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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Sunday, September 5, 2004

Warriors hit a sour note in losing opener

 •  FAU's Crissinger-Hill comes up with big plays
 •  FAU not distracted by Frances
 •  New music gets mixed reviews from fans
 •  Ferd Lewis: Hawai'i didn't see this coming

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

The University of Hawai'i football team raced into last night's game to the sound of its new musical tracks.

Hawai'i's Jason Rivers has Florida Atlantic's Willie Hughley beaten on this play in the first quarter. Hughley was called for pass interference.

Photos by Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

Four hours later, it exited in depressed silence — stunned and humbled in a 35-28 overtime loss to a team that did not exist five years ago and was as much as a 22-point underdog.

"We want to remember this feeling, remember it for a long time," UH linebacker Chad Kapanui said. "Every practice, every game, we want to remember this. We never want to go into a locker room after a game feeling like this again."

The Warriors had a nine-point lead at the end of three quarters and did not commit a turnover the entire game.

But, as FAU tight end Anthony Crissinger-Hill pointed out, "We're always the underdogs, but we never think that way. We know we can play with any team out there, whether it's Hawai'i, Florida State, Miami. There's a lot of talent in Florida. I'm glad we can bring it here and show we can play with anybody in the country."

The Owls did it the hard way, tying the score at 28 on Crissinger-Hill's breathtaking 31-yard catch with 23 seconds left in regulation, then winning it on Doug Parker's 7-yard run and timely defensive plays in overtime.

After linebacker Shomari Earls, the only new starter in the Owls' defense, swatted down Tim Chang's pass into the flat, there was a moment of stunned inactivity before the FAU players gathered in a wild celebration.

"This was another step up the ladder to greatness I hope," said FAU coach Howard Schnellenberger, who helped lead the Miami Dolphins to a 17-0 record in 1972 and the Miami Hurricanes to the 1983 national championship. "We've got a long way to go, but this was a big step."

In 1999, Schnellenberger, out of coaching since he was forced to resign at Oklahoma in 1995, accepted an offer to build the FAU football program from scratch. Last year, the Owls advanced to the semifinals of the Division I-AA playoffs, and last December, they were granted Division I-A probationary status. Their membership becomes official in 2006, although last night's win should serve as a recommendation.

UH's Chang, who is poised to break the NCAA record for passing yards in a career, threw for 302 yards and two touchdowns. But the missed opportunities — UH failed to convert on two fourth-down plays in the fourth quarter — served as lifelines for the Owls.

Down 28-22, the Owls started their final drive of regulation at their 36. They advanced to the UH 31 on Jared Allen's pass to Parker. During a timeout, Schnellenberger called for "Deep Baby, Go" — a play in which three receivers run post patterns and Crissinger-Hill runs straight ahead.

Crissinger-Hill, a tight end with a wideout's speed (4.5 seconds over 40 yards), out-sprinted safety Lamar Broadway to the end zone, then pulled in Allen's prayer pass for the tying touchdown.

During the timeout, Allen, a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, recalled saying "a prayer. I said, 'Lord, give me the strength to lead the troops one last time to tie it up.' "

Crissinger-Hill said: "I just wanted the ball in my hands. That's the type of player I am. When I saw the ball in the air, I knew I had the opportunity to make a play. That's all I wanted: an opportunity to make a play. A little talent had something to do with it, but it was 99 percent the Lord. That's all I can say about it."

Hawai'i cornerback Abraham Elimimian, left, celebrates the first of his two interceptions with linebacker Ikaika Curnan in the first quarter.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

But the Owls could not convert the ensuing extra-point kick, which was knocked down by 6-foot-7 Tony Akpan, who raced in from the middle.

In the overtime, each team gets a series, starting 25 yards from the end zone. The Owls lost the coin toss, and went first.

After the Owls advanced to the 7, Parker turned to Schnellenberger with a please-please-please look.

"I told coach, 'Give me the ball and it's going to be all good,' " Parker recalled.

The Warriors had one last shot. But Chang threw incomplete on his first two passes, including one in which he overshot slotback Britton Komine, who had broken into the open.

"We had a chance," UH coach June Jones said. "Britton had a shot on the post, but we kind of missed him."

On third down, Chang threw 7 yards to Gerald Welch in the left flat.

The next play also was intended for Welch, on a crossing pattern, one that was left uncovered the entire game. This time, Earls stepped in front and batted away the pass.

"They were giving it to us the whole game," Welch said, "but they made the adjustment when they needed to. They took advantage of it. That's how it goes sometimes."

Each team now prepares for unfinished business. The Owls will likely leave today for Boca Raton, a city that felt the effects of Hurricane Frances.

"We knew we had to focus on this game," Allen said. "There was nothing we could about (the hurricane), anyway. We made sure we took care of business here, and now we'll go back and take care of that other stuff."

The Warriors will use this coming week's bye to prepare for their Western Athletic Conference opener against Rice.

"We have to forget this game," linebacker Tanuvasa Moe said. "It's over with. We have to move on and focus on the next game and try to get better."

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