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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, November 24, 2001

Hawai'i, Air Force renew rivalry

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

The Air Force Academy has fielded an intercollegiate football team for 47 years, but won only one conference title outright.

That was in 1998 — the last year the Falcons competed in the Western Athletic Conference.

On July 1, 1999, the Falcons officially resigned from the WAC, leaving behind eight schools, including Hawai'i. The Falcons then joined seven other secessionists in forming the Mountain West Conference.

The divorce was both painful and bitter.

Now, both sides are seeking peace. UH (7-3) plays host to Air Force (5-5) tonight and to another Mountain West team, Brigham Young, Dec. 8.

"We miss playing Hawai'i," Air Force coach Fisher DeBerry said. "We have great respect and admiration for the University of Hawai'i and its total sports program. We feel Hawai'i has one of the best athletic departments in the country."

Tonight's game was scheduled before the breakup was announced. The teams met 16 times between 1980 and 1997, with the Falcons winning 10 games. There was the memorable 35-35 game at Aloha Stadium in 1989, and UH's 6-3 victory at Colorado Springs.

"I would love to see Hawai'i in our league," DeBerry said, although Mountain West officials voted last summer not to expand for another five years.

DeBerry said he would like to play UH on a regular basis.

For now, the Falcons have relied on their memory to prepare for this game. They arrived Tuesday, taking advantage of a school break to get acclimated to the Islands, and have practiced daily at Hickam Air Force Base. They also brought their mascot. The falcon will perform at halftime.

"We've been looking forward to this trip," DeBerry said, noting the temperature was in the 40s when the Falcons left Colorado Springs Monday. "It's a great time to come to Hawai'i."

Here's a look at tonight's game:

Falcons' Offense

WR—5 Ryan Fleming (6-5, 215, Sr.)
LT—78 Ben Miller (6-4, 270, Sr.)
LG—62 Brian Strock (6-3, 280, Sr.)
C—64 Paul Cancino (6-1, 270, Sr.)
RG—63 Brett Huyser (6-4, 295, So.)
RT—79 Joe Pugh (6-3, 265, Sr.)
TE—85 Kevin Runyon (6-4, 250, Sr.)
QB—18 Keith Boyea (5-10, 190, Sr.)
LHB—9 Leotis Palmer (5-8, 175, Jr.)
FB—32 James Burns (5-11, 215, Sr.)
FB—34 Todd Leslie (5-10, 213, So.)
RHB—26 Don Clark (6-0, 195, Jr.)

The buzz: Boyea has resurrected a career that nearly was short-circuited when the academy suspended him from playing as a sophomore. After serving as a backup last year, he went through a strenuous offseason conditioning program in which he worked out daily and cut out soda and fast foods from his diet. Now Boyea is 26 rushing yards short of becoming the 12th player in NCAA history to amass 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards passing in the same season. (UH's Michael Carter did it in 1992.)

The Falcons, who use a run-oriented triple option, like to have Boyea (who can run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds) follow Burns on interior rushes, or run lead options to the perimeters, in which Boyea, again following Burns, will keep the ball or pitch it to Palmer. Despite a wrist injury, Burns will start.

The Falcons have a crafty passing package. Sometimes they will line up with three receivers, other times, they will sneak a halfback into the flats. Palmer, who was recruited as a quarterback, has thrown four option passes this season. Fleming, who wears a cast to protect a broken hand, has a team-high 28 catches.

Starting center Matt Mai won't play because of a broken hand, and right guard Matt Joseph won't start because of a groin injury.

Falcons' Defensive Front

OLB—42 Monty Coleman (6-2, 225, So.)
LT—88 Dan Probert (6-4, 270, Sr.)
NG—92 Zach Johnson (6-3, 265, Sr.)
RT—99 Justin Pendry (6-6, 280, Sr.)
OLB—59 Matt McCraney (6-2, 230, Sr.)
ILB—49 Andy Rule (6-2, 230, Sr.)
ILB—41 Anthony Schlegel (6-2, 220, Fr.)

The buzz: The Falcons often use mirrors, sometimes aligning three down linemen, sometimes four. Pendry, a combination of speed and power, creates the chaos. When Pendry draws the double teams, a linebacker will loop around Pendry's left side and heat-seek the quarterback. Most of the blitzes come from the linebackers. Coleman plays either as a down lineman or a linebacker.

Falcons' Secondary

SCB—1 Paul Mayo (5-10, 180, Jr.)
Falcon—36 Sam Meinrod (6-1, 210, Jr.)
FS—29 Larry Duncan (5-10, 205, So.)
Bandit—21 Joel Buelow (6-1, 195, Jr.)
WCB—8 Wes Crawley (6-0, 190, Jr.)

