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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Slim Keli'ikipi back on field

 •  Ferd Lewis:
Hawai'i left with some legwork
 •  UH No. 5 in ESPN.com's 'Bottom 10'

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

University of Hawai'i running back West Keli'ikipi yesterday participated in his first practice since suffering a torn meniscus in his left knee last November.


"The knee is no problem," Keli'ikipi said. "I'm just trying to get it stronger. I'm taking it day by day. I hope I can play in the (Sept. 18) Rice game."

UH has a bye this weekend.

Keli'ikipi, a 6-foot-1 senior from Wai'anae, dropped 16 pounds since reporting to training camp weighing 278 pounds.

"The coaches want me to drop a little more," he said. "I'm trying my best. There were a lot of things going on in my mind, but now I'm focused."

In May, Keli'ikipi was suspended after he was charged with helping to defraud a medical insurance account in 2000, three years before he first enrolled at UH. A few days before the opening of training camp, Keli'ikipi was reinstated to the team. Although his case is pending, he is expected to enter a deferred plea of no contest, meaning if he stays clean for a certain period, the charge will not go on his record.

"It happened in 2000, and I tried to move on with my life," he said. "I went back to school to try and better myself and better my life. I was doing a lot of community service."

After joining the Warriors last year, he said, "a lot of people looked up to me. (After being charged) I felt bad, because it was like I was preaching one thing even though I did something else in the past. That was a downfall for me."

He said he carried the guilt most of the summer. "I couldn't get it off my chest," he said. But he said the head pastors at New Hope and Word of Life both told him: "You have to keep the faith."

"That's what I've been doing every single day of my life," he said. "I thought the church would put me on the side because of what I did. But the church supported me 100 percent. I'm very grateful."

Keli'ikipi said he did not receive medical treatment on his left knee during the suspension. After being reinstated and forgiving himself, "things started to fall into place," he said. "I got my treatment. I got my knee rehabbed. Now everything is fine."

Keli'ikipi, a powerful blocker and runner, should ease 5-foot-5 Michael Brewster's workload. Keli'ikipi averaged 6.7 yards per carry last season.

Ayat lone placekicker on travel roster

UH coach June Jones said Justin Ayat, who is recovering from a groin injury, will be the only placekicker on the 60-player travel roster for the Rice game in Houston. Ayat will take over the kickoffs from backup punter Tim Wright, who handled that job against Florida Atlantic.

With UH leading 28-22 in the fourth quarter, Jones opted to go for it on fourth-and-10 from the FAU 27 instead of summoning Ayat for a 44-yard field-goal attempt. UH relinquished possession after Brewster was stopped after a 5-yard gain.

Jones had said he decided against the field goal because of uncertainty over Ayat's condition — he attempted three kicks during pre-game warmups — and a lack of confidence in backup Nolan Miranda, who has struggled during training camp.

Asked about his range during the fourth quarter, Ayat told the coaches he was confident he could kick up to 45 yards.

"Coach Jones makes the final decisions," Ayat said. "He probably felt I didn't warm up enough and that I wasn't much of a sure thing. ... I felt I was ready. I felt I could have hit it. It's not my responsibility to make the call. I'm supposed to get myself ready, and if he needs me, it's his call. In that situation, he didn't feel he needed me."

Ayat said he hopes rest and treatment will help his injury. He said he will begin working on his kickoffs on Monday.

Meanwhile, Miranda said he will try to fight through his recent slump.

"I think I'm getting lazy with my technique," Miranda said.

He said his usual routine is to take a jab step before leaving on his approach. He said he might be lengthening the jab step inadvertently and "it messes me up."

He added: "I have to get the coach's confidence back. I don't think he's that confident in me right now."

In an emergency, punter Kurt Milne said he can be used on kickoffs and placekicks. As a high school senior, Milne kicked a 49-yard field goal.

Stickler sidelined with shoulder injury

A magnetic resonance imaging showed a fractured glenoid — the shallow socket — in backup running back Ryan Stickler's right shoulder blade. He suffered the injury during the opening kickoff against Florida Atlantic.

"I don't know if he's out for the year, but (the glenoid) is broken, so it'll be a while," Jones said.

Jones said he expects starting slotbacks Se'e Poumele (stretched nerve in right hamstring) and Chad Owens (sore right shoulder) to be available to play against Rice.

Reserve running back Chris Cole has a sprained left ankle.

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8051.

• • •

UH No. 5 in ESPN.com's 'Bottom 10'

The University of Hawai'i football team is nationally ranked — but it isn't anything the school will want to put out a press release about.

ESPN.com ranked the Warriors No. 5 yesterday in its weekly "Bottom 10" feature.

"All the Warriors had to do was win a home opener against probationary Div. I-A member Florida Atlantic, whose team didn't even exist five years ago, that traveled 4,848 miles for the game. They didn't," ESPN said.

ESPN said it chose UH over several schools for, "the season's first highly coveted No. 5 spot. The Warriors' 35-28 OT loss at home to Florida Atlantic is the kind of a defeat that can ruin a promising season."

Baylor is "No. 1" in the poll, followed by San Jose State, Army, Buffalo and UH.

Advertiser Staff