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Published: Saturday, 12/1/2007

Lot riding on Hawaii victory

ASSOCIATED PRESS

HONOLULU - They both beat Boise State, but otherwise the schedules of No. 11 Hawaii and Washington are nothing alike.

The Huskies (4-8) endured a brutal schedule with six ranked opponents, including three in the top 10. The Warriors (11-0) had the nation's easiest calendar with one ranked opponent and two from the Football Championship Subdivision.

Hawaii has one final opportunity to address skeptics when it hosts Washington tonight. The Warriors need a victory to finish the regular season as the nation's only unbeaten team, secure a BCS berth and keep alive Colt Brennan's bid for the Heisman Trophy.

"I know everyone is really excited about the possibilities in front of us, but everyone needs to focus on Washington right now because we've got to win this football game," said Brennan, who has thrown for 3,732 yards and 33 touchdowns.

The Warriors are right where they want to be, 12th in the Bowl Championship Series standings. They'll need to stay there when the final standings are released tomorrow to land in one of the choice bowl games.

With a win, the Warriors could be headed to the Sugar Bowl - their first postseason appearance outside the Aloha State since the 1992 Holiday Bowl.

For the Huskies, this is the closest thing to a bowl they've had in years and the first time they'll play a regular season game in December since 1939. They're hoping to spoil Hawaii's season and may be playing for their coach's future.

"This is not a vacation. This is business," Huskies defensive lineman Jordan Reffett said. "We need to get the job done and go out as a winner and give the fans something to cheer about, which we haven't done for awhile,"

Washington, ranked 98th in total defense, will be challenged in slowing down the high-flying Warriors, who clinched their first outright Western Athletic Conference title last week with a 39-27 win over Boise State. The Broncos had no answer for Brennan, who threw for 495 yards and five TDs.

Solomon Elimimian, who leads Hawaii with 120 tackles, said the team is thrilled with its success, "but at the same time we know it could be gone in a second."

He said a loss would be "embarrassing," and bolster critics who have questioned all season whether Hawaii should be among college football's elite.

"If we lose to Washington, all of it is for nothing," Elimimian said.

Hawaii owns the nation's longest winning streak of 12 games dating to its victory over Arizona State in the Hawaii Bowl. The Warriors have won 21 of their last 22 games.

The two teams last played in 1973 with the then-Rainbows upsetting the 50-point favored Huskies 10-7 in Seattle. The win is one of the biggest upsets in Hawaii history.

While this version of the Warriors will rely on Brennan's arm, Washington depends on the legs of quarterback Jake Locker, who at 6-foot-3, 225 pounds is built like a truck but has the speed of a race car.

"He's just a baller," Hawaii linebacker Adam Leonard said. "Everything in the word 'athlete' that's what he is. He's fast, big, strong. He's not an everyday quarterback that runs and gets out of bounds. He runs through tacklers and tries to score on every play."

Locker has run for 910 yards and 12 TDs while throwing for 1,920 yards and 14 TDs. But he has been intercepted 14 times.

"It's a good opportunity to go in and kind of let it all hang out," Locker said, "give everything we have and see what happens."



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