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Christmas Day Classic

By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.

In a surprising twist that perfectly summarizes the year 2020, the 4-4 University of Hawaii football team has accepted an invitation to play the 3-4 Houston Cougars in the New Mexico Bowl…in Frisco, Texas.

The battle of UH’s will take place on Christmas Eve at Toyota Stadium. (The bowl game is normally played in Albuquerque, but current New Mexico State guidelines regarding COVID-19 protocols necessitated the location change.) Kickoff is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. HST.

This will be only the second meeting between the two schools. Their first meeting was certainly a memorable game, for good and bad reasons.

Christmas Day, 2003: In front of some 25,000 festive fans at Aloha Stadium, the Rainbow Warriors outlasted the Cougars, 54-48, in three overtimes. Timmy Chang came off the bench to throw for 475 yards and 5 TDs, including three to fellow Saint Louis School alum Jason Rivers. Hawaii RB Michael Brewster scored on an 8-yard scamper in the third OT, and then the UH defense stopped the Cougars on four downs to secure the win.

Houston led, 10-3, after the second quarter. On the first play of the second quarter, Hawaii starting QB Jason Whieldon was knocked out of the game with a separated shoulder. Whieldon had taken the starting QB reins late in the season after leading the Rainbow Warriors to a home win over Alabama.

Chang’s first pass of the game was a 48-yard TD strike to receiver Clifton Herbert. In all, Chang completed passes to eight different receivers, including Rivers (7-143), Britton Komine (7-73) and Jeremiah Cockheran (5-162). Brewster led Hawaii’s ground attack with 79 yards on 14 carries.

Hawaii finished its season with a 9-5 record. It was the program’s second straight Hawaii Bowl appearance for the Rainbow Warriors and their fifth-year head coach, June Jones.

Houston was quarterbacked by Kevin Kolb, who would later play for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals. The Cougars’ head coach was Art Briles, who would later lead the Baylor Bears to back-to-back Big 12 titles.

While the game itself will be remembered as a Christmas Day classic, the event was also marred by a postgame brawl between the two teams.

Here are highlights from the game, via ESPN Sportscenter (with Neil Everett, no less):

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