Football: Warriors roll Tide

Backup quarterback Jason Whieldon rallies Hawaii past Alabama.

HONOLULU - The Warrior football team overcame the pre-game rain that caused flash flood warnings, and held off the Tide that rolled into Aloha Stadium in a 37-29 win over Alabama Saturday afternoon.

Hawai`i (8-4) avenged the 21-16 loss to Alabama a year ago with tenacious defense and a back up quarterback in Jason Whieldon who came off the bench toss four touchdowns on 15-of-25 passing for 237 yards. A crowd of 43,477 and a national television audience on ESPN, saw the Warriors win their sixth straight home game and Alabama (4-9) finish their season 4-9 under first-year head coach Mike Shula.

Tide tailback Shaud Williams, who gained 160 yards and scored once in 2002, finished the game with 105 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, but it wasn't enough this year. The Warrior defense forced three turnovers (2 interceptions, 1 fumble) and sacked Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle a season-high six times in the win.

Alabama scored on its first possession of the game on a 1-yard run by Williams.Williams aided the drive with a 56-yard dash that took the Tide down to the Warrior 4-yard line.

Hawai`i had a chance to get on the board late in the first quarter, but a 31-yard field goal attempt by Justin Ayat hit the right upright. It was Ayat's fifth straight miss.

The Tide took a 14-0 lead when sophomore quarterback Brodie Croyle hit tight end Clint Johnson for a 2-yard touchdown early in the second quarter.

Back up quarterback Jason Whieldon came off the bench in the second quarter to get the Warriors on the board. The senior from Orange, Calif., went 3-for-3 for 71 yards on the drive, capped by a 48-yard scoring catch and run to Jeremiah Cockheran to cut the Tide lead to 14-7.

The drive ignited the Warrior defense, which forced Alabama to three and out on its ensuing possession. Wheildon then drove the Warriors 66-yards, highlighted by a 43-yard screen pass to Michael Brewster that spotted the Warriors at the Alabama 23-yard line. Three plays later, the game was tied at 14 when Whieldon found See Poumele for a 4-yard TD midway through the second quarter. Whieldon completed 22-straight passes, one shy of the NCAA record, with 16 last week against Army and his first six on the night.

After the break, Warrior punter Kurt Milne pinned the Tide at their own 3-yard line and defensive tackle Lance Samuseva got to Croyle for a safety to give the Warriors a 16-14 lead.

The Warriors got the ball back on the free kick and took advantage of two Alabama personal foul penalties, one on fourth down, and attempted a field goal that was blocked by Alabama's Anthony Madison. Strong safety Roman Harper pick up the loose ball and returned it 73-yards to give the Tide the lead and the momentum back at 21-16 with 6:12 left in the third quarter.

The Warrior defense came up big in the closing minutes of the third quarter when Hyrum Peters forced Williams to fumble and Abraham Elimimian recovered to halt a drive that began at midfield. A three-and-out forced created a blocked punt by Alabama's Chris James. The Tide's attempt to take an eight-point lead sailed wide left, a 40-yard field goal attempt by Brian Bostick.

Whieldon, who re-entered the game late in the third quarter, hit Cockheran down the sideline for a 47-yard touchdown. The two-point conversion by Micheal Brewster gave the Warriors a 24-21 lead early in the fourth quarter. Whieldon hit Clifton Herbert in the front corner of the endzone for a 20-yard score to give the Warriors a 30-21 lead at the 7:24 mark.

Croyle, who finished 20-of-37 for 247 yards passing, tried to rally the Tide back by hitting Lance Taylor for a 5-yard touchdown with 29 seconds left, but the onside kick was recovered by the Warriors.

Linebacker Ikaika Curnan finished with a career-high 15 total tackles (9 solo), including a sack (-4) and three for-a-loss (-10). Warrior punter Kurt Milne also played a key role pinning six punts inside the Alabama 20-yard line and finishing the game with a 42.5 average.

The Warriors wrap-up the regular season against Boise State which clinched the Western Athletic Conference title with a 56-3 win over Nevada earlier in the day. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. Dec. 6 at Aloha Stadium. The game will be the second straight to be aired nationally on ESPN.


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