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

Size matters, but not to UH's Ala

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

At 6 feet 1 and 250 pounds, Houston Ala is hardly a little guy.

Hawai'i linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa broadsides Alabama running back Shaud Williams for one of his game-high 19 tackles.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Line him up against 6-8, 312-pound Wesley Britt, and suddenly the perspective changes.

Not that it mattered to Ala, a defensive end for the University of Hawai'i football team who had the best game of his three-year career in UH's 21-16 loss to No. 14 Alabama yesterday at Aloha Stadium.

"I just tried to keep my motor running no matter what," said Ala, a junior out of Kamehameha Schools. "I never stop until that whistle blows. You just have to keep going until you get to the quarterback, or the guy with the ball."

Ala recorded a season-high eight tackles yesterday, including five behind the line of scrimmage. He also recorded two of the Warriors' six sacks.

"Houston's got a big heart," UH defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa said. "He's hard to stop. He's relentless. He's like our name — he's a Warrior."

If so, then Britt was like Alabama's mascot, an elephant.

"It doesn't matter how big they are," Lempa said. "We're obviously not as big or strong, but we're probably quicker and we wanted to take advantage of that."

Ala said he used various attacking styles yesterday, sometimes trying to run around Britt, other times trying to go under him.

"It's all about having different moves," Ala said. "(Britt) is a good player; he was huge. But I wanted to show him what I could do."

UH defensive end Houston Ala celebrates his sack of Tyler Watts. The 6-foot-1, 250-pound Ala had eight tackles, including two sacks.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Britt said: "They got under my pads sometimes. I'm not used to that because a lot of the guys I go up against in the (Southeastern Conference) are closer to my size."

Ala also wanted to prove something to himself. He missed three games midway through this season because of a sprained left ankle.

"If you want to get back on that field, you have to do whatever it takes," Ala said. "I've just been trying to make plays ever since I came back."

Despite missing those games, Ala still leads the Warriors with six sacks this season.

He and the Warriors might not have earned a victory yesterday, but they certainly earned the respect of Britt.

"Some of the other teams we played, we would hit them in the mouth and they would back down," Britt said. "Hawai'i never did that. They kept going and going until the end."

Lempa said the combination of Alabama's size and time of possession ultimately took its toll on the undersized UH defenders.

"Fatigue was a factor, no question," Lempa said.

As proof, the Crimson Tide amassed 120 of its 373 total yards in the fourth quarter. They also controlled the ball for nearly 10 minutes in the final quarter.

"In the second half, we wanted to smother them," Britt said. "They were a strong, physical defense and really fast. We just wanted to wear them down at the end to slow them down a little."