Sunday, January 18, 2004

Iowa's Russell is Hula MVP

By Jaymes Song
The Associated Press

WAILUKU, Hawaii - Iowa's Fred Russell said his trip to Hawaii was the best vacation he ever had. It showed Saturday.

Russell ran for 101 yards and two touchdowns to help Aina beat Kai 26-7 in the Hula Bowl.

"The O-Line did a great job for me," he said. "It starts up front and when I see daylight, I make it happen."

The speedy, 5-foot-8 back carried the ball eight times, including scoring runs of 12 and 35 yards, and was selected Aina's most valuable player.

Russell, who ran for 1,355 yards and seven TDs for Iowa, said the scouts didn't see anything new from him.

"They've seen all that before," he said.

The college all-star game featured 96 seniors and was played on an 81-degree day in front of 9,128 fans at War Memorial Stadium on the island of Maui.

Aina, which means "land" in Hawaiian, was led by Ohio State coach Jim Tressel. Kai, which means "ocean," was coached by Maryland's Ralph Friedgen.

"Both teams competed very hard," Tressel said. "Our guys made some big plays out there and that made the difference."

Both coaches had floral leis and were appropriately dressed in Hawaiian shirts and shorts.

"It was an enjoyable time and a wonderful experience," Friedgen said. "The island can't be beat. The people here are warm and very friendly."

Aina built a 16-0 lead and went into halftime with a 19-7 advantage behind the play of Central Florida's Ryan Schneider.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pound quarterback had 206 yards passing and a touchdown in the first half, but cooled off in the second half closing with eight straight incomplete passes.

Schneider, who took nearly every snap for Aina with teammate Casey Bramlet of Wyoming sidelined by a sore right shoulder, finished 11-of-27 for 206 yards and one TD.

Tennessee's Mark Jones caught a short pass in stride from Schneider and broke through the middle, racing 86 yards for a touchdown to put Aina up 16-0.

Jones finished with two catches for 96 yards.

"I went out with a bang," he said. "I found a hole and the quarterback threw."

After a 35-yard punt by B.J. Sander of Ohio State that pinned Kai on its 5, Michigan State's Jeff Smoker fumbled Kai's first snap of the game and recovered the ball in the end zone, giving up a safety.

Smoker and Louisiana Tech quarterback Luke McCown failed to effectively move Kai. But they weren't disappointed with their trip.

"The experience is tremendous, getting out here and playing with the best in the nation," said McCown, who is ranked sixth in the NCAA career passing yards (12,666).

McCown was 6-of-18 for 155 yards and threw two interceptions. Smoker was 7-of-13 for 47 yards.

"This week was great, it was the experience of a lifetime," Smoker said. "The game could have gone better. I'm a competitor and I hate losing, but it was a fun week."

Kai got on the scoreboard late in the first half on a 1-yard dive by UNLV's Larry Croom that made it 16-7. The play was set up by a 31-yard pass from McCown to Hawaii's Jeremiah Cockheran that put the ball on Aina's 9.

A prayer was held before the game in memory of high school cheerleader Lauren Crossan, 18, who died early Monday in a fall from a ninth-floor hotel balcony.

Crossan, of Randolph, N.J., was on Maui, along with some 500 other youth cheerleaders, to perform at halftime.


Texas Tech's Wes Welker was presented the Mosi Tatupu Award, given to the nation's best special team's player. Welker holds the career NCAA records in punt returns for touchdowns and punt return yards. ... More than 50 pro scouts watched the Hula Bowl workouts. ... Hawaii and national champion Southern California had the most players represented with four each. ... The game, which featured six Japanese players, was televised in Japan for the first time.

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