Hawaii Bowl: Tulane rallies for 36-28 win

LIVE FROM ALOHA: Tulane found Hawaii's defense stout, managing just two field goals to fall behind, 14-6 in the inaugural ConAgra Foods Hawaii Bowl Saturday afternoon. However, the Green Wave roared back in the second half for a 36-28 victory.

Tulane 36, Hawaii 28
Warrior defense dominates early,
but Green Wave chip away

By Paul Honda
Senior Writer
Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2002, 5:30 p.m.

HALAWA—In a tale of two halves, Tulane stormed ahead of host Hawaii in the second half for a 36-28 win in the inaugural ConAgra Foods Hawaii Bowl Saturday.

Tulane, a 12-point underdog, started slowly but came to life with scintillating punt returns by Lynaris Elpheage in the third quarter. That brought Tulane out of a 14-6 halftime deficit -- the Green Wave trailed 14-0 early on -- and turned into a 26-14 lead that they never relinquished.

"We turned the ball over and that put us in a hole,"
Hawaii coach June Jones said. "We made some plays defensively, but we just kept putting our defense in a hole."

The Tulane victory disappointed a turnstile-count audience of 31,535 at Aloha Stadium that gave the Green Wave plenty of noise. Scelfo appreciated his team's ability to regain composure. "I really thought that coming out today in a hostile environment, our kids handled it well," Tulane coach Chris Scelfo said. 

Elpheage returned one punt 60 yards for a touchdown, then returned the next punt 56 yards to give the Green Wave great field position at the 17-yard line. That led to Tulane's go-ahead touchdown. "My guys made great blocks. Their punt coverage was good, but my blockers did a great job," said Elpheage, who returned a punt for a touchdown earlier in the season. "I was surprised they kicked to me again."

Late in the game,
Hawaii trailed 34-28 when senior defensive tackle Roxie Shelvin busted through the interior for a sack of Whieldon, sending the ball out of the end zone for a safety. Tulane recovered the ensuing on-side kick and ran out the final few minutes.

Tulane coach Chris Scelfo saw the game boil down to a few key moments. "There are about four or five plays that make a difference, ad we were able to make some of them. The big punt return and safety, obviously, were big. We just made a couple more than they did."

Hawaii quarterback Tim Chang out since the first half, Hawaii's offense was erratic. Tulane quarterback J.P. Losman triggered a fluid Tulane offense that came up with big play after big play.

The Green Wave trailed 14-0 before rallying in the second half. Mewelde Moore rushed for 116 yards on 30 tough carries. Perhaps more damaging to the Warriors were
Moore's six receptions for 80 yards, which led Tulane. Losman, a transfer from UCLA, completed 20 of 39 attempts for 240 yards with no interceptions. In all, the Green Wave amassed 384 total yards and did not commit a turnover.

Hawaii turned the ball over three times to neutralize its edge in total offense. The Warriors piled up 424 total yards, including 18 of 31 passing for 239 yards by Chang's backup, Shawn Withy-Allen. Combined, Chang and Withy-Allen completed 32 of 52 attempts for 363 yards. Withy-Allen, however, and Chang was taken down for losses three times, giving Tulane's all-senior defensive line eight sacks in all.

Chang was 14 of 21 for 124 yards before leaving in the first half with a hand injury. His right, throwing hand swelled up immediately. "I felt like it would be best for the team if I stayed out. I couldn't grip a football," said Chang, who has endured knee and thumb injuries this season, as well.

Senior wide receiver Justin Colbert played well, pulling in nine passes for 158 yards and two scores. Jeremiah Cockheran also had nine catches for 87 yards. In all, however,
Hawaii didn't overcome the loss of four injured starters: left tackle Wayne Hunter, center Lui Fuata, safety Hyrum Peters and early in the game, quarterback Tim Chang. The injury problems that plagued Hawaii across the board on offense and defense -- Tulane's veterans on the D-line took advantage of Hawaii's shuffled front -- came back to haunt the Warriors on Christmas Day.

Still, Jones didn't accept injuries as a reason or excuse. "I don't think it affected us. I still think if we had made some plays to stop them, we would've won, and we didn't do that," he said.

Hawaii opened the game with a hakka chant before the kickoff. The war cry and dance is familiar to local fans, but the Green Wave had never seen anything like it. Though some Green Wave players responded from across the field with vigor, Losman sensed a bit of insecurity by his teammates at that point. "

Tulane finished the season 8-5.
Hawaii closed out 10-4.  

"It's a team game. If you don't play together in all phases, you lose," Jones said. "They beat us in special teams and they beat us. Well, we deserved to lose the game."

