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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 11, 2001

Hawai'i's run at WAC title, postseason bowl vanish

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

As the JumboTron clock bled to "0:00," it began to rain, a fitting closure to a season that was about to slip away from the University of Hawai'i football team.

Boise State receiver Jay Swillie somehow managed to hold on to the football despite a crushing tackle by Hawai'i safety Nate Jackson. Swillie's 7-yard catch on third down helped sustain a drive that led to the winning score.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Last night's 28-21 loss to visiting Boise State ended the Warriors' hopes of sharing a Western Athletic Conference title and, barring a slim-to-none miracle, any chance of a berth in a postseason bowl.

"We lost it all," UH offensive guard Manly Kanoa said, "and it really hurts. We're going to remember this game for a long, long time."

UH dropped to 6-3 overall and finished the WAC season with 5-3 record. Louisiana Tech, which completes its WAC competition Nov. 24 at Tulsa, has one WAC loss. Boise State, Rice and Fresno State each have two conference losses.

"We knew this was an important game, and that we had to win," UH defensive end La'anui Correa said. "We didn't get the job done."

The Warriors, who trailed 20-9 at the half, scored two third-quarter touchdowns, the last on Thero Mitchell's 1-yard run, to take a 21-20 lead.

After UH kicker Justin Ayat's field-goal attempt from 52 yards sailed wide left with 6:12 to play, the Broncos took over, 65 yards from the end zone, facing a defense energized by a frenzied crowd of 40,600.

"We had to play like a veteran team and take the crowd out of it," Bronco quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie said.

Dinwiddie, throwing with a dart-flinger's accuracy, converted a 7-yard, third-down pass to Jay Swillie and, later, threw 18 yards to tight end Rocky Atkinson, placing the ball at the UH 4.

In a suddenly calm huddle, there was little doubt what would come next.

Brock Forsey took the handoff, powered past one would-be tackler and found the end zone with 3:15 left. The two-point pass to Jeb Putzier made it 28-21.

"It was a make-or-break play," said Forsey, who rushed for 132 yards on 29 carries. "We really needed to get into the end zone."

Later, in the still of the UH locker room, defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa said, "They did a good job of pounding it on us. They did a good job of giving the ball to No. 36 (Forsey)."

Warrior defender Joe Correia pulls down Bronco running back Brock Forsey in the first quarter.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

For the Warriors, their would be no magical comeback. Nick Rolovich, who had steered the Warriors to five consecutive victories after replacing injured Tim Chang, was sacked twice in UH's final possession. His final pass, intended for wideout Ashley Lelie, was incomplete.

"It was disappointing," UH coach June Jones said. "We had our chances, even on the last throw, if we were a little tighter on it."

It did not appear the outcome would be close after the Broncos answered every Warrior move in the first half. Despite entering Bronco territory on their first four possessions, the Warriors managed only three Ayat field goals.

David Mikell scored two touchdowns for the Broncos, including one on a 98-yard kickoff return. "I went to the right, then broke to the left," Mikell said. "We practice that play every day. This was the first time it worked."

But the Warriors seized the momentum in the third quarter, intercepting two passes and forcing a fumble. Sean Butts also blocked a field-goal attempt in the fourth quarter.

The Warriors, who were confused by the Broncos' defensive schemes, suddenly found clarity. The Broncos had waited until the Warriors set up before moving in their linebackers. They also aligned four defensive backs in a deep zone to try to slow wideouts Lelie and Justin Colbert.

But Rolovich then would throw to the slotbacks running routes in front of the zones. "We were moving the ball," Lelie said.

Said Mikell: "They had the momentum."

But it all changed quickly. After Butts' block gave UH possession at its 47, the Warriors drove to the Boise State 34. Then, on third-and-2, running back Mike Bass ran to his right and then overthrew Lelie. It was Bass' first career pass.

Ayat's miss then led to the Broncos' winning drive or, as Dinwiddie told his linemen, "Let's put together a good run."

After the game, Boise State coach Dan Hawkins revealed it was his 41st birthday.

"This was a great way to celebrate it," he said, before letting out a yell that echoed throughout empty Aloha Stadium.