Dec. 25, 2002
By JAYMES SONG
AP Sports Writer
HONOLULU (AP) - Tulane coach Chris Scelfo got everybody's attention on the first play in Hawaii Bowl history.
Tulane recovered an onside kick on the opening play, and Lynaris Elpheage had two long punt returns in the Green Wave's 36-28 victory over Hawaii on Wednesday night.
"I wanted to show to my players and my staff that this is our place and we're the home team and we we're going to be the aggressors," Scelfo said about the onside kick.
"We didn't get any points out of it, but I think it sent a message to the team that we're here to win a football game."
The Green Wave (8-5) came in as a double-digit underdogs to the Warriors (10-4), who led the nation in passing and lost only once at Aloha Stadium in their last 11 games.
"I've never had a better week in my life," Tulane quarterback J.P. Losman said. "It was a great vacation and the win makes it so much sweeter. I'll have a smile on the plane ride home."
Losman ran for two touchdowns in the second half and completed 20 of 39 passes for 240 yards. But Elpheage's returns and the defense sparked Tulane.
Elpheage returned a punt for a touchdown and set up Tulane's go-ahead score with another long run. With the Green Wave down 14-6 in the third quarter, Elpheage scored on a 60-yard return.
Elpheage ran back Hawaii's next punt 56 yards, giving Tulane the ball at the Hawaii 17. That set up the go-ahead touchdown, a 1-yard run by Losman, that made it 20-14.
"I was just trying to get us going because we came out kind of flat in the first half because we were so anxious," said Elpheage selected the game's outstanding player after returning four punts for 143 yards. "I think we settled down and did what we had to do."
They made a lot of plays, but we just made a couple more.
Head coach Chris Scelfo
He was also part of the defense that kept Hawaii's high-powered offense grounded for most of the game by forcing three turnovers and recording eight sacks.
Just when the Green Wave appeared to take control of the game on Mewelde Moore's 25-yard TD run late in the third period that made 26-14, Hawaii attempted to comeback behind backup quarterback Shawn Withy-Allen.
Withy-Allen, who filled in for injured starter Timmy Chang, hooked up on a 57-yard scoring pass with Justin Colbert to make it 26-21. But Losman scored his second rushing TD, a 3-yarder, to extend the lead to 34-21.
Withy-Allen and Colbert combined on a 31-yard scoring play to narrow the gap with 5:12 left, but Tulane put the game out of reach when Roxie Shelvin sacked Withy-Allen in the end zone for a safety, making it 36-28 with 3:02 left.
"The punt return by Elpheage was huge for us and the safety was big and gave us another score," Scelfo said. "They made a lot of plays, but we just made a couple more."
Scelfo received a two-year contract extension Wednesday through the 2007 season.
Moore led Tulane in rushing with 30 carries for 116 yards, and receiving with six catches for 80 yards. At the half, Moore had only 22 yards rushing on 12 carries.
"I had to calm down a little bit," he said. "Once I relaxed and played my game, the good Lord just made everything else happen."
Hawaii took a 14-0 lead in the first half behind short scoring runs by Thero Mitchell and Josh Galeai, but Tulane scored 26 straight points - including 20 in the third quarter.
"We just had to believe in ourselves, calm down and take a deep breath," Losman said. "I think we were pressing a little bit at the beginning, trying a little too hard."
Hawaii coach June Jones said the Warriors didn't come together as a team like Tulane and committed "stupid" penalties.
"It's a team game," Jones said. "If you don't play together in all phases, you lose. They beat us. We deserved to lose the game."
Hawaii was without its offensive leader, Chang, for most of the game after he injured the thumb on his throwing hand in the second quarter. Chang completed 14 of 21 passes for 124 yards.
Withy-Allen was forced out of the pocket on almost every play. He was sacked five times, threw an interception and lost two fumbles. He finished with 239 yards on 18-of-31 passing.
"They caused a lot of disruptions. They didn't stop. They kept coming and coming," Withy-Allen said.
Colbert was Hawaii's top receiver with nine catches for 158 yards.
"We didn't protect the quarterback as well as we normally do and Shawn doesn't have a quick release as Timmy does and they knocked it out of his hand," Jones said.
Hawaii also was without two starters on the offensive line.
"I thought the biggest problem for them, is they didn't have continuity," Scelfo said. "They had two starters out today. The continuity of an offensive line is critical. We have four seniors up there on defense and they've been rushing the passer for a couple years now."