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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, October 23, 2002

UH linemen take aim at WAC sack record

By Stephen Tsai and Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writers

The University of Hawai'i football team has a chance to beat its unofficial record for fewest sacks allowed by a Western Athletic Conference team in a season.

The WAC, which was founded in 1962, did not keep sack records during the early seasons.

UH relinquished 10 sacks in 12 games in 2000, a total that is being credited as the league's unofficial record. The Warriors have allowed four sacks in seven games this season. They have six regular-season games remaining.

The achievement is remarkable considering right guard Vince Manuwai and right tackle Uriah Moenoa are the only starting linemen playing the same position they played last year. Center Lui Fuata played left tackle last season and left guard during spring practice. Left guard Shayne Kajioka was a backup last season, and left tackle Wayne Hunter is a converted defensive lineman.

"It's the coaching," Hunter said. "We have things perfected before the game even starts."

The Warriors also have been able to adjust on the fly. Last week, Tulsa used a defensive formation the Warriors did not expect. Still, for the second consecutive game, the Warriors did not relinquish a sack.

"It's all about adjustment," Hunter said. "You can only do so much when you prepare for another team. If the other team does something you haven't prepared for, you have to trust your (blocking) technique. That's the best way to go."

The Warriors' offense also benefits from quarterback Tim Chang's quick pass release. Combined with the blocking, Chang is able to remain in the pocket longer while pass routes develop.

"I don't leave the pocket too often, and that's because I feel safe," Chang said.

Down the block: Spurred by wideout Jeremiah Cockheran, the UH receivers now are aggressively trying to knock down defenders.

At 6 feet, Cockheran is the tallest receiver on the two-deep chart. But when it comes to blocking, the receivers insist, size doesn't matter.

"We're pretty strong for our size and stature," said slotback Britton Komine, who is 5 feet 10. "We love blocking. It wakes up the crowd."

Cockheran said the receivers have a "pancake fest going on." Cockheran and slotback Nate Ilaoa are tied with three pancake blocks apiece. Cockheran said he regrets the one that got away against Tulsa.

"I pulled up," he said. "I don't know why I did."

Cockheran said a good block sends a message to bump-and-run defenders. "The receivers aren't weak," Cockheran said. "We might look it (but) we'll knock the crap out of you."

Scenic route: A long journey has ended with extended playing time for slotback Omar Bennett.

As a freshman, Bennett played at California, then eventually transferred to a junior college. He signed with UH in 2001, but did not compete last year while trying to earn more academic credits. Bennett, now a fifth-year senior, is finally earning playing time as a backup to Komine at left slotback.

"I feel I'm getting used to the speed of the game again," Bennett said.

Bennett was recruited as a wideout, but now prefers playing the slot, where he is defended by safeties and linebackers instead of speedy cornerbacks. Bennett also is a punt returner.

See you at kickoff: The guys at Delta Sigma Phi fraternity have a message for the Warriors:

Sorry they missed you at practice this time, but they'll catch up with you at the game.

It was the, uh, serenade from the lanai of the frat house adjacent to UH's practice two years ago that drove the Warriors to do their pre-game Mainland workouts elsewhere this time.

The trash talking — inventive enough to cause UH coaches to laugh but infuriating for a team on the way to a then-3-9 season — rattled several Warriors and inspired others.

For the sake of privacy and focus, Jones scheduled the Warriors to work out tonight in Ontario, Calif., where the team's charter flight is stopping to refuel. They will spend the night there and are scheduled to arrive in Fresno tomorrow at 6:50 p.m.

One student, who identified himself as "Kyle" yesterday said, "It is too bad they aren't coming back, but we'll see them at the game, anyway."

"Loren," another frat member, said, "They'll know we're there because we will be right behind them (in Section 31) in the stands."