First-Half Summary

For old-school defensive fans, it was a work of art.

Tulane's explosive offense managed two field goals as
Hawaii took a 14-6 lead at halftime in the inaugural ConAgra Foods Hawaii Bowl Saturday afternoon.

A festive crowd at Aloha Stadium saw
Hawaii strike early offensively while UH's defense, a stalwart unit all season, ravaged Tulane quarterback J.P. Losman. Led by defensive end Travis LaBoy, tackle Isaac Sopoaga and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa, the Warriors shut down the Green Wave on its first four possessions, including a missed 53-yard  field-goal attempt by former Lou Groza Award winner Seth Marler.

The first half was marked by spurts of offensive precision and several halts due to penalties. Still,
Hawaii's offense, the nation's top-ranked passing attack, dictated the tempo.

Without left tackle Wayne Hunter (back spasms), quarterback Tim Chang absorbed a sack on
Hawaii's third play from scrimmage. Still, he connected with Justin Colbert on a 39-yard screen play, followed by a 14-yard connection to running back John West to the Hawaii 1-yard line. Thero Mitchell burst into the end zone on the ensuing play for a 1-yard score. Justin Ayat's PAT kick gave the Warriors a 7-0 lead with 10:34 to play in the opening quarter.

Tulane mixed formations, using a shotgun, four-receiver set with a single-back, slot formation. The Wave's next possession, though, ended when wide reveiver Tristan Smith fumbled at mid-field on a third-and-7 play. LaBoy recovered for the Warriors at the
Hawaii 43-yard line.

Both offenses sputtered until midway through the second quarter. Chang guided the Warriors on an eight-play, 65-yard drive. Britton Komine came up with a diving, comeback catch for 25 yards to keep the drive alive. A pass interference call in the end zone -- cornerback Elpheage was whistled for grabbing Jeremiah Cockheran -- set
Hawaii up at the 2-yard line. On the next play, backup quarterback Shawn Withy-Allen tossed to Josh Galeai on the option, and he scored easily for a 2-yard scoring run.

Ayat's kick gave
Hawaii a 14-0 lead with 8:35 remaining in the second quarter.

Tulane finally broke its scoring drought with an 11-play, 74-yard drive. The Green Wave took advantage of an injury to Sopoaga early in the series and drove 74 yards in 11 plays. Sopoaga returned, however, after Tulane had first down-and-goal at the
Hawaii 4. The junior stuffed running back Mewelde Moore up the middle, and Losman heaved consecutive incomplete passes. Marler nailed a 23-yard field goal to cut the lead to 14-3 with 5:01 remaining in the half.

Chang remained out for the rest of the half, and the UH offense stalled. Punter Mat McBriar delivered a 73-yard punt -- the last 25 on a pro-Hawaii bounce of the ball – to bail
Hawaii out of a precarious situation inside its own 5. However, Tulane marched 57 yards in nine plays, setting up Marler's 37-yard field goal to cut the margin to 14-6 with 2:28 left in the half.

Withy-Allen was sharp, but a Tulane pass rusher hit his arm and altered a pass that was intercepted by Sean Lucas. The backup cornerback returned the ball 66 yards to the end zone, but the return was called back because of a holding call after the pick. That play and penalty was crucial; the Green Wave stalled and punted back to

The Warriors drove to the Tulane 26 and set up for a 43-yard field-goal attempt with 10 seconds remaining. The snap, though, was high, and holder Withy-Allen ad-libbed with a short pass to Kevin Jackson. The 6-4 defensive end gained four yards on the play as time expired. Had Withy-Allen thrown the ball away, it would've been second down with enough time for another attempt.

Chang completed 14 of 21 attempts for 124 yards with no interceptions before leaving. Withy-Allen was 6 of 9 for 61 yards with one pick. The Warriors amassed 222 total yards by intermission.

Losman was 13 of 25 for 146 yards with no interceptions. The Green Wave tallied 172 total yards.

McBriar averaged 58.7 yards per punt, while his counterpart, Marler, averaged 51.7 per attempt.

Hawaii picked up 61 penalty yards on eight yellow flags. Tulane had 64 penalty yards on six whistles.
Second-Half Summary

The Green Wave turned into a tsunami in the third, dominating special teams. Elpheage and his punt return crew made mincemeat of
Hawaii's coverage twice in the third quarter. Elpheage returned a McBriar line-drive punt down the right sideline for a relatively easy 60-yard touchdown return. Losman overthrew Smith in the back of the end zone on the 2-point play, but Tulane was behind just 14-12 with 10:44 left in the quarter.

