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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ilaoa in rare 100-yard form

 •  Quick-strike Warriors cruise to victory

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

UH running back Nate Ilaoa shakes off a tackle attempt by UNLV's Will Tagoai in the second period. Ilaoa rushed nine times for 104 yards.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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In complete shape or not, Nate Ilaoa is a pretty good running back for the Hawai'i football team.

Ilaoa proved his worth by rushing for 104 yards and two touchdowns to help lead the Warriors to a 42-13 victory over UNLV in Hawai'i's home opener at Aloha Stadium last night.

"It was good to come home in front of the hometown fans and get one (touchdown) ... or two," he said.

Making the effort more impressive, Ilaoa had to sit out the second half of Hawai'i's season-opening loss at Alabama because of a concussion.

"It was just good to get back," the senior from Stafford, Va., said. "I was kind of wary of the first contact that I was going to get because we don't hit too much in practice. But after that (first contact), it was exactly the same just playing football."

Also impressive, Ilaoa's 100-yard effort came on just nine carries. He rushed six times for 74 yards in the first half, when the Warriors jumped to a 28-0 lead. His 8-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter gave Hawai'i a 21-0 lead.

"I had intended to throw the football early in the game," Hawai'i head coach June Jones said. "I knew that at that point, we would get (UNLV) with the run after."

Ilaoa's final carry of the game resulted in a 7-yard touchdown run that put Hawai'i ahead 42-0 early in the third quarter. Ilaoa also caught three passes for 32 yards.

Ilaoa went untouched until he reached the UNLV secondary on several of his runs, and he said it was a credit to the UH passing offense.

"I'm just hoping I can be there for my receivers," he said. "It works both ways. Me being able to run and them being able to stretch the field as receivers helps each other out."

Still, 100-yard rushing games are rare in Hawai'i's pass-happy offense. Ilaoa's career-high 151 yards against San Diego State last season was the only 100-yard game of the season.

Jones said he wanted to give Ilaoa more carries last night, but instead rotated Reagan Mauia at running back throughout the first half.

"I'm gonna get on Nate a little bit," Jones said. "I tried to run him three or four or five times in a row, and I think he was getting a little tired. So he needs to get himself in better shape. He's a very gifted player as you all know."

Ilaoa is listed at 5 feet 9 and 254 pounds; Mauia, who rushed for 33 yards on six carries last night, is 6 feet and 296 pounds.

"The running game was awesome," Mauia said. "The o-line was blocking their butts off and Nate was awesome. That's the only word to describe Nate."

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com.