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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, December 25, 2004

For Warriors, 'tis a season to be jolly

 •  Game statistics
 •  How they scored
 •  Warriors' Owens owns UAB
 •  Local boy makes good as Chang ends stellar career
 •  25 UH seniors never stopped believing
 •  Hawai'i Bowl game was a hot ticket
 •  Photo gallery

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

In a Christmas Eve of destruction, the University of Hawai'i football team picked apart Alabama at Birmingham for a 59-40 victory yesterday in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

Quarterback Tim Chang, left, and slotback Chad Owens were selected co-Most Valuable Players for Hawai'i of the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

"This was the perfect Christmas gift," UH safety Leonard Peters said. "It's better than money or anything else. This is a gift we can carry in our hearts."

An Aloha Stadium crowd of 38,322 saw the Warriors (8-5) receive a grab bag of support.

Tim Chang, the most prolific passer in NCAA history, finished off his collegiate career by completing 31-of-46 passes for 405 yards and four touchdowns.

Chang also surprised the Blazers by scrambling 4 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter to give UH an uncatchable 52-33 lead.

As his football life flashed, Chang recalled thinking, "I'd better get in. I had to sneak in and get in some way."

In a rare moment, Hawai'i slotback Chad Owens is knocked off his feet. Owens got up to make eight catches for 114 yards and two TDs.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Right guard Uriah Moenoa said, "I was so happy somebody scored. Holy smokes, we couldn't get off the field. That was a long drive. When the quarterback scored, I thought it was Kainoa (Akina, UH's run-oriented quarterback). I looked again and I saw No. 14. That was a surprise, but I was happy for (Chang)."

UH All-America receiver Chad Owens caught eight passes for 114 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored on a 59-yard punt return.

As in his other four punt returns for touchdowns this season, Owens followed a path cleared by his former Roosevelt High teammate Chad Kapanui.

"I heard he took out two guys," Owens said.

"It looked that way," Kapanui said. "I did my job."

Hawai'i receiver Jason Rivers leaves two defenders in his wake as he completes a 74-yard play for a TD.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Kapanui has noticed that Owens is a serial thriller who uses the same approach.

"I know he likes to bounce to the outside," Kapanui said. "He likes to start on the inside, then bounce to the outside. I know where to set myself. I'll try to hit somebody on the outside and watch him go by."

After the game, UH coach June Jones got smoke in his eyes when he spoke of Chang and Owens, both fifth-year seniors. With 5:57 remaining, Jones called a timeout to allow Chang to jog off the field to a standing ovation. In the closing seconds, Jones embraced the 5-foot-9 Owens.

"It couldn't have worked out better for those two kids to go out on a night like that," Jones said. "They meant so much to our program, so much to our state. I'm really proud of them. It's going to be hard to get along without them. They're special kids."

But the Blazers were a difficult obstacle to the Warriors' quest to close the season with four consecutive victories.

Warrior running back West Keli'ikipi heads toward a Blazer defender during the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

UAB entered with one of the nation's best passing attacks, led by 250-pound quarterback Darrell Hackney and speedy wideout Roddy White.

"We knew it was going to be an offensive game," White said. "On every possession, somebody was going to score a touchdown or kick a field goal. It was going to be either hit or miss."

The Warriors opted to alternate between an attacking 4-3 defense, in which the safeties and outside linebackers blitzed, and a nickel coverage, in which Abraham Elimimian served as the roving disrupter.

It was when the Warriors were in the nickel on the Blazers' first possession that White, aligned on the right side, outraced cornerback Turmarian Moreland on a slant pattern into the vacated middle of the secondary. White's 51-yard scoring play forced the Warriors to reconsider their plans.

After that, they would try to jam White at the line, then have Elimimian cover him.

"They tried to bother me a lot, and it got me out of my rhythm," White said. "It slowed me down into getting into my routes."

After the opening series, White was held to five catches for 62 yards.

"I tried to press him, but he likes to push off and get open," Elimimian said. "He got me a couple of times. After that, I played off of him. I would take him or force him to the free safety."

Hackney also complained that UH's defensive linemen were trying to interrupt his audibles.

"It bothered me a couple of times," Hackney said. "I know when our players get frustrated and mad, they lose their focus."

UH defensive tackle Lui Fuga admitted he was able to impersonate Hackney.

"You saw how they jumped off sides on my count," Fuga said. "I can imitate him. But that wasn't the difference. We beat them up front. We were faster than them up front."

Hackney still completed 31-of-54 passes for 417 yards and two touchdowns. He also scored on a 4-yard sneak.

But he was intercepted once, sacked twice and was inaccurate on several crucial third-down passes.

"It wasn't them," Hackney said. "I missed a couple of checks, a couple of changes of protections. It cost me."

Hackney has said football is "a game of checkers, not chess. If someone makes a move, you have to counter it." Last night, the Warriors made the better moves.

"We couldn't match the points they made," Hackney said. "Timmy Chang played well."

The Blazers usually align in a 4-3, relying on the defensive ends to provide pressure. But UH's four-wide offensive schemes forced the Blazers to replace a linebacker with a fifth defensive back.

That allowed Owens and wideouts Jason Rivers (11 catches for 148 yards and a touchdown) and Britton Komine to face one-on-one coverage.

"C.O. is one of the great receivers," Chang said of Owens. "Any time you've got him on your side, the best thing — and the wise thing — is to throw him the ball, and that's what I tried to do. They played him (in) a man coverage, so you've got to throw him the ball."

UAB defensive back Durrell Fuqua said: "We had to come out and play. We fell behind and we couldn't catch up. I haven't seen an offense like that all year. They spread it out and get it going, and once they get it going, it's hard to stop them. That quarterback and that receiver are hard to stop."

By the end, the Blazers had difficulty stopping anybody. Komine capped the scoring by picking up an onside kick and racing 42 yards for a touchdown.

"I saw it, picked it out of the air and went from there," said Komine, a senior. "It was an awesome way to finish it. Now it's all over. Now it's memories."

Jones said: "To do what we did the last four (games), that will be something I'll always remember. ... What these kids did says a lot about them. They got up and became champions."

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

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