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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 30, 2006

Warriors make time for fun, game

 •  Foes never a mystery to Warrior football team

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Physical linguists those who read body language would be puzzled after watching the University of Hawai'i football team prepare for tonight's game against visiting Eastern Illinois.

The Warriors lost to rival Boise State last Saturday, their charter flight was canceled three times totaling a 13 1/2-hour delay, and injuries and inconsistency have convulsed the depth chart.

Still, the Warriors have remained upbeat.

On Thursday, the scout players led by assistant coach Jeff Reinebold renamed themselves the "Banditos," and declared a goal of making miserable the life of the starting players.

During a kickoff drill, Reinebold announced the Banditos were going after wideout Malcolm Lane, a former scout, who practiced with the first-string offense this week. After a nice return, and the Banditos closing in, Lane scooted toward the sidelines.

Last week, breakdowns on three snap-to-hold connections resulted in a seven-point swing the winning margin of Boise State's victory. This week, backup quarterback Inoke Funaki replaced punter Kurt Milne as the holder on placekicks, and Funaki's debut was greeted with heckles.

"That's Charlie Brown," safety Leonard Peters said, pointing toward Funaki.

When reminded that it was Lucy, not Charlie Brown, who was the holder in the Peanuts comic strips, Peters said: "OK, he's Lucy ... as in loosey in the head."

Later, Funaki said: "I think I'd rather be Charlie Brown."

"They've been practicing pretty good," head coach June Jones said. "We want them to be focused, to know their stuff, and after that they can have fun."

Most of all, Jones said, "after a loss, you've got to win. You can't have two losses in a row."

Eastern Illinois also is trying to mix business and pleasure. The Panthers arrived Wednesday night, and were allowed free time before curfew.

After Thursday's practice they were given four hours of free time. They attended a lu'au that night.

Yesterday, they visited the Arizona Memorial.

"We want our players to prepare for the game, but also experience Hawai'i," said Mark Hutson, the offensive coordinator serving as interim head coach for Bob Spoo, who is recovering from an illness.

This is Hutson's fifth trip to Hawai'i. He was here as a Hula Bowl player, twice as a Tulsa assistant coach, and on his honeymoon. "That was the most enjoyable trip," he said, smiling.

Here's a look at tonight's game:

EIU OFFENSE

WR80 Micah Rucker 6-6 221 Jr.

FL3 Jermaine Mobley 6-0 190 Sr.

LT75 Eric Johnson 6-4 295 Sr.

LG63 Drew Cairo-Gross 6-2 325 Jr.

C65 Steve Sobolewski 6-4 285 Sr.

RG77 Jon Rueter 6-5 282 Sr.

RT73 Anthony Rubican 6-6 289 Jr.

TE86 Adam Parsill 6-5 259 Sr.

WR9 Ryan Voss 6-5 198 Sr.

QB10 Mike Donato 6-1 193 Jr.

RB29 Vincent Webb 5-11 206 Sr.

Outlook: Like the Warriors, the Panthers align in a one-back formation. The difference is UH uses two wideouts and two slotbacks while the Panthers employ two wideouts, a flanker and a tight end. The Panthers also waste little time. Of their 16 scoring drives this season, only two lasted longer than five minutes.

Donato will take snaps from under center or by shotgun, and throw off three- or five-step drops. He also is skilled in selling the play-action pass.

Rucker is the deep threat, averaging 24.7 yards per catch. Six of his 16 receptions resulted in touchdowns. Voss has been battling injuries, and might not be available to play.

The key is Webb, who averages 5.8 yards per carry. Webb said he has fully healed from surgeries to his left ankle during each of the past two springs. "It's fine," said Webb, who still can run 40 yards in 4.5 seconds. "I worked with the trainers, and I got my strength back. No problems so far."

Webb, whose father's best friend is Evander Holyfield, prefers the boxer's training methods. "I'll do a lot of running, a lot of rope-jumping," he said. "Sometimes I'll hit the heavy bag."

EIU DEFENSE

DE55 Michael Torres 6-1 255 Jr.

DT90 Tim Kelly 6-4 277 Jr.

DT97 Jeff Sobol 6-3 254 So.

DE91 Pierre Walters 6-5 261 So.

SLB6 Lucious Seymour 5-10 209 Sr.

MLB54 Donald Thomas 5-10 237 Jr.

WLB47 Matt Westrick 6-1 241 Jr.

CB2 Ben Brown 6-1 185 Sr.

SS1 Tristan Burge 6-0 208 Sr.

FS26 Seymour Loftman 5-11 191 So.

CB7 B.J. Brown 5-11 170 Sr.

Outlook: The Panthers' good fortune expired at the end of training camp. All-America linebacker Clint Sellers has not played since suffering a shoulder injury on the season's opening play. Burge, an All-America safety, has a variety of injuries. His availability is listed as a "game-time decision."

"We've had four physical games this year, and I think the law of averages catches up to you, and we've had a number of injuries," Hutson said.

The loss of head coach Spoo, who underwent surgery in August and won't return for a few more weeks, also has affected the Panthers. "My biggest influence has been coach Spoo," defensive coordinator Roc Bellantoni said. "Without him around, it's been pretty tough. It's been a rough year for us. He's the face of the program, and he's one of the faces of our university."

