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

Defense steps up to make big plays against UNLV

 •  Quick-strike Warriors cruise to victory

By Stacy Kaneshiro
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawai'i safety Leonard Peters goes up to deflect a pass. Peters broke up three passes and had an interception against UNLV.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The next best thing to winning would be to hold an opponent scoreless.

Hawai'i came close, but the points allowed in last night's 42-13 win was a lot for the season-opening home crowd of 28,173 at Aloha Stadium to cheer about. Since UH's 24-0 win against Idaho on Sept. 24 of last season, UH had allowed an average of 34.8 points per game.

"You always want to shut out people," UH defensive end Ikaika Alama-Francis said. "But sometimes it doesn't happen. I was hoping for that shutout, but all of our defenses played good. Our second team, out third team. We just have to build on this."

The Rebels avoided being blanked for the first time since 2003 (7-0 to San Diego State) when running back David Peeples scored on a 1-yard run with 3:51 left in the third quarter to make it 42-7.

The Warriors' strongest defensive effort since the shutout of Idaho came under the direction of sophomore inside linebacker Adam Leonard, who took over play-calling duties for the injured Solomon Elimimian. That meant Leonard was responsible for the play calls.

"We lost our 'coach,' " said UH defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville referring to Elimimian. "We had Adam do what No. 41 (Elimimian) does. He did a good job tonight."

Leonard relished the responsibility.

"I felt I did a pretty good job, especially with the direction we wanted to go with the calls we made," said Leonard, third on the team with 3.5 total tackles and two passes broken up. "I don't think I made any mistakes."

The player who filled in for Elimimian was junior Brad Kalilimoku. All he did was lead the team with six total tackles, including one of three sacks on UNLV quarterback Rocky Hinds.

"We were really keying on the quarterback tonight because we knew he could run," Kalilimoku said.

The Rebels were held to 271 yards and 18 first downs. They could not register any sort of ground game, averaging 1.4 yards per rush. The Warriors got key plays from their linemen, linebackers and secondary.

Although, the defense gave up two TDs, it did get one back on free safety Leonard Peters' 33-yard interception return for his first TD that increased UH's lead to 35-0 early in the third quarter. It was his first interception in two seasons.

"It felt good, but I'm trying to fix the things I did wrong, like my two tackles I missed," he said.

Peters, who broke up three passes, was credited with just one tackle.

Hawai'i's defense set the tone on UNLV's first series. End Melila Purcell dropped running back Erick Jackson for a 1-yard loss. Later in the series, Alama-Francis pressured Hinds into throwing an errant pass. Linebacker C.J. Allen-Jones also dumped Jackson for a 1-yard loss. Then on fourth-and-11 at the UH 32, Hinds found Ryan Wolfe wide open over the middle. But Peters' leap of faith allowed him to deflect the ball away.

"I think the angels were helping me on that," he said. "Every time I jumped up today, my rib was popping out. But I had two angels lifting me up on that play."

Credited with the other two sacks were Amani Purcell and Alama-Francis. In all, UH had eight tackles for lost yardage.

"Our main goal tonight was to run to the ball and hit them as hard as we can," Peters said. "It was good that a lot of guys who usually don't get to play got to play because they practice so hard, so we're happy about that."

The Warriors hope last night's performance is just the start.

"We have a long season ahead," Alama-Francis said. "We just have to keep this going and take it to Boise (State, next week's opponent)."

Reach Stacy Kaneshiro at skaneshiro@honoluluadvertiser.com.