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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, November 22, 2008

UH draws bead on Hawaii Bowl

 •  Warriors add RB to recruiting class

By Stephen Tsai
HawaiiWarriorBeat.com Editor

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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WHEN: 6:05 tonight

WHERE: Aloha Stadium

RADIO: 1420 AM

TV: Pay-per-view, Ch. 255 (live); 10 a.m. Sunday, K5 (delay)

GATES: 1:30 p.m. lower Halawa; 2:30 p.m. upper Halawa and most alternative parking sites; 3 p.m. stadium turnstile

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A well-rested Hawai'i football team enters the stretch run needing to win at least two of its final three regular-season games to qualify for a berth in the Hawai'i Sheraton Bowl.

"This is it," said UH head coach Greg McMackin, referring to the clause that guarantees a postseason spot to a winning Warrior team. The Warriors, who host Idaho tonight, are 5-5 overall.

The Warriors had a bye last weekend, using the extra week as a recovery period for several ailing players.

While the bye week proved helpful, UH center John Estes warmed of it being "fool's gold."

"We had a bye before the San Jose State game," Estes said of the one that got away.

But things are different now. The once unsettled quarterback's position has found stability with Greg Alexander, a junior. Alexander is playing well, and the Warriors appear to be more confident.

"Our offense has a little swagger," McMackin said. "They're having fun again."

The Vandals (2-9) close their regular season tonight. They have been limited because of inconsistency, injuries and suspensions.

But their team is relatively young, and Robb Akey's presence has provided stability. Prior to Akey's hiring after the 2006 season, the Vandals had three head coaches resign in a two-year span.

Here's a look at tonight's game:

HAWAI'I OFFENSE

Pos.Player Ht. Wt. Cl.

LWO1 Greg Salas 6-2 200 So.

LSB5 Michael Washington 5-9 170 Sr.

LT77 Aaron Kia 6-5 290 Jr.

LG/T50 Laupepa Letuli 6-4 320 Jr.

LG62 Keith AhSoon 6-1 315 Sr.

C55 John Estes 6-2 295 Jr.

RG51 C. Tuioti-Mariner 6-0 300 Sr.

RT78 Keoni Steinhoff 6-0 300 Sr.

RSB85 Aaron Bain 5-8 190 Sr.

RWO89 Malcolm Lane 6-1 180 Jr.

QB12 Greg Alexander 6-3 230 Jr.

RB/SB21 Kealoha Pilares 5-11 190 So.

RB26 Daniel Libre 5-8 185 Sr.

RB48 David Farmer 6-1 245 Sr.

Outlook: In the past game against New Mexico State, Alexander somersaulted the final yard for a touchdown. The best thing was the way the play was set up. Alexander looked to his right, pump-faked a pass, then took off to his left. "I'm really pleased the way he's taking the reins," McMackin said. "He's a leader just by example. He doesn't say a lot. He's got that sly little smile." McMackin said Alexander, who transferred from Santa Rosa Junior College in May, needed game reps. In the opener against Florida, Alexander would analyze the defense after the snap. "Now, he's doing pre-reads," McMackin said. Alexander said he's "starting to know the defenses more. I know where people are going to be. I'm seeing things backside before they happen." Against NMSU, Alexander completed 26 of 32 passes. But two were throwaways to avoid sacks, and a third was dropped.

And Alexander has developed into an elusive scrambler. Against NMSU, his yards-after-hit average (YAH) was 4.14. He averaged 1.29 broken tackles per scramble. His downfall is the way he slides. "That was pretty ugly," said Alexander, a former baseball shortstop. "People gave me some crap about it."

Because of concerns about the availability of Libre (abdominal strain) and Leon Wright-Jackson (foot), Pilares is expected to open at running back. Pilares is a better post-catch runner as a slotback (8.61 yards-after-catch average in WAC games). He also has caught a team-best 85.7 percent of the passes thrown in his direction. The move is eased by Bain's improved play. After a yards-after-catch (YAC) average of 3.5 in the first three games, Bain is averaging 6.43 in WAC games.

HAWAI'I DEFENSE

Pos.Player Ht. Wt. Cl.

LE94 David Veikune 6-3 265 Sr.

LT96 Fale Laeli 6-1 305 Sr.

LT93 Keala Watson 6-3 320 Sr.

RT95 Vaughn Meatoga 6-2 305 Sr.

RT-99 Josh Leonard 6-3 305 Sr.

DT51 Francis Maka 6-2 270 Sr.

RE59 John Fonoti 6-2 255 Jr.

OLB44 Adam Leonard 6-0 235 Sr.

MLB17 Solomon Elimimian 6-0 225 Sr.

MLB13 Brashton Satele 6-1 255 Jr.

OLB59 R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane 5-11 225 Jr.

LCB3 Jameel Dowling 6-3 200 Sr.

FS2 Ryan Mouton 5-10 175 Sr.

SS/NB35 Keao Monteilh 5-11 200 Sr.

SS7 Erik Robinson 5-10 200 Sr.

RCB23 Calvin Roberts 5-11 175 Sr.

Outlook: Maka, who was reinstated last month, has energized the interior line with his quickness and enthusiasm. Maka, who is used mostly in passing situations, has to elude grasping blockers. "I'm going against 300-pounders," Maka said. "I have to catch them before they catch me." Against NMSU, Maka played 40 snaps, tops among the defensive tackles.

