Alexander, Warriors show they can seal deal
It was a cold, windy and rainy at Aloha Stadium last night — and the football wasn't so hot, either.
But on a night when the longest run of the game for either side — was, appropriately, a lumbering 22-yarder turned in by 6-foot-3, 230-pound University of Hawai'i quarterback Greg Alexander, the Warriors managed to lurch to the postseason on a 24-10 victory over downtrodden Washington State.
"A win is a win," said Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl executive director David A. K. Matlin, who could have been the shivering spokesman for the 34,240 huddled under rain ponchos amid the Halawa rains.
Indeed, this one, the Warriors' seventh victory against five losses, was more notable for what it meant than the absence of artistry with which it was accomplished.
In a game littered with three field-goal misses — one of them blocked — and five sacks, the victory still delivers the Warriors to the Dec. 24 Hawai'i Bowl against a team to be named — probably Arizona State if the Sun Devils can finish with a victory over rival Arizona — and a third consecutive postseason.
That was something that seemed unlikely two months ago when UH stood at 1-3 after a 20-17 loss to San Jose State and Alexander was, well ...
Out of sight and out of mind, sitting on the bench deep in the quarterback rotation. The starter in the season opener against Florida and largely the forgotten man thereafter.
Which is why Alexander had as much reason as anyone to smile. "It feels great, really great," Alexander said. "Especially with the way we started."
Alexander put all his limbs into producing a victory in this one, the third in a row with him as the starter. Alexander completed 19 of 34 passes for 315 yards and two touchdowns, the first UH quarterback to hit the 300-yard mark in 13 games. This despite constant pressure from a 2-11 team that had rarely turned up the heat on anybody this season.
Despite just 11 sacks in 12 previous games, the Cougars managed to generate a season-high five sacks last night and kept Alexander on the run so much that he had more carries (14) than anybody in the game and managed 43 yards rushing (to lead UH) despite the five sacks. "It (the running) I can do without," Alexander said.
So, too, could have the Cougars. For it curiously turned out to be part of their undoing. In a first half, when he led all ballcarriers in rushing with 45 yards, Alexander chugged and slid his way into helping set up two first-quarter touchdowns that would, thanks to yeoman work by the UH defense, be all the Warriors ended up needing.
Alexander's runs of 11 and 22 yards helped set the stage for the first score, a 19-yard pass to Greg Salas, and a 10-yard run aided in setting the stage for Daniel Libre's two-yard touchdown run. "In the first half we (just) couldn't control the quarterback," WSU coach Paul Wulff said.
On a night when the Cougars surpassed Eastern Michigan, setting the major college record for points yielded in a season (570), the Warriors found them surprisingly hard to come by after a 17-3 halftime lead. But even in their struggles, an interception in the end zone (Alexander's first in 151 pass attempts) and three missed field goals, there would be signs of how far the Warriors have come this season. That's because a month ago, before Alexander and the offense settled in, this is precisely the kind of game that would have gotten away from them. And, did at Utah State.
This time the Warriors did what they had to do to lock down both the game and bowl bid.
Good thing, too, because now they go from a Bottom Ten team that set a school record for losses in a season to one, Cincinnati, that is nationally ranked (16th) and tied a record for wins (10-2) in a season.
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 525-8044.