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Sports Notebook

Sunday, October 26, 2003


Warrior Report

art
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii running back Michael Brewster tried to break the tackle of UTEP's Marshall Sanford last night. Brewster caught eight passes for 138 yards.


Ayat hits field goals,
misses PATs


Hawaii kicker Justin Ayat enjoyed a career high with four field goals (in four attempts) in last night's 31-15 victory over Texas-El Paso. But he also had a game he'd like to forget on points-after-touchdown -- he missed two out of three.

Ayat is now 14-for-17 on field goals for the season, a better percentage than his 27-for-34 on extra points.

Maybe he needs to move the ball back for the PATs.

"At this point I might have to consider that," Ayat said with a smile. "For some reason I've been struggling with my extra points this season. I don't know why. It's weird. I'm money on my field goals, but something about those extra points."

Good thing for the Warriors he makes the ones worth three points. For much of the game, he was the only UH player changing the numbers on the scoreboard.

"Yeah, but it's a team game. If the offense can't put it in, I have to step up and score the points for us," Ayat said. "Luckily our offense got it in field-goal range, where I could score some points and keep us in the lead.

"Our offense just didn't look like how it usually does, throwing the ball all over the field and scoring touchdowns. But that's where me and the field-goal team come in, trying to at least get us some points."

Line dance: The Warriors played musical offensive tackles once again, but it worked out OK, as UH didn't allow one sack.

"I guess we did all right," true freshman tackle Jeremy Inferrera said.

Tala Esera started at left tackle and Inferrera at right tackle.

In the second quarter, Inferrera shifted to the left side and Brandon Eaton entered the game at right tackle.

"It was a coach's decision. I came out flat and just wasn't mentally ready," said Esera, a freshman who played well enough to start the past three games at left tackle.

Streak ender: UH quarterback Tim Chang's interception early in the third quarter was his first at home this season. UTEP's Adrian Ward came up with the pick after the ball was tipped by receiver Jeremiah Cockheran.

Chang had not thrown an interception in his previous 157 attempts at Aloha Stadium this season. All 10 of his interceptions entering last night's game had come in four road games.

In home wins over Rice and Fresno State, he completed 63 percent of his throws while passing for 750 yards and seven touchdowns.

Kicking it: Both teams' punters played prominent roles in the field position battle in the first half.

UTEP's Bryce Benekos took off up the middle on a fake punt from the Miners' 19 for a 27-yard run. UTEP couldn't capitalize on the gamble, fumbling the ball away two plays later.

"We worked on it all week and we needed it," Benekos said. "I was pretty shocked that it was wide open. Coach kept telling us that it's going to be there, it's going to be there. Well, I watched the film and I didn't think it was going to be there."

Later in the second quarter, Benekos pinned the Warriors deep by getting a fortuitous bounce on a punt that died at the UH 6. But Hawaii's Kurt Milne got the Warriors out of the hole with a 51-yard kick.

Benekos is one of 32 on the watch list for the Ray Guy Award, which is given to the nation's top punter.

He limps, he scores!: Cockheran entered last night's game with an iffy ankle -- he sat out a loss at Tulsa and a win over Fresno State -- but as Hawaii's go-to receiver, the senior needed to be on the field. Cockheran started his second straight game, but didn't appear to have his usual burst. His condition -- and his gait -- grew worse as the night wore on.

"It's just aggravating, that's it," he said, limping after the game. "It gets sore from time to time."

By the fourth quarter, Cockheran was visibly hobbled. But he said he never thought about taking himself out and resting for the next week.

"Naw, I gotta go for it," he said. "Just suck it up, you know. I gotta show my team that I'm a captain, and stay with them all the way through."

And in the fourth quarter, with 2:28 remaining, he scored Hawaii's last touchdown on a 13-yard pass from Chang.

"Jeremiah got that ball that we were throwing away," UH head coach June Jones said.

Though he had a tough time even making it back and forth from the huddle at the end of the night, Cockheran predicts a big recovery in time for the trip to San Jose, and thinks he'll be close to normal after the following week's bye.

Mining for yardage: UTEP had lots of success running the ball against the Warriors, gaining 244 yards on 54 carries.

Backup tailback Matt Austin ran for 112 yards on nine carries to lead the way and starter Howard Jackson rolled for 107 yards on 24 carries.

"Our offensive line and fullbacks did a great job taking care of us running backs and they responded by making some big holes," Jackson said. "We just had some big letdowns on drives. The main thing you want to do is score when you get in the red zone and we didn't do it."

Stull likes new teams: Miners athletic director Bob Stull is happy to see Utah State and especially New Mexico State join the WAC.

"We have a history with both schools and we've always had a rivalry with New Mexico State," Stull said. "And they're both in our (Mountain) time zone, so that's a real positive."

A kicker, not a talker: When asked if he ever hit an upright on two field-goal attempts like he did against the Warriors, UTEP place-kicker Keith Robinson said, "Yeah, but I don't want to talk about it."

Tall order: Converted UH basketball player Ikaika Alama-Francis has made the most of his limited playing time this season.

The 6-foot-6 freshman defensive end got in late in the game against Fresno State two weeks ago and recorded a tackle for loss in his first action for the football team.

In the waning moments of last night's game, he was in the right place again as he recovered a fumble after Travis LaBoy hammered UTEP quarterback Orlando Cruz.

"I just try to go hard every play," Alama-Francis said. "That was all Travis LaBoy. He came off the edge real quick and forced that fumble. I just saw the ball and dove on it."

Alama-Francis was a backup forward for the UH basketball team last year and joined the football team in the spring.

Short yardage: Hawaii improved to 27-22 in homecoming games and 4-1 in such outings under Jones. ... UH now leads the series with UTEP 18-12. ... The letters RAP on the back of UTEP's helmets are in honor of the late Bob Rapanut, who was the Miners' equipment manager from 1981 to 2003. He died Feb. 4 of a heart attack at 57.



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