With Chang still out of the game, the UH offense sputtered. A low snap gave McBriar less time, and he drilled a 50-yard punt. Again Elpheage came up big, returning the ball 56 yards to set up the Tulane offense at the
Hawaii 17-yard line. Six plays later, Losman snuck in from the 1 to give the Green Wave their first lead of the contest.

Losman sprinted in on a quarterback draw on the PAT, and Tulane led 20-14 with
6:17 left in the third.

Then it went from bad to worse for the home crowd and their Warriors. Defensive end Kenan Blackmon got through and knocked the ball loose from Withy-Allen, recovering the bouncing pigskin at the
Hawaii 41-yard line.

The Warrior defense, formidable in the first half, gave up a 15-yard gain to
Moore on a toss sweep. Moore then went off right tackle 25 yards to paydirt. Moore, a 6-1, 203-pound junior, reached over the goal line with the football as he was taken down for the score. Irate UH fans loudly disputed the play.

Losman's pass on the 2-point try failed, but Tulane led 26-14 with
2:16 left. The avalanche was only beginning.

Hawaii's first play in the ensuing series, Withy-Allen dropped back and defensive end Michael Roberts tipped the ball away. Roberts recovered the loose pigskin at the Hawaii 16-yard line.

That's when
Hawaii's defense came alive. Tulane ran twice before Losman threw a bullet to Dunn on a slant, but Dunn was unable to hold on in the end zone after being hit. That set up a 24-yard attempt by Marler, but Eliminan got his second field-goal block of the night. This time, the defensive back fired in from the right side, deflecting the boot, which went into the line of scrimmage. Hawaii took over at its own 14-yard line, escaping potentially fatal damage.

Withy-Allen settled down, connecting on three passes in three attempts. Still, UH faced fourth-and-1 from its own 33 when Withy-Allen fired a missle to Colbert on an out pattern. Colbert eluded a tackler and sprinted up the sideline for a resounding 57-yard touchdown play. Ayat's PAT kick cut the lead to 26-21 with
13:26 left in the game.

Tulane responded with a scoring drive on the next series. Losman guided the Green Wave 80 yards in 10 plays. Losman's mobility was key, as he scrambled for 15 yards on three carries to keep the drive alive. His found
Moore open for a 15-yard gain on a key third-and-3 at midfield. Then, late in the drive, on third-and-12, he rolled deep to his right and lobbed a rainbow spiral to Moore down the right sideline for a 28-yard pickup. That gave Tulane first down at the Hawaii 2. Losman scored on the next play, slicing through defenders on a keeper to the left.

Tulane went for 2 again, and Losman rolled right and found Damarius Davis open on an out pattern. That gave the Green Wave a 34-21 lead with
8:54 to play.

Hawaii refused to surrender, driving 74 yards in eight plays. Again, Withy-Allen found Colbert, but this time he ran a slant and sliced through the secondary for a 31-yard touchdown play. Hawaii trailed 34-28 with 5:12 left. The Warrior defense stopped Tulane at the Hawaii 34, but again, the Green Wave's special teams came up big. Marler delivered a perfect "pooch" punt that trickled to the UH 1-yard line, where Tulane downed the ball.

On third down-and-10, Withy-Allen was pummeled by defensive lineman Roxie Shelvin. The ball bounced out of the back of the end zone for a safety, giving some insurance to Tulane. Leading 36-28 with
3:02 remaining, Chino Fontonette recovered the on-side kick, and the Green Wave ran out the remaining time for a huge win. 

@ Aloha Stadium


















Scoring Summary

First Quarter

HAWAII – Thero Mitchell 1 run (Justin Ayat kick), UH 7-0, 10:34.  

Second Quarter

HAWAII – Josh Galeai 2 run (Ayat kick), UH 14-0, 8:35.

TULANE – Seth Marler FG 23, UH 14-3, 5:01.

TULANE – Marler FG 37, UH 14-6, 2:28.

Third Quarter

TULANE – Lynaris Elpheage 60 punt return (pass failed), UH 14-12, 10:44.

TULANE – J.P. Losman 1 run (Losman run), TU 20-14, 6:17.

TULANE – Mewelde Moore 25 run (pass failed), TU 26-14, 2:16.

Fourth Quarter

HAWAII – Justin Colbert 57 pass from Shawn Withy-Allen (Ayat kick), TU 26-21, 13:26.

TULANE – Losman 3 run (Damarcus Davis pass from Losman), TU 34-21, 8:54.

HAWAII – Colbert 31 pass from Withy-Allen (Ayat kick), TU 34-28, 5:12.

TULANE – Team safety, Roxie Shelvin sack Withy Allen, ball out of end zone, TU 36-28, 3:02.

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