The buzz: In military jargon, the falcon is the strong safety and the bandit is the nickelback. Most likely, the Falcons will open with five defensive backs, substituting Buelow for Coleman. The Falcons miss safety Jeff Overstreet, who has not played the past five games because of an ankle injury. Overstreet, who was second in the Mountain West Conference with 34 tackles when he was injured, won't play tonight.

Falcons' Specialists

PK—82 Brooks Walters (6-0, 190, Sr.)
P—16 John Welsh (6-3, 195, Jr.)

The buzz: For most of the past decade, the Falcons have been one of the top kick-blocking teams in the country. They have six blocks this season, including a school-record three against Tennessee Tech. Since 1990, they have blocked 74 kicks — 41 punts, 24 field-goal attempts and nine PATs.

Warriors' Passing

LWR—18 Justin Colbert (5-7, 160, Jr.)
LSB—85 Channon Harris (5-8, 151, Sr.)
RSB—2 Craig Stutzmann (5-11, 194, Sr.)
RWR—8 Ashley Lelie (6-3, 187, Jr.)
QB—12 Nick Rolovich (6-2, 200, Sr.)

The buzz: The Warriors have started the same four receivers for 19 consecutive games. The receivers credit their good health and endurance to an offseason conditioning program designed by assistant coach Rich Miano. The receivers have to sprint 220 yards — from the back of one end zone to the goal line of the other end zone and then back — in 35 seconds. Then, they have to run the distance another nine times. "By the time you get to six or seven, your butt starts locking up," Colbert said. "If you can make those 220s, you can play two games back to back."

Warriors' Rushing

LT—53 Lui Fuata (6-2, 313, Jr.)
LG—76 Manly Kanoa III (6-4, 320, Sr.)
C—66 Brian Smith (6-2, 284, Sr.)
RG—65 Vince Manuwai (6-2, 285, Jr.)
RT—69 Uriah Moenoa (6-4, 331, Fr.)
RB—1 Mike Bass (5-6, 158, Fr.)
RB—24 Thero Mitchell (5-10, 215, Jr.)

The buzz: For all of the hocus-pocus plays, the Warriors run the best when Bass or Mitchell gets the ball behind trap blocks. Kanoa's offseason weight loss gives the Warriors' more options.

Meanwhile, the Warriors slowly have been preparing for next season. They will allow a backup to play alongside four starting blockers. The Warriors also are considering moving Manuwai to center, although that experiment probably won't occur until spring practice.

Warriors' Defensive Front

LE—58 La'anui Correa (6-4, 267, Jr.)
LT—70 Mike Iosua (6-3, 272, Sr.)
RT—92 Lance Samuseva (5-11, 285, So.)
RE—6 Joe Correia (6-3, 240, Sr.)
SLB/WLB—44 Matt Wright (6-1, 222, Jr.)
WLB/FS—2 Robert Grant (6-1, 191, Sr.)
MLB—54 Chris Brown (6-2, 258, Jr.)
WLB—46 Keani Alapa (6-0, 222, So.)
WLB—49 Patrick Lavar Harley (5-11, 210, Fr.)

The buzz: In 1961, meteorologist Edward Lorenz developed the "Chaos Theory," in which he believed that a butterfly flapping its wings can lead to a tsunami in another part of the world. In "Chaos, Part II," Alapa's injured right shoulder can lead to Wright moving to the weak side and Grant, a safety in nickel schemes, starting at strongside linebacker, or Harley, a 17-year-old redshirt freshman opening at weakside linebacker. Or Alapa might play through the pain, as he insists he will, and start. Right end Travis Laboy's ankle and shoulder injuries are another matter.

Warriors' Secondary

LCB—17 Kelvin Millhouse (6-1, 198, So.)
SS—3 Jacob Espiau (5-10, 196, Sr.)
FS/NB—12 Nate Jackson (5-10, 163, Sr.)
FS—2 Robert Grant (6-1, 191, Sr.)
RCB/NB—33 Hyrum Peters (5-8, 190, So.)
RCB—37 Abraham Elimimian (5-10, 180, Fr.)

The buzz: The Falcons' run schemes, as well as Alapa's injury situation, will open the logjam in the secondary, where Millhouse, Elimimian and Peters had the two cornerback positions. Even if Alapa plays, Grant might be used as a fourth linebacker, as he was against Rice. Peters then will play nickelback when the Warriors' use five defensive backs.

Warriors' Specialists

PK—47 Justin Ayat (5-11, 203, Fr.)
P—49 Mat McBriar (6-1, 202, Jr.)

The buzz: Sean Butts has become the Warriors' most effective kick blocker since Matthew Harding in the mid-1990s. While Harding (sometimes working in tandem with Robby Blakeney) always attacked from the perimeter, Butts is effective from all angles. His quickness (4.4 seconds over 40 yards) enables him to charge from the corners and his height (6 feet 3), when following the interior push of defensive tackles Mike Iosua and Lance Samuseva, makes him a weapon from the middle.