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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, December 1, 2002

Warriors earn respect in defeat

 •  Size matters, but not to UH's Ala
 •  UH's Cockheran starting to catch on
 •  'Bama punter was well armed against UH
 • Running backs kept Alabama offense on a roll
 • Teams, fans show aloha for one another at game
 • FERD LEWIS: Failed fake punt hurt, but it wasn't the only reason UH lost

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Roll, Tide, roll!

UH receiver Jeremiah Cockheran beats Alabama cornerback Charlie Peprah to catch a pass and complete a 70-yard scoring play in the fourth quarter.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

That cry, by more than 10,000 Alabama football fans, echoed from yesterday's pre-game tailgate party until the game's white-knuckle finish, when the Crimson Tide wearily walked off with a 21-16 victory over Hawai'i.

The Tide did indeed roll — to its NCAA-record 27th 10-victory season — but did so against a spunky opponent that refused to roll over.

"This is an intimidating atmosphere that y'all have over here," Tide quarterback Tyler Watts said of the crowd of 46,800 at Aloha Stadium. "We didn't realize football is so big (in Hawai'i), but it is. You have a heck of a football team out here. Y'all should be proud of them."

Even with all of UH's mistakes — a lost fumble on the opening kickoff return, four interceptions, a failed fake punt and a dropped pass in the end zone on a trick play — the outcome was not decided until the Warriors, exhausted of timeouts, could not stop the clock on the Tide's final possession.

"They shouldn't hold their heads down," Tide running back Santonio Beard said. "They played us better than most teams in our conference. ... They're more physical than I thought they would be. Coach (June) Jones did a good job with them."

To be sure, the Tide weathered its own obstacles. Despite finishing first in the Southeastern Conference's West Division, Alabama is prohibited from competing in next week's title game — or any other postseason game for two years — after being found guilty of violating NCAA rules for the second time since 1995. Alabama has played most of the season without injured tailback Ahmaad Galloway. The team had to cancel Thursday's scheduled two-hour practice after its charter flight was delayed 12 hours in Oakland because of mechanical problems.

"That shows signs of a mature team to overcome adversity," said running back Shaud Williams, who rushed for 160 yards and a touchdown. "We came out here ready to play and ready to win."

The Tide's game plan was this: Control the clock with a multiple-formation running game and, on defense, pressure UH quarterback Tim Chang to play on the run.

"We knew Chang would be a hard guy to bring down, because he's so athletic and he knows how to get rid of the football quickly," said Stan Eggen, the Tide's defensive line coach. "But we wanted to get him out of his comfort zone, make him move, start looking a little at the pass rush."

Hawai'i linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa came from the blind side to tackle Alabama quarterback Tyler Watts.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Alabama rotated eight players at the four defensive line positions every four or five snaps while playing aggressive man-to-man coverage in the secondary in an attempt to re-route UH's receivers. Chang, who was limited to 84 passing yards in the first half, was intercepted two times inside the Alabama 10.

"Personally," Chang said, "I made too many mistakes. Sometimes it was throwing off the back foot. Other times I was trying to get off the ball through pressure. I put a lot of blame on myself, because of the position I'm at."

Alabama also took advantage of UH's makeshift offensive line. Center Lui Fuata, who moved to left guard in place of injured Shayne Kajioka, suffered a severely sprained left knee on the Warriors' first possession. Kajioka, who did not practice all week, played left guard the rest of the game.

"You don't have time to feel sorry for yourself," Jones said of the injuries. "You just have to play."

But in this game, it appeared the Warriors had little luck. In the second quarter, on fourth-and-15 at its 12 following a penalty, UH lined up for a punt. But upback Chad Kapanui, who was positioned a few yards in front of punter Mat McBriar, took the long snap and ran to the right. He was stopped five yards short of the first-down marker, and Alabama took over at the UH 22. Seven plays later, Williams scored on a 1-yard leap for a 7-0 lead.

Jones said he called for the fake because Alabama tried to block the previous punt. "We figured they'd try to block it again," and leave the secondary open, Jones said.

"I almost had it," Kapanui said. "We thought they weren't going to expect nothing. Instead, they covered us."

Later in the second quarter, trailing 14-0 on fourth-and-6 from the Tide 10, Chang lofted a pass to Abu Ma'afala, a defensive tackle who had lined up as a tight end. UH had practiced the play all week, but this time the pass slipped through Ma'afala's hands in the end zone.

"I saw the ball and I thought I had it," Ma'afala said. "I just dropped it. It kind of sucks, too. If I made the catch, it would be a different story. Life goes on, I guess."

Alabama extended its lead to 21-3 in the fourth quarter when Watts ran to his right, inducing the Warriors' defense to shift in his direction, then threw to a wide-open Sam Collins on the left side. Collins completed the 26-yard scoring play to all but end the suspense. After all, in its six previous games, Alabama allowed a total of eight fourth-quarter points.

But on UH's next possession, Chang teamed with Jeremiah Cockheran on a 70-yard scoring play. Cockheran outraced cornerback Charlie Peprah to make the catch, then dragged free safety Charlie Jones the final five yards.

On UH's final possession, Chang threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Chad Owens with 1:55 left. But UH failed to convert the two-point play and the ensuing onside kick bounced out of bounds.

"The kids played hard," Jones said. "They have a lot of heart. It's exciting for me to see how hard they tried."

In particular, UH's defense was relentless, sacking Watts six times and holding him to 81 passing yards. UH inside linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa amassed 19 tackles (14 unassisted) and four for negative yards. Tinoisamoa and defensive end Houston Ala each had two sacks.

"I hope our D-line gets a lot of credit," Tinoisamoa said. "They did a great job."

The Warriors played the entire second half without strong safety Hyrum Peters, who suffered a sprained knee in the second quarter. "He's our quarterback out there," UH defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa said of Peters.

"I'm proud of these guys," UH linebacker Chris Brown said in the locker area for defensive players. "We hung in there all the way to the end. That's Warrior defense. That's what we're all about."

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