Mouton has likely sealed his return to defensive side
By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ferd Lewis
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — After playing two games on offense, it took a return to defense for Ryan Mouton to finally get into the end zone for the University of Hawai'i football team.
Mouton, back at his familiar cornerback position after an experiment at slotback, returned a second-quarter interception 91 yards that helped UH open up a 27-14 lead over New Mexico State in a game it eventually won, 42-30.
"It was a little weird," Mouton said. "They (teammates and coaches) were telling me, 'You score on defense but you couldn't even score on offense.' "
But, Mouton said, "it felt great."
It was the second touchdown return of Mouton's UH career.
And, except for special situations, probably helped seal his return to defense.
"As many yards as we gave up in passing (394 and four touchdowns), we're going to need him on defense," said defensive backs' coach Rich Miano. "But I don't make that decision. Coach (Greg McMackin) does."
Miano then made a plea to McMackin. "Hey, coach, with as many yards passing as we gave up. ..."
McMackin said, "Today we really needed him to come play on defense. We'll still have an offensive package for him (available), but he's truly a defensive player."
The productive return yesterday of Kealoha Pilares from a sprained right foot to take over a slotback spot removed the emergency under which Mouton was tried on offense for two games.
Mouton was in on three tackles, including one for a loss, and broke up a pass.
With UH hanging onto a 21-14 lead and the Aggies at the UH 20-yard line, Mouton got his interception of Aggie quarterback Chase Holbrook at the UH 9-yard line.
Mouton said, "They couldn't run on our front seven, so we knew they'd be passing. When they did, it (the ball) kind of fell into my hands. I was like, 'Oh, I got the ball; let's go.' "
Mouton almost got shoved out of bounds before reaching the end zone.
"I didn't know there was a guy behind me and (he) almost knocked me out of bounds," he said.
Miano is a fan of Mouton.
"Some of the things he does are amazing; the way he shuts guys down," Miano said. "He's the best I've ever coached. I mean, you look at every game he plays and there are like three or four plays that are flashes. He doesn't have a lot of interceptions but there have been like three balls caught on him all year. Two of those were comebacks and another was a tip.
"I think he's back (on defense)."
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com.