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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, July 25, 2003

Aloha Stadium football fever is best in WAC

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

BOISE, IDAHO — While the mercury climbed to fever levels yesterday, the University of Hawai'i football team remained as the hottest topic at the 2003 Western Athletic Conference Media Preview.

A day after being selected as the preseason favorite in the media poll, the Warriors and their fans drew praise from opposing players.

"Right now, I think Hawai'i has the best team in the league," Rice quarterback Kyle Herm said.

"They've got (quarterback) Timmy Chang and that great offense. And it's always tough to play out there."

UH, Boise State and Fresno State were the only WAC teams to play in postseason bowls last year. UH will host Boise State and Fresno State during the regular season this year.

"Going to Hawai'i is an unbelievable experience," Fresno State linebacker Marc Dailey said. "We've played in big stadiums, but in Hawai'i, it seems like that team has the following of the whole state. The fans take the game very seriously. And it's so loud in that stadium. It's awesome."

San Jose State defensive end Philip Perry gushed about the Warriors' pre-game ritual, in which "The Warrior" — 292-pound Vili Fehoko — pounds a drum while exhorting the fans.

"When you see that big inflatable helmet on the side and the mascot screaming at you, it really pumps you up," Perry said. "You can hear that mascot yelling at you, and it just makes you want to play so much harder."

Dailey said: "When that guy starts pounding on the drums, you just want to run out there and play. It's crazy, but that's what makes playing in Hawai'i different from playing anywhere else."

Tulsa offensive tackle Austin Chadwick said Aloha Stadium has "a certain mystique because that's where (the NFL plays) the Pro Bowl. Every time I watch the Pro Bowl on TV, I tell everyone, 'Hey, I played there.' I'm really proud of that."

Several opposing players rated UH as being the league's most aggressive team.

"They have a lot of hard-nosed guys who like to hit, like to play hard, like to run fast," San Jose State's Perry said. "They want to hurt you. That's what everyone wants to do, but they have a little bit more in them than other teams."

Boise State safety Wes Nurse said the Warriors are just following their leader.

"They're aggressive, and that comes a lot from their coach, June Jones," Nurse said.

Tulsa's Chadwick added: "They've always got some great specimens in Hawai'i. They've got guys who are big and strong and fast and very athletic. When you can put up five offensive linemen who can give Chang some time, he's going to throw for 500 yards. Then you have to add in the aggressiveness. That's part of their team personality. There's a special pride that team has. Maybe it's Warrior pride, or whatever, but you can see the guys who react to that so well."