Alabama seemed to have the game in good shape when officials signaled a fourth quarter touchdown on a pass from first-time starting quarterback John Parker Wilson to junior wide receiver Keith Brown. The two had previously connected on two touchdown passes. But a review of the play wiped out the touchdown and the likely 29-10 lead and a field goal kept Hawaii in reach at 25-10.
The Warriors, behind their record-setting quarterback Colt Brennan, nearly delivered a comeback to send the game into overtime. Brennan moved the Warriors 85 yards in seven plays, the final 31 on a perfect strike to Ryan Grice-Mullen. Hawaii made the correct decision to kick the extra point to pull to within a touchdown and two-point conversion of the Tide. (To go for two and miss would leave the Warriors down two scores with only seven minutes to play.)
Hawaii got its chance. With the Tide having a sub-par rushing night, primarily because star tailback Kenneth Darby had 16 carries for a net of only 25 yards, Bama was unable to run out the clock. The Tide did get the clock down to 2:40 when forced to punt back to the Warriors.
Hawaii took every second of the remaining time, getting to the Alabama 26 and throwing on the final play of the game. But Tide back-up cornerback Lionel Mitchell
Alabama plays the second of its 12 consecutive Saturdays next week, hosting Vanderbilt at 2:30 p.m. CDT in a regionally televised game. It will be the Southeastern Conference opener. Vandy fell to Michigan, 27-7, in its opening game Saturday.
Saturday's game was played in remodeled and expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium before a sellout 92,138, the most ever to see a football game in Alabama.
Hawaii scored on its opening drive to give the Warriors a bried 3-0 lead. Bama kickoff coverage was less than excellent much of the night, including on the opening return that gave Hawaii a start at midfield. Seven plays and 26 yards later the visitors got a 42-yard field goal from Dan Kelly.
Alabama evened the score with a 31-yard field goal from true freshman Leigh Tiffin on the Crimson Tide's first possession. Tiffin kicked in place of the injured Jamie Christensen. John Parker Wilson, making his first start at quarterback, completed passes of 10 yards to Matt Caddell and 22 yards to Keith Brown and fullback Le'Ron McClain had a 15-yard run in the nine-play, 65-yard drive.
Alabama squandered several second quarter opportunities, but still extended its lead over the Warriors from 3-3 at the end of the first quarter to 15-3 at halftime.
Most of the damage on Alabama's first touchdown drive of the year came in the first quarter as the Tide marched from its 39 to the Hawaii five-yard line and a third-and-one as the first quarter ended. Bama came up short on its third down run, but Castille ran it to the three for a first down on fourth down. On the next play, Castille rushed in to complete the 10-play, 61-yard drive and a 10-3 Alabama lead.
Then came missed chances that might have broken the game open.
On Hawaii's first play following the kickoff, Tide defensive end Ezekial Knight forced a fumble that was recovered by Prince Hall at the Hawaii 28. Two incomplete passes stopped the drive, and then Tiffin missed a 31-yard field goal.
On the Tide's second possession, a nine-yard run by Jimmy Johns on first down led to nothing because Bama couldn't pick up the first down with two runs up the middle.
Most disappointing, but almost certainly the correct call, was Roy Upchurch's near miss of a touchdown recovery. Official review determined Upchurch did not have control of the ball while in the end zone. The result was still a safety for Alabama and a 12-3 lead. Hawaii was punting and the punter misplayed the ball. Upchurch rushed in and nearly made the tackle on the punter, but the Warriors kicker was able to sling the ball towards the back of the end zone. Upchurch almost got it for a touchdown, but instead the Tide had to settle for a safety with 5:13 to play in the second quarter.
Late in the quarter Bama got a 36-yard pass to Brown and the Tide went to a first-and-goal at the eight. But two runs netted only six yards and then an incomplete pass forced the Tide to settle for a 23-yard field goal and a 15-3 lead at intermission.
Wilson gave Bama some breathing room when he connected with Brown on a 35-yard scoring pass. Brown was interfered with an still made an excellent catch for the score to give the Crimson Tide a 22-3 lead. Wilson had connected with Will Oakley on a 20-yard pass on a third-and-10 on the play before the touchdown toss. Wilson also had a completion to tight end Travis McCall for 15 yards in the drive.
Hawaii came back to close the gap to 22-10 with a three-play, 50-yard drive. The Warriors had driven deep into Alabama territory, but the drive was stopped when Marcus Carter caused a fumble and Simeon Castille recovered for the Tide. But Bama couldn't move and punted back to Hawaii. Hawaii's Colt Brennan hit running back Reagan Mauia on a shovel pass for 16 yards.
Wilson just missed on another third quarter 35-yard touchdown pass to Brown with a ball caught just out of bounds. But it was still a nice drive. Starting at its own 22, Alabama went to the Hawaii ten-yard line as the third stanza ended. Along the way Wilson hit Brown for 17 yards, tight end Nick Walker for 16, Oakley for five, Caddell for nine, and Walker for 22.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Wilson hit Brown for an apparent touchdown, but Hawaii Coach June Jones used the new challenge rule for review and on review the touchdown was disallowed, the ruling that Brown was out of bounds. Wilson tried for Brown again, but the pass was incomplete. Bama had to settle for a 27-yard Tiffin field goal and a 25-10 lead.
Alabama got good field position after holding Hawaii. A poor punt started the Tide at the Warriors' 46 with 12:45 to play. But it was a curious series, to say the least. Kenneth Darby had a nice run, but it was offset by a penalty. Wilson then hit a couple of passes around an incompletion and the Tide faced fourth and one. An attempt to draw Hawaii offsides failed and the Tide punted, having killed only a couple of minutes.
That set up the taut second half of the fourth quarter.
Hawaii and Alabama had played twice previously, both games in Honolulu with each team having won a game. The Warriors were added to the Tide schedule for the purpose of opening the expanded and remodeled stadium.