ... the closest anyone has come to the unbeaten Sooners this season.

And it can go back and forth like that forever. But for the 8-4 Warriors, none of that matters. No one can take away the fact that they beat one of the most storied programs in the history of college football (from one of the nation's most powerful conferences), off year or not.

"We wanted to show the whole nation that we can play football," UH cornerback Abraham Elimimian said of the game that was televised on ESPN. "We were three-point underdogs? I told everybody we don't lose at home. And we didn't lose. We stuck together and won.

"I don't care what people say. Look at the way we beat them. We were down two touchdowns. They're from the SEC. They're not supposed to let us do that."

It was a case of sweet home Hawaii. Even though the skies weren't blue, the Warriors won their sixth game at home this season without a loss.

"It's a great feeling for our guys. They hung in there after they got down 14-0 in the first half," Hawaii coach June Jones said. "I knew our guys were playing really hard."

Hawaii turned it around on Alabama, which beat UH here 21-16 last year. In the 2002 game, the Crimson Tide sacked Hawaii quarterback Tim Chang four times and took advantage of four interceptions.

This time, Alabama turned it over three times to once for Hawaii, an interception of Jason Whieldon in the end zone that came with 5 minutes and 30 seconds left and UH leading 30-21.

It was one of the few mistakes by Whieldon, who relieved Chang twice and sparked Hawaii's offense with four touchdown passes. He also had an 18-yard rushing TD to make the score 37-21 with 4:03 left, sealing the victory.

Afterward, Jones said Whieldon will start Saturday in the regular-season finale here against Boise State.

"I was going to try to play Timmy (last night), let him battle through. Guys have to be able to battle through their deal," Jones said. "Timmy struggled early. I wanted to get him back in there and battle through, but at that point I decided to go with Jason."

Whieldon finished with 15 completions in 25 passing attempts for 237 yards. He rushed five times for 31 yards.

Hawaii's Lamar Broadway celebrated after tackling Alabama punt returner Tyrone Prothro last night at Aloha Stadium.

Chang, who was booed by many in the announced crowd of 37,024 (43,477 tickets distributed), finished with seven completions in 23 attempts for 38 yards.

"Timmy had a couple of shots to make throws, but he pressed," Jones said.

While the offense did enough to win, Hawaii's defense shined, coming up with the turnovers and limiting Alabama to only 236 more yards after a first quarter in which the Tide reeled off big gains and looked prepared to blow out the Warriors.

Both teams finished with 409 yards.

The Hawaii defense stiffened and the punt team helped by pinning Alabama within its 5-yard line three times. Kurt Milne averaged 42.5 yards on his eight punts and had one blocked, but he helped the Warriors win the field-position battle, leaving the Tide offense facing a long field several times on a muggy day.

Linebacker Ikaika Curnan led UH's defense with 15 tackles, including three for loss, and Elimimian recovered a fumble caused by safety David Gilmore and intercepted a pass for the third consecutive game.

UH had six sacks (compared to zero for Alabama). Two were by Lance Samuseva, including one for a safety.

"As soon as I got in the locker room I gave everyone who played on defense the game ball," Jones said. "That's how they played. They kept relying on each other -- the D-line, (cornerbacks) Kelvin (Millhouse) and Abraham made 'em hold the ball because they played tight. We played awesome."

Receiver Jeremiah Cockheran caught five passes for 124 yards and two touchdowns. Last year against Alabama he had nine receptions for 207 yards and a score.

"When I play 'Bama the lights come on," said Cockheran, who was born in Louisiana. "I just want to play, I'm real juiced up. I took a personal challenge from last year by No. 26 (Alabama cornerback Charlie Peprah), the same guy who covered me last year."

Cockheran's 47-yard TD pass from Whieldon on a sideline pattern with 13:55 left in the game gave UH the lead it would keep.

Cockheran had gone out of bounds before re-entering the field to make the catch, but officials ruled he was pushed out by Peprah, so the play stood.

"I got pushed out. The rules are you can come back in to make that play," Cockheran said.

Michael Brewster then banged his way in for a 2-point conversion and UH led 24-21.

Alabama regained the lead with 6:12 left in the third quarter on a 73-yard run by Roman Harper after Anthony Madison blocked a field-goal attempt by Nolan Miranda.

That was after UH took a brief 16-14 advantage when Samuseva sacked quarterback Brodie Croyle in the end zone for the safety.

Hawaii fell behind 14-0 as Alabama scored on a 1-yard run by Shaud Williams at 10:46 of the first quarter and a 2-yard pass to Clint Johnson from Croyle at 12:24 of the second quarter.

Williams was game-high with 105 yards rushing on 18 carries.

Croyle completed 20 of 37 passes for 247 yards and two touchdowns, but was intercepted twice, once each by Elimimian and Travis LaBoy.

The Warriors woke up with Whieldon replacing Chang following the second Crimson Tide score.

Whieldon, entering the game to cheers, took Hawaii from its own 29 to the end zone in three plays, the final one a short pass to Cockheran that his housemate turned into a 48-yard touchdown at 11:01 before halftime.

Then Whieldon hit Se'e Poumele on a 4-yarder to tie the score at 7:17 of the second. The pass to Poumele was Whieldon's 22nd consecutive completion over two games, coming within two completions of the NCAA record set by Tennessee's Tee Martin, against Alabama and South Carolina in 1998.

Hawaii took control of both lines of scrimmage as the game progressed, helping it withstand the blocked punt and field-goal try.

The Warriors padded their lead to 30-21 with 7:24 left in the game on a 20-yard TD pass from Whieldon to Clifton Herbert, who made a diving catch while losing a shoe. The extra-point try failed.

Whieldon's 18-yard run with 4:03 left made the score 37-21, virtually icing what defensive coordinator George Lumpkin -- who has been associated with UH as a player or coach more than 30 years -- called "right up there with our biggest victories."

First-year Alabama coach Mike Shula looked past the disappointment of his team's season to compliment the Warriors.

"They did a nice job," he said. "They were doing a good job stopping the run. We got in some second and longs. Then they came up with a couple of big plays and got the momentum."

Hawaii receiver Chad Owens caught only three passes for 34 yards, way off his nationally ranked averages. He said he'll gladly sacrifice the stats for the win.

"It's sweet. It's a big win. What can I say? We played well today," he said. "I think we just wanted it more and it really showed in the second half. The defense came to play. Jason came in there and, hey, did a good job. Unfortunately Timmy was a little off, I'm just glad Jason was able to come in, take the torch and bring the fire the way he did."


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