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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 30, 2008

Warriors quarterback Alexander has scrambled to find success

By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Hawai'i's Greg Alexander completed 19 of 34 passes for 315 yards and two TDs against Washington State.

REBECCA BREYER | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

University of Hawai'i defensive lineman Keala Watson leads the Warriors in a ha'a on the logo before the game against Washington State at Aloha Stadium. UH won, 24-10, to earn a Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl berth.

GREGORY YAMAMOTO | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawai'i quarterback Greg Alexander reached a milestone last night in helping the Warriors to a 24-10 win against Washington State that also earned them a spot in the Christmas Eve Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

Alexander completed 19 of 34 passes for 315 yards and two TDs. It marked the first time this season a UH quarterback passed for more than 300 yards in a game, a routine feat the previous two seasons with Colt Brennan.

But considering where Alexander was at the start of the season, it seems as if he improved by a mile since the 56-10 thrashing at Florida in the season opener. He was a dismal 11 of 21 for 57 yards and two interceptions in that game.

"He did everything in his power to get ready to bring this team out of turmoil and bring it to a bowl game," UH quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich said.

It wasn't just his passing that did the damage. It was the 6-foot-3, 230-pound junior's ability to scramble out of danger that was impressive. He managed a net of 43 yards on 14 carries. He eluded tacklers for gains of 22 and 11 yards to keep UH's first scoring drive alive, one that ended with his 19-yard TD pass to Greg Salas in the first quarter.

"He's the reason our offense is in check right now," Salas said.

Alexander also scrambled out of jams long enough to find open receivers.

"Saved us," UH offensive coordinator Ron Lee said. "He made plays. He scrambled around and made the throws. He did all of that ad libbing. He does a lot on his own. He's big and he can see. He's got a strong arm. He played a heck of a game."

Because of his size, his dodging tacklers in the pocket might not seem so graceful. He was sacked five times, but avoided more. The way Alexander sees it buying time to throw or scrapping the pass altogether and running isn't just about self-preservation.

"I try to get out of sacks, do whatever you can," Alexander said. "Sometimes it doesn't work out where you have some negative yards. I just try to focus on not having any negative plays."

"He's got a good knack for knowing where to go, knowing when to take off," Rolovich added.

When the Cougars pulled to within 17-10 in the third quarter, Alexander responded quickly thanks in part to a 48-yard kickoff return by Malcolm Lane to the WSU 48. The Warriors scored when Alexander hit Michael Washington on a 44-yard TD pass to cushion UH's lead to 24-10 with 6:34 left in the third quarter.

Alexander's only blemish last night was a fourth-quarter interception on fourth down on a pass to the end zone. It stopped his streak of 151 consecutive passes without an interception.

Alexander is looking forward to next week's regular-season finale against Cincinnati and the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl that follows. Both games seem like miles from his start at Florida and losing his starting spot for the next six games. Since earning the spot back against Nevada, the Warriors are 4-1.

"The season's a marathon, not a sprint," Alexander said. "It was tough early, but everybody stuck together and now we've made a bowl game. We can take a little breath till Cincinnati. They're a BCS team so we can't relax too much."

Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at skaneshiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.