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Sports Notebook

Thursday, September 19, 2002



UH takes UTEP seriously


By Dave Reardon
dreardon@starbulletin.com

Uriah Moenoa knows the danger of looking past an opponent. Hawaii's sophomore right tackle learned a valuable lesson about that last season.

He said after the Warriors lost their conference opener at Nevada last year he is wary of road opponents, regardless of record. So Moenoa doesn't care how many points Texas-El Paso (1-2), which UH (1-1) visits Saturday, has given up.

"Speaking for myself, I looked at Nevada, their record, and I thought we'll just go in there and spank them and go home. Sure enough we lost," Moenoa said. "You can't take any game lightly. People think easy game, easy game, you should just play your second-string. No, we have to come with our A-game and play it through."

UH's offensive line has given up only one sack in two games, but Moenoa and his mates want to do better.

"I'd say we played OK, but OK is not that good. Either you play it perfect, or you don't. That's the standard we've set on the offensive line. And we didn't ... one sack, that's not perfect," Moenoa said. "If you watch film you see we did some good things, but there's a lot we can improve on. (Line) Coach Cav (Mike Cavanaugh) is busting our butts every day and we're trying to work hard because there's lots of room for improvement."

Moenoa said he and his teammates didn't spend their bye week partying after the Sept. 6 loss at Brigham Young.

"When the season's over we'll take time off," said Moenoa, normally one of the most fun-loving Warriors. "Last week it was study, playbook and go to sleep."

Ready for action: It's not often that a true freshman two games into his career has a teammate who considers him somewhat of a role model. But that's the case for Tala Esera and Abu Ma'afala.

Ma'afala, who is in the rotation at defensive tackle because of Lui Fuga's broken ankle, is the grizzled old veteran compared to Esera.

Esera is making his first road trip and will play if needed, although the coaches still hope to redshirt him.

"I'm very excited," the Kahuku High School graduate said. "Pretty much everything is a new experience for me. Having Abu around helps a lot, because everything he's doing I try to follow because he's got a little more experience than I do right now."

Ma'afala is still finding his own way, of course, and he said it helps having a peer the same age at the same position.

"The veterans and the coaches help us out on the field," the Kamehameha product said. "But us freshmen stick together and are learning together."

Ma'afala intercepted a pass and ran it back 32 yards for a touchdown against Eastern Illinois and was credited with a sack against Brigham Young.

"That's good, but I still have tons of stuff to learn," he said. "I need to get better against the run. I need to be physical and stout so the linebackers can make their reads."

Said defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa of Ma'afala: "He's very good against the pass. He will get better because he wants to get better. He's a good technique guy, he just needs to get stronger."

Bearing down: Junior left tackle Wayne Hunter's face lit up when asked about the success of the Cal Bears, the school he transferred from three years ago.

Cal is 3-0, including a huge win last week at Michigan State.

"That's great, I still have a lot of friends there," Hunter said. "Nothing against the former coaching staff, but all they needed was a little leadership. I'm not surprised."

Hunter said he is good friends with Bears running back Joe Igber, the former Iolani star.

Short yardage: Freshman safety Leonard Peters did not make the trip. He's still awaiting medical clearance for injuries to internal organs last month, but has been practicing this week. ... Coach June Jones said either Sean Butts or David Gilmore will start at free safety, and Houston Ala or Travis Laboy will start at one defensive end. "But I don't want to say who yet," Jones added.

Around the WAC: San Jose State's Neil Parry, attempting to play again after amputation of his lower right leg two years ago, will not see action Sept. 28 against UTEP as previously scheduled. He has experienced swelling in the leg, limiting him to walking with crutches. ... Tulsa hopes to end the nation's longest losing streak -- 13 games -- Saturday against Baylor. Baylor is 1-2, but has lost 29 consecutive Big 12 conference games.



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