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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, December 7, 2003

Boise State 45, Hawai'i 28

Broncos whack Warriors

 •  Whieldon, Chang able to play through 'situation'
 •  LaBoy had UH off to good start
 •  Boise State's depth proved too much
 •  Photo gallery: UH vs. BSU
Broncos' Dinwiddie leaves no doubt who's the best QB
 •  Bowl schedule

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Boise State running back Donny Heck wasn't about to be denied on this second-quarter carry, clearing the UH defense to score one of his four TDs.

Photos by Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Hawai'i safety David Gilmore, left, has his hands full trying to tackle Boise State wide receiver T.J. Acree in the second quarter.
As the night progressed and 17th-ranked Boise State moved closer to what would become a 45-28 victory over Hawai'i, one question gained more weight:

Who the heck is Donny Heck?

"He's the man!" BSU coach Dan Hawkins yelled.

In his first collegiate start, Heck, a junior from Meridian, Idaho, rushed for four touchdowns to dim the Warriors' Senior Night.

Heck started in place of David Mikell, who entered as the Western Athletic Conference's fifth-leading rusher with 1,024 yards. But Mikell has been bothered by an ankle injury in recent weeks. Thursday morning, before the Broncos boarded a flight to Honolulu, Heck was told he would start.

"I was excited," Heck said. "(Mikell) was dinged up a little. They said he was about 75 percent coming into this game, so I knew I was going to get the majority of the carries. Our (offensive line) did a great job, and that kept the heat off."

Adding further insult to injury, the Broncos were without Tim Gilligan, their leading receiver and punt returner. BSU officials said Gilligan was suffering from leg injuries.

But the cast changes — and the Warriors' recent strong defensive play — could not slow the WAC's most productive offense, which entered averaging 43.6 points and 494.8 yards per game.

The Broncos (12-1 overall, 8-0 WAC) mixed a controlled passing attack (329 yards) with a deceptive running game (100 yards) to win their 18th consecutive conference game dating to November 2001. They also were helped by their special teams. They returned five punts for 69 yards and five kickoffs for 134 yards.

Meanwhile, except for a drive started by defensive end Travis LaBoy's acrobatic interception, the Warriors' average first-half starting point was their 17-yard line. A short punt led to one BSU scoring drive and, after UH closed to 38-28 in the fourth quarter, the Broncos downed a punt at the 1.

"Our guys tried hard and they played hard, but we just didn't put it all together," said Tyson Helton, who coaches the UH special teams. "It wasn't a lack of effort or anything else. They out-executed us and they out-performed us. They have players, and if they lose one guy, they'll put in another good one."

BSU punt returner Brad Allen said: "When guys are blocking like that, it's hard not to make a play. I got the ball, and I had fun, and I let my teammates do the rest."

Jason Whieldon, a senior quarterback from Orange, Calif., started for the Warriors in place of struggling Tim Chang. Whieldon, perfectly deciphering a corner blitz, threw 4 yards to a wide-open Jeremiah Cockheran to give the Warriors a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. It was the first time the Broncos trailed since Oct. 4, a span of nine games.

But then, BSU safety Wes Nurse said, "We played tougher."

The Broncos, who attacked mostly with a six-man front, decided to alternate coverages in the defensive secondary. They mixed zone and man coverages early, went exclusively to man coverages in the middle quarters, then retreated into a zone in the final quarter.

Against double coverage, Cockheran, who is UH's best deep threat, made seven catches, but only one after the intermission. Slotback Chad Owens, whose status was questionable because of a sprained big toe on his left foot, caught six passes for 83 yards, mostly on underneath routes. Although Whieldon and then Chang, who entered in the fourth quarter, completed a combined 33 passes, few came with bonus yards.

"With the short passes, it's all about the YAC (yards after the catch)," Nurse said. "We couldn't let them get yardage. If they caught the ball, we wanted to get right on them."

The Broncos also intercepted three passes.

On offense, the Broncos unveiled several different formations, moving receivers into the slot, calling for end runs and even using the option.

"They shifted and stuff, and sometimes we weren't lined up right," UH linebacker Ikaika Curnan said. "They found our weak spots. They executed. They blocked (our) guys and they made plays. Boise is a great team."

BSU's Ryan Dinwiddie entered as the WAC's most efficient quarterback. His touchdown-to-interception ratio (28 to 4) was tops in the country. Last night, he was intercepted once and did not throw a touchdown pass, for the third time this season, yet, he made timely completions and kept the Warriors' defense off-balance.

And when the Broncos neared the goal line, they turned to Heck, who scored on runs of 7, 8, 2 and 13 yards.

"I've been playing special teams for a few years, getting some reserve time when we blow people out," Heck said. "I got my opportunity, and I made the most out of it."

Since joining the WAC in 2001, the Broncos are 3-0 against the Warriors. Last week, they clinched their second consecutive WAC title.

"We really wanted to win this game," Heck said. "It would have ruined the whole trip if we lost. It's awesome to come to Hawai'i. Everything is so beautiful. People are so nice. If we came in here and lost, it would have put a bad taste in our mouth."

While the Broncos are headed for the Fort Worth Bowl, to play Texas Christian on Dec. 23, the Warriors (8-5 overall, 5-3 WAC) will host Houston in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl on Christmas Day. It is then, sophomore offensive tackle Brandon Eaton promised, the underclassmen will pay back the 20 UH seniors.

"I wish we could have let the seniors go out with a win, but it didn't happen," Eaton said. "We're looking to the bowl game. We have to send the seniors off with a win. They're going to get a present from us on Christmas Day. We'll give them a present."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8051.

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