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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, November 23, 2008

Total domination

Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. Idaho first half
Photo gallery: Hawaii vs. Idaho second half

By Stephen Tsai
HawaiiWarriorBeat.com Editor

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Hawai'i safety Desmond Thomas knocks the ball free from Idaho running back Deonte Jackson on this first-quarter play.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

The Hawai‘i defense gangs up on Idaho running back Deonte Jackson on this first-quarter play.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

"The offense is moving the ball. It reminds me of last year."
Soloman Elimimian | Hawai'i linebacker

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

"Everybody knew we had to win the game. ... they're smart guys."
Greg McMackin | Hawai'i head coach

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In a fast-and-furious display, the Hawai'i football team stormed to a 49-17 rout of Idaho last night at Aloha Stadium.

The expected rainstorm did not materialize, but the Warriors created a shower of power in their most productive game of the season.

"I thought we played a real total game," UH head coach Greg McMackin said.

Hawai'i improved to 6-5 overall and finished with a 5-3 Western Athletic Conference record. The Warriors need to win one of their final two games — Washington State on Saturday or Cincinnati Dec. 6 — to finish with a winning regular season and earn the accompanying berth in the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl.

Hawai'i dominated Idaho in every phase in an efficient performance. It had three one-play scoring drives.

Greg Alexander, in his third consecutive start, passed for three touchdowns, including two to wideout Malcolm Lane. Alexander was 14-of-24 for 264 yards. He was not intercepted, extending his streak to 116 consecutive passes without a pick.

Daniel Libre came off the bench and the injury list — he missed two practices because of abdominal pain — rushed for two touchdowns.

And the Warriors suffocated the Vandals into 170 total yards (3.0 yards per play); sacked Nathan Enderle and Chris Joseph seven times, and made three interceptions. Each pick was parlayed into a touchdown.

That led to a sunnyside-up chicken-egg debate: Did the defensive front four help the secondary, or did the secondary help the defensive line?

"It was both," associate head coach Rich Miano said.

One thing is certain: the defensive tackles' appetite for destruction will be satisfied. In a pre-game meeting, defensive line coach Dave Aranda challenged the defensive tackles to take control of the trenches.

The players added to it with this dare: the defensive line would buy a lunch for the player with the most sacks. Defensive tackles Keala Watson and Josh Leonard each finished with a team-high two sacks.

Watson said he found motivation from last week's bye.

"I was thinking about last week, when I was sitting at home instead of being on the field where I belong," Watson said. "All I could do was watch football on TV. Coming back this week, everybody had a chip on their shoulder. We were hungry to play."

Leonard, who had missed two games this season because of an ankle injury, said "it felt good being out there. All of the d-tackles" — he pointed to Francis Maka, Fale Laeli, Vaughn Meatoga and Tuika Tufaga — "knew the pressure was on us. The coaching staff challenged us. They told us the big part of the game was for us to dominate in the middle. We met the challenge."

The game plan called for the Warriors to sent blitzers from different points at Enderle, who was without his go-to receiver. Eddie Williams suffered a season-ending knee injury last week.

But that changed when the Vandals blocked the blitzing linebackers. Also, the Warriors' best defensive back, Ryan Mouton, suffered a high-ankle sprain in the first quarter. Mouton made his first start at free safety, a position that used his quickness as the last line of defense and freed a linebacker to blitz.

After Mouton left, the Warriors called off the blitz, and turned to the defensive linemen to hound Enderle.

"It was just four-man pressure," defensive end David Veikune said. "The coaches emphasized that. We did a lot of stunts. Stunts with d-ends and tackles. Stunts with two tackles. Basic stunts. It wasn't rocket science."

It also helped that the Warriors were gambling with the house's money after scoring 21 unanswered points to take a 21-7 lead.

The Warriors tied it at 7 on Alexander's 1-yard sneak.

Their next possession started at their 18. Noticing that the corners were in tight coverage, the UH coaches called for Lane, who was aligned wide right, to run a choice right. He could break off the route after several yards or keep sprinting straight ahead.

Cornerback Eric Hunter "tried to bump-and-run me," Lane said. "I caught him off the jam. I lunged, and I threw him out of my way. I got up on top of him the first 10 yards."

Lane caught Alexander's pass at the UH 45 and outraced Hunter the rest of the way to complete the 82-yard scoring play.

"In pre-snap," Alexander said, "it looked like a winner. (Lane) had a great release. I just threw it to him."

Lane said: "He didn't lob it or throw it too far. He just put it right there on the money so I could catch it and run."

On the Vandals' first possession of the second quarter, Enderle was hit as he released a pass. Jameel Dowling intercepted at the Idaho 31 and, on the return along the sideline, stepped out of bounds at the 2.

"The d-linemen made the play," Dowling said. "They put on so much pressure. All I had to do was cover a receiver."

On the ensuing play, Kealoha Pilares raced around left end to make it 21-7.

"I could have walked in," Pilares said of the blocking.

Later, Enderle threw to receiver Preston Davis. Dowling deflected the pass, and free safety Desmond Thomas made a lunging interception.

"It wasn't me," Thomas said of the pick. "The Lord gave me the eyes to see that. I asked the Lord to use me, and the opportunity came."

Thomas, who was on the second team the past week, had replaced Mouton.

"I didn't expect to play this much," Thomas said.

That turnover set up Alexander's 3-yard scoring pass to slotback Aaron Bain.

After that, the Vandals were forced to abandon their plans of using the run to set up play-action passes. With the defensive ends narrowing the backfield, and Watson and Leonard making the most of the enclosed area, the Vandals could neither run nor hide.

Deonte Jackson, who was a 1,000-yard rusher in 2007, finished with 49 yards on 17 carries.

"Once they got out so far ahead, we had to switch it up," Jackson said. "We strayed away from the run a little bit, trying to get it going in the air. We had a few mistakes, and that set us back even further."

The Warriors moved out of reach with Lane's second touchdown, a 36-yarder in which he pirouetted the final yard into the end zone.

After the touchdown, Lane was caught on the JumboTron making a hand-waving gesture across his neck. He received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, and a scolding from McMackin.

Lane said the gesture was to show the game "was over" and not a throat-slashing signal.

"I wasn't going like, 'I'll kill you,' " he said. "It was nothing like that. It was dumb on my part. It was a stupid mistake. It was an emotional mistake. I totally apologize, and I take 100 percent (responsibility) for my actions."

To be sure, the suspense was over at that point. Libre's two touchdowns — the first set up by safety Keao Monteilh's interception — punctuated the most one-sided UH victory this season.

Linebacker Solomon Elimimian tipped the pass that led to Monteilh's interception. The play was symbolic of the Warriors' team defense.

"Everyone was helping each other," Elimimian said. "This was a team win."

Reach Stephen Tsai at stsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.