RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Hawaii defensive lineman Travis LaBoy closed in on UTEP's Howard Jackson in the first quarter last night at Aloha Stadium.
It wasn't a perfect performance, but the Hawaii defense will take it.
After watching the offense outscore Louisiana Tech in a shootout a week earlier, the Warrior defense made up for an uneven performance by the UH offense to spur Hawaii to a 31-15 homecoming victory over Texas-El Paso last night at Aloha Stadium.
"There's going to be games where we give up a lot of points, there's going to be games where (the offense is) struggling, but this is a team game, so everybody's got to pull together and make plays for each other," UH safety David Gilmore said. "You never know what you're going to get in football."
The Warriors gave up 414 yards to UTEP, but limited the Miners to three field goals in the first three quarters before surrendering a touchdown late in the contest.
"Homecoming would have been a perfect time to get a shutout," UH defensive tackle Lance Samuseva said. "We didn't get the shutout, but we got the 'W.' "
There were still missed tackles and breakdowns that led to big gains for the Miners. But just when it looked like UTEP might lure momentum to its side of the field, the Warriors' elastic defense was able to bounce back to keep the Miners out of the end zone.
Linebacker Ikaika Curnan recorded a game-high 13 tackles, and defensive end Mel Purcell had 12, including two sacks.
"We made some mistakes on defense, they made some big plays, but a win is a win and overall we did pretty good," Curnan said. "We'll see on Monday ... how we graded out."
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM|
Hawaii's Kealii Aguiar brought down UTEP's Howard Jackson last night.
After giving up 267 rushing yards to Louisiana Tech's Ryan Moats the previous week, Hawaii allowed UTEP backs Matt Austin and Howard Jackson to both run for more than 100 yards. But the Warriors were able to hold the Miners to field-goal attempts most of the night and had help from UTEP in the form of untimely penalties, misfired passes and two field-goal attempts that clanged off the goal post.
"When all is said, we did enough to keep them out of the end zone and all the stuff in between really doesn't matter," UH defensive coordinator George Lumpkin said. "If you keep them out of the end zone you're probably going to win. If you bend but don't break, that's good. When you bend and break, that's when it's bad."
Hawaii produced three turnovers, the first two coming at key moments in the game.
With Hawaii leading 6-3 in the second quarter, UTEP punter Bryce Benekos stunned UH with a 26-yard run on a fake punt. Two plays later, Miners quarterback Jordan Palmer went around the left side on an option play. UH safety Hyrum Peters caught Palmer from behind and punched the ball loose and Keani Alapa pounced on it to give the Warriors possession at the UTEP 45.
The Warriors converted the turnover into a field goal by Justin Ayat to give UH a 9-3 lead.
"Sudden change, when they get an interception or a fumble or whatever we have to come on the field and try to stop them," Peters said. "When they make plays we have to make plays too, that was big momentum for us."
Another swing came early in the third quarter. After UTEP came up with an interception on the second play of the period, Gilmore kept the Miners from creeping any closer with an interception in the end zone. The turnover led to another Ayat field goal.
"I saw that play on film a bunch of times and as soon as I saw the tight end release I knew they were going up the seam," Gilmore said. "So I tried to bait the quarterback to throw it. He just threw it up there and I was able to come up with it."
Although they were relieved to get the win, the Warriors know the holes exposed over the last two weeks will need to be repaired quickly.
"Just stopping the run, that's the biggest thing," UH cornerback Abraham Elimimian said. "We can't stop the run for anything and it hurts. Good teams down the line are going to try to capitalize on that and try to beat us running the ball and passing late."