The Panthers align in 3-2, 4-2 and 3-3 defensive fronts. They also like to press the corners and, sometimes, use them as blitzers. Burge is the defensive leader. "He's an NFL prospect," Bellantoni said. The other top defenders are Walters, a snarling pass-rusher who has all four of the Panthers' sacks, and Seymour, a physical linebacker.

EIU SPECIALISTS

PK/P27 Zach Yates 5-11 175 So.

LS86 Adam Parsill 6-5 259 Sr.

KR15 Quinten Ponius 5-9 197 So.

KR1 Tristan Burge 6-0 208 Sr.

PR19 Adam Kesler 5-9 180 So.

Outlook: Yates is a busy body. He averages 40.9 yards per punt. As a placekicker, he's pefect on four field-goal attempts including both from beyond 40 yards and 12 of 13 on PATs.

UH OFFENSE

LWO84 Jason Rivers 6-2 192 Jr.

LSB7 Davone Bess 5-10 195 So.

LT70 Tala Esera 6-4 308 Sr.

LG65 Hercules Satele 6-2 288 Jr.

C64 Samson Satele 6-3 298 Sr.

RG55 John Estes 6-2 290 Fr.

RT72 Dane Uperesa 6-4 310 Sr.

RSB/RWO82 Ross Dickerson 5-10 198 Sr.

RSB85 Aaron Bain 5-9 183 So.

RWO3 Ian Sample 5-10 196 Sr.

QB15 Colt Brennan 6-3 196 Jr.

RB4 Nate Ilaoa 5-9 250 Sr.

Outlook: Sample, a sixth-year senior, has been a pleasant surprise, receiving the highest performance score among the receivers in last week's game against Boise State. While Rivers caught three TD passes in that game, he incurred the coaches' ire when he broke the wrong way on a designed play, leading to a key interception in the second quarter.

Right slotback Ryan Grice-Mullins won't play because of a sprained left ankle. It appears Dickerson, who started the first three games at right wideout, will get the first shot at right slotback. Bain also will play extensively.

Bess also has been bothered by a sprained right ankle. Although he has been limited in practice, and his ankle is covered with an ice pack every afternoon, he will start. "Nothing's wrong," Bess told reporters on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Nothing is wrong, either, with Brennan, who had one of his best games last week. He completed 25 of 36 passes for 388 yards and five touchdowns. Of his 11 incompletions, five were on drops, three were breakups and one was thrown away intentionally. The interception was a combination of an incorrect route and a deflection. Factor in all of those things, and Brennan should have been 33 of 36.

Ilaoa also is continuing his astonishing post-catch effectiveness. Last week, his average yards-after-catch (YAC) was 26.3; for the season, his average YAC is 17.4.

UH DEFENSE

LE98 Melila Purcell III 6-5 276 Sr.

NT67 Michael Lafaele 6-0 302 Jr.

RE91 Ikaika Alama-Francis 6-6 285 Sr.

LOLB12 Karl Noa 6-4 240 Jr.

ILB44 Adam Leonard 6-0 236 So.

ILB41 Solomon Elimimian 6-0 224 So.

Or 43 Brad Kalilimoku 5-10 213 Jr.

ROLB13 Brashton Satele 6-2 243 Fr.

Or 33 C.J. Allen-Jones 6-1 224 So.

LCB24 Kenny Patton 6-0 188 Sr.

FS42 Leonard Peters 6-1 217 Sr.

SS31 Jake Patek 6-0 202 Jr.

RCB19 C.J. Hawthorne 5-11 161 Jr.

Outlook: Injuries and one recovery will alter the defensive lineup. Elimimian, who has not played since suffering a partially torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on Sept. 2, is expected to open at inside linebacker. He has practiced without a brace this week.

Left outside linebacker Tyson Kafentzis, who has a hairline fracture in his right ankle, will not play, opening the way for Noa, a fourth-year junior, to make his first NCAA start.

Because Eastern Illinois relies heavily on the tight end, Satele, who is best at matching up against tight ends, is expected to earn his first NCAA start. Allen-Jones and Amani Purcell also will rotate at right outside linebacker.

Hawthorne, who started the first two games at left cornerback but not last week's loss, is back in the lineup, this time at right cornerback. Hawthorne earned the promotion because of his open-field tackling.

UH SPECIALISTS

PK86 Daniel Kelly 6-3 202 So.

P25 Kurt Milne 6-0 205 Sr.

LS57 Jake Ingram 6-4 268 So.

H11 Inoke Funaki 5-11 195 Fr.

KR82 Ross Dickerson 5-10 198 Sr.

KR24 Kenny Patton 6-0 188 Sr.

PR38 Myron Newberry 5-8 164 Jr.

Outlook: After last week's breakdown in the snap-to-hold connection, Funaki replaces Milne as the holder. Prior to that game, the Warriors had gone 10 games in a row without a bad snap on placekicks.

Newberry, who averaged 13.5 yards per punt return last week, keeps the job mostly because of his ability to catch. "Before you can do all of the rest of the moves, you have to catch the ball," said Mouse Davis, who coordinates special teams. "He catches it well. And he's got good quickness."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.