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Broncos now educated about ECU

By Liane Yim
Honolulu Advertiser Staff Writer
All rights reserved.

Liane Yim

Honolulu Advertiser staff writer Liane Yim authored this article. Earlier this week, she filed a feature story for Bonesville about the East Carolina team's  activities and mindset in the days leading up to the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Link opens a new window:
These tourists are on a mission


HONOLULU — ESPN reported that 98 percent of the country didn’t expect East Carolina to win. Some Boise State players questioned if the Pirates were a Division I team.

If that isn’t enough to fire up the underdogs, what could?

“Coach just told us to be physical and play 60 minutes and we did that," wide receiver Alex Taylor said after the Pirates spent a few hours introducing themselves to the Broncos head-to-head. "We never gave up, we kept going and we knew we faced adversity and we pulled through in the end.”

Indeed, the Pirates made a bold statement about their program, stunning 24th-ranked Boise State 41-38 in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

“So after this game, they know what a D-I program is. We’re not South Carolina, we’re not North Carolina,” running back Chris Johnson said.

“Chris gave everything he had, 110 percent, and I promise you he’ll sleep well on the way home — he’ll be playing on Sundays as well,” quarterback Rob Kass said, alluding to the interest of NFL scouts in the senior speedster.

Johnson was named the Most Valuable Player for East Carolina but, more importantly, he set an NCAA bowl record with 408 all-purpose yards.

“We knew about his speed, we just didn’t tackle him,” Broncos coach Chris Petersen said.

“To come here and beat a ranked opponent and have a good game, it feels good to leave college on a good note,” Johnson said.

The eclectic mix of 24,079 fans that showed up at Aloha Stadium witnessed something magical — and loud. There were those that wore replica jerseys of Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan, while others wore green for the Sugar Bowl-bound Warriors, orange for Boise State or purple for East Carolina.

The throng cheered, started the wave and literally shook the stadium. Even the press boxes swayed with the momentum of the game as the sound of the noisemakers issued to attendees drained into the commotion.

The halftime show featured Grammy nominated artist Amy Hanaialii Gilliom and a hula show filled with lei, Hawaiian prints and lavish color.

Among those in attendance were local Sheraton Hawaii Bowl supporters hoping to keep the bowl alive for the future.

“We’ve been coming to this game ever since the bowl started and it doesn’t matter who’s in it because if we supported the team, we support the bowl and we support the Warriors (University of Hawaii),” fan Dennis Enomoto said. “We don’t know anything about East Carolina. All we know is the coach (Skip Holtz) is Lou Holtz’s son, that’s all.”

Some family members of the ECU seniors who played their last game as college athletes made the twelve-hour flight and have participated in bowl activities all week.

Left guard Matt Butler’s parents Dennis and Sarah Butler had this to say: “Our son, its his 40th straight game he’s starting so I didn’t want to miss it. I’ve been to all of them. I wanted to make sure I made them all.”

Kim Rogers, who lived on Oahu "as a little girl," made the trek with seven other family members to watch her son, wide receiver Steven Rogers. “We came because this is it for Steven," she said. "This is his last game and what a great way to go out.”

Right tackle Josh Coffman’s parents Gary and Jan said, “Last year it was an abbreviated bowl. This year there were more events for the players and Sheraton really put on a lot of events for the kids, too. so it was good to see. It’s our son's last game, a nice ending for our family.”

Just as Ben Hartman kicked a 34-yard field goal as the clock ran out to seal the victory, the leis, aloha shirts and Hawaiian food such as poke, poi and kalua pig became instruments in the celebration.

The Pirates exploded onto the field as soon as the scoreboard lit up the final score and posed for pictures with their championship trophy. It wasn’t just any picture pose; it included the “shaka” greeting sign associated with Hawaii.

“This is a story of a group of young men that were 1-10, 2-9 (in 2003 and 2004) and said enough is enough,” Coach Skip Holtz said.

The Pirates return to the real winter weather with a championship trophy and fond memories of completing an unforgettable season in paradise.

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12/24/2007 06:58:37 AM

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