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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, September 9, 2004

UH football team to open 2006 season at Alabama

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

The University of Hawai'i football team will make its first appearance in Alabama's storied Bryant-Denny Stadium to open the 2006 season.

The game is scheduled for Sept. 2, 2006 at Tuscaloosa, Ala., according to a contract completed yesterday by the school's athletic directors.

"It puts our program at a different level," Hawai'i head coach June Jones said. "It's exciting to get the exposure that comes with playing there, and should we win down there, it would be really large."

Hawai'i hosted Alabama in 2002 and 2003 at Aloha Stadium. The Crimson Tide won the 2002 meeting, 37-29, and the Warriors won in 2003, 37-29. Those were the only two meetings between the programs.

Hawai'i will receive a guarantee of $650,000 for the game.

"That's bigger than what we get for our bowl game," Jones said. "This is something that's going to be big not just for the football team, but the school."

Alabama athletic director Mal Moore said: "We are certainly excited to have Hawai'i in Tuscaloosa on Sept. 2 to open the 2006 season. We very much appreciate the class manner in which our team and fans were treated during our two trips to Hawai'i, and we look forward to hosting them at Bryant-Denny Stadium."

Bryant-Denny Stadium, which has a capacity of 83,818, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this season. The Crimson Tide is 191-37-3 during that time.

Since joining the Western Athletic Conference in 1979, Hawai'i has opened its season on the road just three times. The last time was in 1992, when Hawai'i won at Oregon, 24-21.

The Warriors are also scheduled to play Purdue at Aloha Stadium in a non-conference game during the 2006 season.

UH defense preparing for the Rice option

Hawai'i has already started practicing several new defensive alignments in preparation for its game at Rice on Sept. 18.

The Warriors employed a special 4-4 defense in a 41-21 defeat of the Owls and their run-option offense last season at Aloha Stadium. Hawai'i could use a similar scheme this season, although Jones wasn't about to give away any gameplans.

"You have to change it up; you can't do what you did last year," he said. "You have to mix it up because they're very well-schooled."

In the last two seasons, Chad Kapanui was inserted as a starting linebacker specifically to help stop the Rice option. He is a regular starting linebacker this season, but he said he expects to play the same role as the last two seasons.

"It's all about staying disciplined and keying on your one guy," Kapanui said. "They're so good mentally, we can't afford any mistakes."

Safety Leonard Peters may move up to a linebacker position to create a 4-4 scheme similar to last year. The Hawai'i coaches tried several other combinations during yesterday's practice.

"We don't ever face an offense like this, so this is the only time we use a defense like this," he said. "Having the two weeks to learn everything really helps to get it down."

Akpan's status for Rice game still in question

Junior defensive end Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan sat out of drills yesterday because of a sprained ankle.

Jones said Akpan may sit out the Rice game as a one-game penalty for his participation in a fight against Houston last season.

"I would say that he probably will not play," Jones said. "But it's not decided yet. It'll depend on how the other defensive linemen react the next two or three days."

Alama-Francis not ready to practice yet

Sophomore defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis said he does not expect to return to contact drills in practice until next week, at the earliest.

He has not participated in contact drills since undergoing back surgery in July.

"I would say next week sometime," he said of his return to full practice. "I've been running and focusing on getting back, but I'm just being patient right now."

The Peoples champion is the fastest runner

Freshman defensive back Khevin Peoples won an impromptu sprint race over fellow defensive back Ray Bass after yesterday's practice.

"We were talking a bunch of junk about track and it turned into a race," Peoples said. "I'm not going to say I'm faster than anybody on this team. It was all for fun."

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8101.