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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, November 29, 2004

UAB prefers UH as opponent on Christmas Eve

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer

The University of Alabama-Birmingham football team said it would "be fun" to play the University of Hawai'i in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, but the Blazers are so happy to be coming they'll take anybody.

"We're excited to be there, we know that it would be fun to play Hawai'i, it really would," said Watson Brown, the Blazers head coach. "But we really don't care (who it is)" on Dec. 24 at Aloha Stadium.

The first bowl game appearance in the school's eight-year NCAA Division I-A history "is a dream come true," said Zac Woodfin, a senior linebacker. "The Hawai'i Bowl is where we wanted to go all along. The GMAC Bowl is right here in our home, the state of Alabama, and half the team is from Mobile, but we wanted to go to Hawai'i."

The Blazers (7-4) will play UH, provided the Warriors (6-5) beat Michigan State Saturday to become bowl eligible. Otherwise, it will be Fresno State (8-3) or an at-large team on the opposing sideline.

"Whoever we play, we're going to be excited about playing them," Woodfin said.

Small wonder. The Blazers were bowl eligible in 2000 and 2001 going 6-5 and 7-4 but were passed over and it became a point of pride that this year's senior class provide the breakthrough. "We wanted to make history," Woodfin said.

UAB, which began its football program in 1991, is 2-2 against bowl-bound teams this season, beating Memphis and Cincinnati and losing to Florida State and Southern Mississippi.

"Fans might not know too much about them yet, but this is a team that has an explosive offense and can put points on the board," said Pete Derzis, senior vice president of ESPN Regional Television, which owns and operates the bowl.

Particularly intriguing if UH qualifies, could be the matchup between the offenses. UH is averaging 33.4 points a game and UAB 30.2 points.

UAB's Roddy White is second in the nation in receiving yardage per game at 121.7 yards. UH's Chad Owens averages 81.8 yards.

"We know quite a bit (about UH) from watching Hawai'i on television," Brown said. "June (Jones) has done a good job with the (offense) he runs and all of that. We know quite a bit about them and Herman (Frazier, UH athletic director) was here for a while so we know a lot."

When Frazier left to take the UH job in 2002, Brown became UAB's football coach and athletic director.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.