UH Warriors get down to work
|Photo gallery: Hawaii practices in New Orleans Saints facility|
|Photo gallery: Georgia practices in Superdome|
|Video: Warriors practice in New Orleans|
|||Warriors go first class selecting a place to practice|
|Video: UH football team at first practice in New Orleans|
|||UH card show in Superdome|
By Stephen Tsai
By Stephen Tsai
NEW ORLEANS — To be sure, there's no place like dome.
Not for the Hawai'i football team, which resumed practicing yesterday after taking off two days for the holidays and another to recuperate from a nonstop, red-eye flight from Honolulu.
In preparation for Tuesday's Sugar Bowl against Georgia, the Warriors booked a two-hour practice in the New Orleans Saints' indoor facility.
"Sweet," gushed quarterback Colt Brennan as he walked onto an artificial surface as plush as Aladdin's carpet. "It's awesome."
"This reminds me of my backyard back home (in Samoa)," said left tackle Keith AhSoon.
The Warriors entered the domed facility shortly before the Saints finished their practice.
"We saw (Saints quarterback) Drew Brees working out with some of his receivers," UH defensive end Francis Maka said. "It was cool to see the pros working out."
While some Warriors sneaked to the weight room to catch a glimpse of Saints running back Reggie Bush, UH punter Tim Grasso decided to stay put.
"I've got Drew Brees on my fantasy football team," Grasso said. "He's my starting quarterback. He's way good. He's got a cannon for an arm."
Asked how his fantasy team fared, Grasso said: "I just lost in the semifinals. Thanks for bringing it up."
During the regular season, the Warriors were restricted to a 65-player travel roster. The postseason has no such limitations, and the Warriors brought 113 players to New Orleans, of which 110 practiced yesterday. The excused were three injured players — quarterback Kiran Kepo'o, and safeties Le'Marcus Gibson and Keao Monteilh. Monteilh has been cleared to participate only in non-contact drills.
The expanded roster meant the Warriors were able to field full scout teams to compete against the starters.
"It was a good workout," head coach June Jones said.
Grasso and placekicker Dan Kelly enjoyed kicking in the dome's weather-proof environment. The Sugar Bowl will be played in the Louisiana Superdome.
Grasso was faced with a dilemma. His coaches wanted him to boom punts, but the Saints officials asked him to avoid striking the water pipes criss-crossing beneath the ceiling.
"I got close a couple of times," Grasso said. "It was pretty tough. You can't hit them as high as you wanted to. But the coaches still wanted perfection."
Grasso said he will practice sky punts at the adjacent outdoor field today.
It was sunny yesterday, much to the disappointment of linebacker Adam Leonard.
"It feels good to have a roof over your head when you practice," Leonard said. "But I wanted it to rain so I would know what it's like to practice and not get wet."
The Warriors' light attitude is in contrast to their workmanlike approach.
"There are more distractions over here," Leonard said. "But I feel our team understands how important this game is. We know what we've got to do."
Brennan said: "We understand what's waiting for us in that dome. We're excited to be down here, and we want to live up to this opportunity."
Jones did not impose a curfew on the Warriors the past two nights. That ends tonight.
The players took advantage of the freedom to tour the city.
"It was unreal," Brennan said. "They talk about Bourbon Street, and we went out and saw it. It lives up to its reputation. It's crazy. It's really crazy. It was fun. We had a blast."
Kelly said he saw a man urinate in the middle of the street. "When you've got to go, you've got to go," Kelly said, laughing. "But there were some really cool stuff, like the live bands. We went to a little club. There was a band playing live music. It was a real fun time."
Still, the Warriors were able to remain focused during yesterday's practice, their first since Sunday's two-hour workout at UH's grass practice field.
"I thought we had a lot of energy," Brennan said. "We came out and we were in good spirits. We flew around. We weren't sharp yet, but everything looks good. Because we had a couple of days off, we were really fresh. It was good to get out there. It's the countdown to game time, so it's on."
Offensive line coach Dennis McKnight said it is important for the Warriors to have a strong showing.
"This is for Hawai'i," McKnight said. "This isn't just for this team and these coaches. It's for everybody who can't be here. They're with us, in their own way. We're carrying the 'H' logo with us for the people who can't be here."
Visit Tsai's blog at www.HawaiiWarriorBeat.com.
Reach Stephen Tsai at email@example.com.
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