TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- John Parker Wilson's stock is on the
rise with Alabama coach Mike Shula.
The sophomore threw for 253 yards and a touchdown in his first
collegiate start Saturday as Alabama got a late defensive stand to
hold off Hawaii 25-17.
Leigh Tiffin added three field goals for the Crimson Tide, which
had two apparent touchdowns overturned on replay challenges by
Wilson started slowly, completing only four of 10 passes for 80
yards in the first half. Looking more comfortable after halftime,
he was 12-of-19 attempts for 173 yards and a 35-yard touchdown pass
to Keith Brown.
Shula, himself a former Alabama quarterback, liked what he saw.
"I think the way (Wilson) played today gives us some confidence
to throw it more," said Shula.
Things got dicy late, though.
Down by a touchdown and 2-point conversion, Hawaii drove the
ball to the Alabama 26 with 13 seconds left. On fourth down with 1
second remaining, Colt Brennan lofted a pass to the goal line,
where the Tide's Lionel Mitchell jumped for an interception to
preserve the win.
Brown, who caught six passes for 132 yards, said the Tide let up
too much after getting the lead.
"To dominate the game you have to pound them, to keep your foot
on them," he said. "When we have an opponent down we just have to
continue to pound on them."
Hawaii didn't reach the end zone until late in the third
quarter, when Reagan Mauia scored on a 16-yard shovel pass from
Brennan. Brennan threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to Ryan
Grice-Mullen midway through the fourth quarter to bring the
Warriors within eight.
Dan Kelly kicked a 42-yard field goal for Hawaii on the game's
opening drive, but Alabama didn't trail again.
Wilson is the older brother of prep quarterback Ross Wilson, who
is currently featured in the MTV reality show "Two-A-Days" about
Hoover High School in suburban Birmingham.
Tiffin, a freshman, kicked field goals of 31, 23, 27 yards.
The Crimson Tide defense held Hawaii to 22 yards on the ground
and 350 passing.
A Hawaii challenge killed what was first ruled an Alabama
touchdown off a botched punt. Officials determined the Tide's Roy
Upchurch recovered a bad punt snap out of bounds instead of in the
end zone, and Bama settled for a safety.
Hawaii used another video review to wipe out an apparent TD pass
by Wilson to Brown. The drive ended in a field goal by Tiffin, son
of former Alabama kicking great Van Tiffin.
The game was played in the newly expanded and sold-out
Bryant-Denny Stadium, which seats 92,138 and is now the nation's
fifth-largest on-campus stadium. Outside, a new plaza features
statues of former national championship coaches including Paul
Alabama linebacker Juwan Simpson played from the opening drive
and had nine tackles despite his offseason arrest on charges of
marijuana possession and carrying a handgun without a license.
Simpson entered a court-ordered drug program and paid $300 in fines
for the weapons charge.
Simpson earned his way to the field, Shula said.
"He's worked hard to prove himself. We're going to need his
leadership and all those other guys," he said.
Hawaii found out quickly that the Bama crowd didn't have a taste
for island culture.
Before kickoff, the Warriors gathered in front of the Alabama
student section and performed a traditional Polynesian dance as
"Sweet Home Alabama" played over the loudspeakers. The boos
nearly drowned out Lynyrd Skynyrd.