GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Hawaii's John West celebrated after he scored the Warriors' first touchdown of the game last night against Appalachian State.
UH’s bookends hold up
Offensive line against defensive line is always a key matchup in football. It was especially so in Hawaii's 40-17 victory over Appalachian State last night at Aloha Stadium.
The Warriors came into the game with two offensive tackles, second-year freshmen Samson Satele and Dane Uperesa, playing in their first college game and junior right guard Phil Kauffman making his first start.
The edges of the line were considered particularly vulnerable because two of the Mountaineers' best players are defensive ends K.T. Stovall and Leon Moore.
UH quarterback Jason Whieldon was sacked four times, but he also had enough time to pass for three touchdowns and help UH generate 450 yards of offense in relief of suspended starter Tim Chang.
"We were seeing what they were going to do before they did it," Satele said.
On the game's first play, Stovall ran over Uperesa and pressured Whieldon, who managed to complete a 35-yard pass to Jeremiah Cockheran, anyway.
"That was all nerves and excitement," Uperesa said. "I settled down after that.
"You have to block something like that out of your mind or it will haunt you the rest of the game."
Stovall, who had a sack among his three tackles, said he was impressed with the Warriors he went up against.
"They were a young line and inexperienced, but they had good technique at offensive tackle. The starter (Uperesa) was real good and the backup (Brandon Eaton) was just as good," Stovall said.
Welcome to Division I: A few notable newcomers made their debuts as Warriors last night.
Hawaii coach June Jones and suspended quarterback Tim Chang watched as the Warriors cruised to a victory last night.
Two true freshmen from Saint Louis School got their feet wet in college football. Offensive lineman Jeremy Inferrera entered the game in the third quarter at left tackle and receiver Jason Rivers got some playing time late in the fourth quarter and didn't catch a pass.
Inferrera worked with the Warriors' first team for a while in fall camp. When he entered the game, UH had a true freshman, two redshirt freshmen (Uperesa and Satele), a sophomore (Derek Faavi) and a junior (Uriah Moenoa) across the front.
Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan, a former UH basketball player, took the field at left defensive end with 4:45 left in the game and received an ovation from the fans who remained in the stadium.
Hidden gem: An NFL prospect had a busy and effective night for Appalachian State --senior punter Nate McKinney.
He boomed 12 punts for a 44-yard average with a long of 56, but those high-echelon stats were somewhat buried in all the hoopla of Hawaii's season-opening victory.
"I felt good and got a couple off my foot real well," said McKinney, who went over and shook hands with Hawaii mascot Vili Fehoko after the game. "I didn't hit it as well as I would have liked in the second half. My leg got a little tired."
McKinney was an All-Southern Conference first-team pick in 2000 and ranked 15th in the nation with a 42.2 average a year ago. He has drawn interest from the Indianapolis Colts and the Jacksonville Jaguars, and one of his aspirations is to go pro.
Tough start for King: Appalachian State redshirt freshman Michael King had a rough time in his first game as a starting free safety, and he paid for it by sitting out the whole second half.
Twice in the first half, miscommunication between King and junior left cornerback Jay Lyles led to Cockheran touchdowns for the Warriors, and those two early scores went a long way in determining the final outcome. On the first one, Cockheran beat Lyles to the right corner and King couldn't get over in time. The second time, Lyles was a step behind a streaking Cockheran when King flew over, but instead of hitting the UH receiver as he caught the ball, King tried to pick it off and missed completely.
"It was just a lack of concentration," King said. "The one that went to the corner, I lined up on the hash mark on the other side and couldn't stretch over there far enough.
"At times, we underestimated their speed. Their offense wasn't too confusing, it was just we didn't get into the places we were supposed to be."
Lots of backs: Hawaii kept the identity of its starting running back secret before the game, then rotated liberally throughout last night's contest. It was interesting that Tennessee transfer Michael Brewster got the start, John West came in as the change-up back and Mike Bass -- the heralded recruit who started his very first game as a true freshman in 2001 -- didn't see much action until the second half.
Brewster said he didn't get the news of his first career start until earlier in the day. West said there was no detectable pattern to the rotation.
"You didn't know the order," he said. "When your name is called you get out there. That's your time to shine."
Waianae product West Keliikipi, a 266-pound bruiser, saw significant time in the third quarter.
For starters: The victory was Hawaii's third consecutive season-opening win against a Division I-AA team. The Warriors beat Montana 30-12 to start the 2001 season and pounded Eastern Illinois 61-36 in last year's first game.
June Jones is now 3-2 in openers, all at home (including the Montana game which was on Maui).
ASU fell to 44-27-3 in season openers. The last time Appalachian State beat a Division I team in a season opener was 2000, when the Mountaineers won at Wake Forest 20-16. In 1999, Auburn squeaked by visiting Appalachian State 22-15 in the Mountaineers' opener.
Short yardage: Senior defensive end Travis LaBoy was a surprise starter. The talented but oft-injured senior was listed behind sophomore Mel Purcell and senior Houston Ala on the UH depth chart throughout training camp. ... Second-year freshman Ross Dickerson made his Warriors debut with a 22-yard kickoff return in the second quarter.