Mouton, who has emerged as a pro prospect, will open at free safety, a position he played only once before. NMSU's Kevin Williams caught three scoring passes against UH, but when defended by Mouton, he was limited to one catch. That's because Mouton is a skilled bump-and-run defender who excels in jamming receivers off their routes. At free safety, Mouton can use his speed (4.3 seconds over 40 yards) to cover inside receivers, and to blitz. "He can do it all," said associate head coach Rich Miano, who coordinates the defensive secondary. "His versatility is huge. He understands football concepts. He has a very high football IQ."

HAWAI'I SPECIALISTS

Pos.Player Ht. Wt. Cl.

PK86 Dan Kelly 6-3 225 Sr.

P/H49 Tim Grasso 5-11 210 Sr.

LS57 Jake Ingram 6-4 235 Sr.

KR89 Malcolm Lane 6-1 180 Jr.

PR85 Aaron Bain 5-8 190 Sr.

PR21 Kealoha Pilares 5-11 190 So.

Outlook: The Warriors are wary of the Vandals' onside kicking. The Vandals have a kicker who specializes in that area. To counter, the Warriors have set up a scheme in which wedge-setters Richard Torres and Spencer Smith can move up to field onside kicks. "I depend on those guys, and I trust those guys," said Ikaika Malloe, who coordinates the special-team units. "They have the right mentality. It doesn't scare them to stay in there and catch the ball."

Pilares has been elevated to No. 2 punt returner, and he is expected to see some action. Idaho's booming punts allow the returner room to run.

IDAHO OFFENSE

Pos.Player Ht. Wt. Cl.

X86 Lee Smith 6-0 196 Sr.

H80 Jim Reuber 6-3 254 Sr.

LT71 Billy Bates 6-5 273 Sr.

LG77 Mike Iupati 6-6 330 Jr.

C72 Adam Korby 6-2 292 Sr.

RG65 Kris Anderson 6-3 283 Sr.

RT79 Bryce Sinclair 6-5 327 Jr.

Y89 Peter Bjorvik 6-4 245 Jr.

SB22 Max Komar 5-10 202 Jr.

Z7 Preston Davis 6-1 191 Fr.

QB10 Nathan Enderle 6-5 223 So.

TB3 Deonte Jackson 5-8 191 So.

Outlook: The key to the offense is the tandem of Korby and Iupati. Korby, who has been a starter since the first game of his redshirt freshman season in 2005, is both powerful and mobile. The Vandals often use him as a pulling center on trap plays and bootlegs. Iupati is regarded as the Vandals' best offensive lineman. He missed the first three games while recovering from shoulder surgery in the spring. His fill-in, Anderson, can play every position but center.

Enderle is a functional quarterback who is a deceptive scrambler. Although the Vandals often go to the spread formation, Enderle takes snaps mostly from under center. That enables him to use his most effective plays bootlegs and play-action throws.

His favorite target, Eddie Williams, will not play because of a knee injury suffered in last week's loss to Boise State. Williams was listed as a tight end, but he also aligned wide and sometimes motioned into the backfield as a blocker. Now Bjorvik is expected to provide perimeter blocking for Jackson, a 1,000-yard rusher last season. This year, Jackson has been hindered by a back ailment, and has started only seven games. He is capable of running 40 yards in 4.46 seconds around-the-corner speed but he is at his best finding inside lanes created by Korby and Iupati.

IDAHO DEFENSE

Pos.Player Ht. Wt. Cl.

E98 Josh Shaw 6-2 250 Sr.

N44 Oga Faumui 6-0 299 Jr.

DT95 Aaron Lavarias 6-3 262 So.

Rush57 Taylor Rust 6-2 35 Sr.

SLB45 Jonathan Faraimo 5-11 251 So

MLB31 Justin Allen 511 215 So.

WLB1 Robert Siavii 6-2 195 Fr.

CB27 Isaac Butts 6-0 175 So.

FS24 Virdell Larkins 6-0 191 Jr.

SS6 Jeromy Jones 6-0 200 Jr.

CB23 Kenneth Patten 5-9 183 Fr.

Outlook: In last year's meeting, the Vandals intercepted five Colt Brennan passes. But because of injuries and suspensions to the secondary, a more conservative umbrella coverage has been implemented, with each defensive back usually assigned a quarter zone. The Vandals have missed the leadership of co-captain and safety Shiloh Ke'o, who has not played in the past seven games because of a shoulder injury.

The Vandals' base alignment is a 4-3 formation, but they can sneak forward a safety to create a 4-4 look or move up Faraimo as a fifth defensive lineman. Shaw is the best pass-rusher, but Faraimo creates the most chaos. Faraimo, who lost 15 pounds during the offseason, is used as a blitzer, contain defender and in pass coverage.

IDAHO SPECIALISTS

Pos.Player Ht. Wt. Cl.

PK19 Tino Amancio 5-9 215 Sr.

KO99 Vicente Rico 6-1 225 Sr.

P/H14 T.J. Conley 6-3 220 Sr.

LS35 Joel Jones 6-1 240 Sr.

KR/PR25 Kama Bailey 5-9 209 Fr.

KR81 Steve Brown 5-10 168 So.

Outlook: The good news is Conley is the nation's best punter, averaging 47.19 yards. The not-so-good news is the Vandals are 114th nationally in punt return yardage defense, allowing 14.91 yards. They have relinquished two punt returns for touchdowns.

The good news is Bailey, a Damien Memorial School graduate, is doing well as kickoff returner this season. The not-so-good news is because the Vandals have given up so many touchdowns this season, Bailey has 38 kickoff returns, or 4.22 per game, the second-highest average in Division I-A.

Visit Tsai's blog at http://hawaiiwarriorbeat.com.

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.