Milne gets the roll
to pin down Alabama

Skill or luck?

Is getting that great roll on a punt that puts the ball near the opponent's goal line one of the great finesse plays in all of sports, or just a result that comes courtesy of the fates?

"That's all skill," said Hawaii punt-cover man Omega Hogan. "When Kurt (Milne) first got here, he was a great punter. Now he's awesome."

Milne, a second-year freshman from Georgia, and Hogan, a junior from Houston, helped Hawaii beat Alabama 37-29 yesterday at Aloha Stadium with their kick-and-down tag team act.

They, along with the rest of the UH punt team, never let the Crimson Tide beyond its own 21 on seven punts.

Hogan and Gary Wright, the other wide cover man, or "gunner," either downed the ball or dangerous return man Brandon Brooks within the 10 four times. The result of the four ensuing Alabama possessions was punt, end of half, safety and punt.

Milne said it's luck, but you help make your own.

"Initially you like to kick it high, let your team get down there and have it bounce around the 10," Milne said. "(Punt team) Coach (Wes) Suan always says don't be selfish, kick it high and let it roll. After that, it's pretty much about luck. I got some lucky bounces."

And the cover men took advantage of them. They also got downfield quickly enough on balls that Brooks could field to limit him to 16 yards on three punt returns.

"Omega and G. Wright, they are the men," Milne said. "I can always count on them. They're fantastic."

Milne averaged 42.5 yards on eight punts, and he took the blame for one that was blocked by Alabama's Chris James, giving the Tide the ball at the Hawaii 22 with Alabama leading 21-16 late in the third quarter. That near disaster turned out OK for Hawaii, as Brian Bostick missed a 40-yard field-goal try.

"That's all my fault," Milne said. "I think I was slow, and I drifted off to the right and they brought their rush from the right. That was my bad."

Hawaii place-kickers Justin Ayat and Nolan Miranda suffered some rough spots, too, as Ayat missed a 31-yard field-goal try and Miranda had one blocked from 35 yards. The block by Anthony Madison was picked up by Roman Harper, who ran it back 73 yards for a Tide touchdown and the 21-16 lead at 6:12 of the third quarter.

Miranda -- who went 8-for-8 on extra points and made his only field-goal attempt in his career debut last week against Army -- also missed an extra-point try last night.

"I was hoping to stay perfect, but I'm just glad we got a team win today," Miranda said. "After the block I was told to speed it up a bit, and then I went too fast on the extra point."


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