of backs depleted
Hawaii won't have a game-tested big running back available when it hosts Army at Aloha Stadium on Saturday.
UH is down to three experienced players at that spot -- and zero power runners who have played -- with the loss of 6-foot-1, 260-pound junior West Keli'ikipi to a knee injury, probably for at least the rest of the regular season.
Another big back, 5-foot-10, 255-pound third-year sophomore Pesefea Fiaseu, is no longer on the team, coach June Jones said yesterday.
Keli'ikipi injured his left knee early in Saturday's 24-14 loss at Nevada. An MRI indicated a tear of the lateral meniscus, which functions like a shock absorber to the knee joint.
Jones said Keli'ikipi will likely undergo arthroscopic surgery this week. At that time, it can be determined if there is ligament damage. If only the meniscus is torn, it might be possible for him to return for a possible bowl game on Dec. 25.
"I would anticipate that he will miss the next three games," Jones said. "Hopefully the ligaments aren't torn. It doesn't look like they are. But once they get the arthroscope in there it might be more."
Keli'ikipi walked on this fall and earned a scholarship last month. He is tied for the team lead with seven touchdowns, and has rushed 37 times for 247 yards, playing in all 10 games.
"He's a good addition to our team. But he's got three good players behind him and they'll step up and play good the next three weeks," Jones said.
John West leads UH with 42 carries for 282 yards, Michael Brewster has 29 for 205 and Mike Bass 35 for 204. Keli'ikipi is considered the best blocker of the group, and Jones liked having a power option among his mostly finesse-type offensive playmakers.
"(Losing Keli'ikipi) doesn't really change our game plan, but it changes our personality," Jones said.
Fiaseu fumbled three times in a scout-team scrimmage on Nov. 5 and hasn't been back to practice since, Jones said.
"He's not on the team right now. I haven't seen him since that day," Jones said.
Jones has a history of giving players second and sometimes third chances. But he said Fiaseu, who already returned to the team after resolving personal problems once before, won't be back any time soon.
"Not this year he won't," Jones said. "I have no obligation to do anything in that area. The guy doesn't come, doesn't show up, that tells me he doesn't want to be on the team. He makes his own bed."
Fiaseu was the Star-Bulletin's all-state Offensive Player of the Year at Saint Louis School in 2000. After redshirting in 2001, he played in three games last year, rushing three times for 11 yards. He had not played in a game this season.
Alabama on ESPN: ESPN will televise the Hawaii football home game against Alabama nationally on Nov. 29, UH athletic director Herman Frazier said.
"We're hearing that very strongly. They haven't made an official announcement, but we're going with that," Frazier said. "We kind of figured it all along. They told us they were going to do it and never said anything different."
The network had until yesterday to decide to pick up the game or not. While UH did not receive direct notification from ESPN, a UH spokesperson said "the grapevine indicates" (including Alabama's Web site) that ESPN decided to show the game.
Alabama beat Hawaii 21-16 last year in front of a sellout crowd of 50,000 at Aloha Stadium. That game was also televised by ESPN.
The game will start at 2:45 p.m. for TV purposes.
Owens moves up: Junior Chad Owens made a mark nationally as a kick returner as a freshman two years ago. Now he's doing it as a receiver.
The latest NCAA statistics have Owens second in the country in receptions per game with 7.75 and third in receiving yards per game at 106.1.
Owens caught 12 passes for 164 yards as one of UH's few offensive bright spots last Saturday.
"Chad is just a competitive, tough winner," Jones said.