Defense dominates in East victory, 10-7
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By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Brandon Masuoka
Brent Hawkins walked off with a new wristwatch as his prize for earning most valuable player honors in yesterday's 60th Cornerstone Bancard Hula Bowl.
The Illinois State defensive end's shiny, timepiece proved symbolic as the East defense came up big, time and time again, in a 10-7 victory over the West at Aloha Stadium.
A crowd of 7,065 watched 100 of some of college football's finest senior players, and the first Hula Bowl played in Honolulu in nine years.
Hawkins' sack of Missouri's Brad Smith forced a fumble that was recovered by East teammate Domata Peko of Michigan State on the East 39, and helped preserve a 10-7 East lead in the fourth quarter. It was Hawkins' only tackle of the game.
"I was getting there, and I was real close the whole game," Hawkins said of his pursuit. "I just knew it was coming. I just showed up, and made a big play."
The Hula Bowl had been played on Maui the past eight years, but returned to Honolulu in part because of dwindling attendance that dipped to about 12,000 at Maui's War Memorial Stadium last year.
Yesterday's game featured several players with Hawai'i ties. West defensive end Kila Kamakawiwo'ole and safety Lono Manners led the University of Hawai'i contingent with three total tackles each. Linebacker Tanuvasa Moe had two tackles and one pass broken up. Colorado nose guard Vaka Manupuna (Saint Louis) added three tackles for the West, and Occidental defensive back Derek Turbin (Punahou) had one tackle for the East.
The game televised on ESPN2 yesterday had just two touchdowns, and all the scoring was done in the game's first 18 minutes, 7 seconds.
After scoring a touchdown on the game's opening drive, the West went 10 scoreless possessions the rest of the game.
The East team "played good defense, they held us down, we weren't able to get any separation, and it was just tough," said Washington's Tyrone Willingham, who coached the West.
On its last drive, the West advanced to the East 34. On second-and-14, Florida defensive end Jeremy Mincey sacked Texas State's Barrick Nealy for a 23-yard loss. Nealy's two subsequent passes were incomplete, and the East took over on downs at the West 43 with 1:09 left.
"I'm from a big-play conference, and I've been making big plays all year," Mincey said. "It's not a big deal to make a big play. It's part of football, and I just love doing it."
Missouri's Smith was named the West's MVP. The 6-foot-2, 212-pound quarterback completed 4-of-12 passes for 58 yards, and scored the West's only touchdown in the first quarter.
Yesterday, members of the media were given MVP ballots, but coaches made the final decision on the MVPs, according to Hula Bowl official Rick Beggs.
Central Florida receiver Brandon Marshall was the media favorite for East MVP. Marshall caught five passes for 101 yards and scored the go-ahead touchdown for the East. The 6-foot-6, 230-pound playmaker played in last month's Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, catching 11 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns in a 49-48 overtime loss to Nevada.
"He's a tremendous receiver," Linfield quarterback Brett Elliott said of his East teammate. "He has size and speed. He carried us the whole game. He was making tough catches after touch catches."
Smith's 16-yard run gave the West a 7-0 lead on the game's opening drive. Utah running back Quinton Ganther ran for 37 yards on the 7-play, 70-yard drive.
The East responded with 10 unanswered points. A 36-yard field goal by Notre Dame's D.J. Fitzpatrick capped a 9-play, 56-yard drive. In the second quarter, Elliott's 10-yard scoring pass to Marshall gave the East a 10-7 lead it would hold for the game. The scoring drive was set up by an interception by Iowa State's Steve Paris.
In the second half, the two teams combined for 11 scoreless possessions, and three turnovers.
The West got two interceptions, one by Iowa cornerback Jovon Johnson, who ran 22 yards to the East 21, and another by Missouri cornerback Marcus King, who ran 12 yards to the West 45. Both times the West came up empty.
"The problem was we just couldn't execute," said Hawai'i offensive guard Brandon Eaton of his West team. "We just couldn't get nothing going in the second half. We got turnover after turnover, but we just couldn't do anything with it."
Reach Brandon Masuoka at bmasuoka@honoluluadver tiser.com or 535-2458.
Reach Brandon Masuoka at firstname.lastname@example.org.