UH’s Fuga expected
to receive another year

The senior just needs
the official paperwork
from the NCAA

Lui Fuga won't participate in the Hawaii football team's (8-4, 5-2 WAC) senior celebration after Saturday's final regular-season game against Boise State (11-1, 7-0) at Aloha Stadium.

UH vs. Boise St.

When: Saturday, 6:35 p.m.
Where: Aloha Stadium
Tickets: $23 sideline, $18 south end zone, $10 north end zone (adult), $9 north end zone (students/seniors, age 4-high school), UH students free (super rooter only). Available at Aloha Stadium, Stan Sheriff Center, UH Campus Center and Windward Community College's OCET Office. Or call 808-944-2697 or on the Internet.
TV: Live on ESPN2
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Parking: Gates open at 3 p.m. Parking is $5. Alternate parking at Leeward Community College, Kam Drive-In and Radford High School.
Traffic advisory: 1420-AM is the official traffic advisory station and provides updates before each home game.

And he couldn't be happier.

"Look over there," the beaming defensive tackle from Waipahu said after yesterday's practice. "The seniors are getting their pictures taken, and I'm not one of them."

Fuga said he was told yesterday that the NCAA's granting of a rare sixth year of eligibility is all but a done deal. It's 99.9 percent for No. 99.

"I just talked to Coach (June Jones), he said I'm not a senior this year, fortunately," Fuga said. "We've just got to get it all in writing after the last game."

Fuga is trying not to get his hopes too high, though. Last year running back Jonathan Kauka was told he would be cleared for another year by the NCAA, but his appeal ended up being denied.

"I guess I feel more confident, I'm not with the seniors," Fuga said. "But it will hurt if I don't get it and didn't do Senior Walk."

But Fuga seems to have a good case. In the first game of the 2002 season, he suffered a broken ankle when an Eastern Illinois player hit him there with his helmet. Fuga, who had already used his redshirt year rehabbing from shoulder injuries the previous season, was out for the entire season.

Jones and defensive line coach Vantz Singletary made a case for another year of eligibility, based partly on what they said was malicious intent by the opposing player.

"It looks very good," Singletary said. "I think it's done, but they just can't announce it until after the season.

Having Fuga would be a huge boost to UH's defense for 2004. All four of UH's starting defensive linemen complete their eligibility after the Dec. 25 Hawaii Bowl, including standout tackles Isaac Sopoaga and Lance Samuseva.

Fuga was the Warriors' best defensive lineman in 2000 when he played through injuries. This year he's been valuable spelling Sopoaga and Samuseva. Fuga's made several big plays, including an interception and a team-high three fumble recoveries.

Owens' toe acts up: UH's leading receiver, Chad Owens, missed practice yesterday and was on crutches due to pain in his left foot from a case of turf toe that goes back to two weeks ago.

"Whether I have one practice, or two practices, I just have to be ready," said Owens, who caught three passes for 34 yards in Saturday's 37-29 victory over Alabama.

Owens, who averages 7.9 catches for 105.1 yards per game (second and seventh in the nation) said the injury didn't affect him in the game.

"It was numb, so I didn't feel anything," he said.

Keli'ikipi says he's ready: UH running back West Keli'ikipi worked out at practice yesterday and said he will be ready to play in Saturday's game.

Keli'ikipi tore the meniscus in his left knee against Nevada on Nov. 15 and underwent successful arthroscopic surgery the following week.

In addition to blocking well, the 6-foot-1, 266-pound junior rushed for 247 yards and six touchdowns in 10 games before the injury. He also caught 20 passes for 154 yards and another TD.

Whieldon excited, Chang mum: Practice was like any other for the UH quarterbacks, except that former backup Jason Whieldon took the first-team reps and former starter Tim Chang took the second-team reps.

As usual, they got their work in and managed to share a joke here and there.

Afterward, Whieldon said he and Chang are still good friends.

"Timmy's great. He's one of my best buds on the team. It was really nice to see him today, smiling and upbeat," Whieldon said. "That just shows his character. He's been in the spotlight for a long time, and that's hard. He's been real helpful to me and I'm real thankful for his friendship."

Chang declined to talk to reporters, saying, "Maybe tomorrow."

Whieldon said two years of mostly holding for place-kickers and mop-up quarterback duty (Saturday's game will be only his second start) didn't make him rusty.

"You learn a lot when you sit down and watch the game from afar. I feel like I've gotten better over the past two years even though I haven't played. I've just been waiting for my opportunity. Hopefully I'm ready," he said.

He acknowledges that starting against 18th-ranked Boise State is different than his other start, which was against Division I-AA Appalachian State.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous. It's going to be a big challenge for us, but we're looking forward to it," Whieldon said. "They're a good defense, and anytime you have a great offense it always helps your offense (in practice). To be 11-1 you have to be good at all phases. But we have a good game plan, so we feel like we have a good chance to win."

Sopoaga's coach visits: Samoana High School coach Moamoa Vaeao was among the visitors to practice yesterday. He was the prep coach of UH linemen Sopoaga and Larry Sauafea.

He said Sopoaga's success is no surprise to him.

"He's always been a good boy, well-disciplined, a hardworking kid," Vaeao said. "I truly believe he's going to be a great one, one of the best from American Samoa."

Broncos arrive tomorrow: Boise State's contingent comes in tomorrow afternoon and will practice at Aloha Stadium tomorrow evening and have a Friday walk-through.

Coach Dan Hawkins doesn't plan many other activities before the game other than a Pearl Harbor visit on Friday afternoon.

"I like them to stay off their feet as much as possible. And we'll keep them out of the water," Hawkins told the Idaho Statesman.


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