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Moe making most
UH AT TEXAS-EL PASOWhere: Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas
When: Saturday, 3:05 p.m. Hawaii time
TV: Live, KFVE, Channel 5
Radio: Live, KKEA, 1420-AM
"I didn't realize I did that until I heard the stats," Moe (pronounced "Moy") said this week after practice in preparation for Saturday's game at Texas-El Paso. "I don't look at stats, I just try to make plays and I got lucky with some. The defensive line was doing a great job and I happened to be the one who was free."
Moe can be as humble as he wants. And it is genuine. But the fact remains the 5-foot-11, 210-pound junior turned in one of the most impressive overall individual defensive efforts in recent UH history. Personally, it's Moe's best game -- even going back to high school at Saint Louis.
"I don't think I did have one like that. There were a lot of awesome players," said Moe, who was high school teammates with fellow UH linebacker Ikaika Curnan and Washington defensive captain and linebacker Joe Lobendahn. In high school Curnan and Lobendahn made most of the spectacular plays on defense, and Moe took whatever scraps he could find.
But now, with Curnan out with a sprained ankle, Moe will have to step up again as the Warriors (2-2, 2-1 WAC) try to spoil the Miners' (3-2, 1-1) homecoming in a key Western Athletic Conference matchup. UH's leading tackler with 35 in four games said he won't put too much pressure on himself for a repeat performance.
"Not really. I just do my best, I don't want any of that stuff getting in my head and making me play different," he said. "I'll just play the same and hopefully get the same results."
Moe's thirst for consistency comes from his previous position with the Warriors, that of long-snapper. As a freshman and sophomore, he handled the first phase of the operation for punts, field goals and extra points.
Then coach June Jones recruited Bryce Runge, a snapping specialist. Moe was overjoyed this fall that someone had come to take his position.
"As soon as he came, I gave him a big hug and slapped him on the back," Moe said. "I told him, 'I need you here, I want to play linebacker.' "
If Moe ever plays for pay, it will probably be as a snapper, Jones said.
"I told him his future is as a snapper, and I don't think he has a future in the NFL as a linebacker. He's a good player, but he's undersized. He'll snap probably his senior year again and do both, and maybe have a chance to make it somewhere because of that," Jones said.
Moe inherited good athletic genes from his rugby-playing father from Samoa, Tui, and soccer-playing mother, Jo Anne, from Pittsburgh. But Jones said his most outstanding attributes are his brains and passion.
"Very, very smart. I knew he was a smart guy when he was a freshman and he was running scout team. It shows up in the game," the coach said. "He kind of takes control, even with Ikaika in there. He does a lot of (leadership) stuff, and he'll do more of it now."
Defensive tackle Lui Fuga agrees.
"He can only get better. He's focused, excited, he loves this game," Fuga said. "He communicates a lot and plays with a lot of intensity. He seems to be always in the right place."
In addition to athletic parents, both of Moe's older sisters, Tui and Mia, played soccer at UH. Tui was also the first Hawaii high school girl to kick a field goal in a football game, doing so for Punahou. T.J.'s older brother, Tau, played soccer at Hawaii Pacific.
"They're all great athletes and I always looked up to my siblings -- from the beginning I tried to emulate them," Moe said.
Moe and his wife, Summerlyn, have three children of their own: Talyn, Tanuvasa and Teisha.
On the corner: Starting cornerback Kenny Patton did not practice again yesterday due to a hamstring strain suffered last Saturday against Tulsa.
But Patton did make the trip to UTEP, and "will play," Jones said.
His first backup, Cameron Hollingsworth, will be available after missing some of Tuesday's practice with a sore knee. "He's OK," Jones said. "It just got kicked."
Omega Hogan or true freshman Keao Monteilh could also see playing time if Patton or Hollingsworth is still hobbled.
Starting middle linebacker Ikaika Curnan is out with a high ankle sprain. His replacements are Watson Ho'ohuli and Timo Paepule.
Lafaele progressing well: The latest convert from offensive line to defensive line, Michael Lafaele, is getting up to speed quickly, Jones said.
Lafaele, a second-year freshman, was moved from center to defensive tackle on Tuesday. After just two days at the new position, Jones proclaimed him ready to play in a game.
"He's doing pretty good. Very good, actually," the coach said. "A lot better than I anticipated. So well that I think he'll play."
Starting tackles Matt Faga and Lui Fuga are backed by Larry Sauafea and Darrell Tautofi. Lafaele was switched to defense after second-team DTs Kahai LaCount (knee) and Keala Watson (non-football medical condition) both became unavailable.
Short yardage: UTEP defensive tackle Chris Mineo is from Permian High, the Odessa, Texas, school portrayed in the new movie "Friday Night Lights." ... UH quarterback Tim Chang played his first college game at UTEP, relieving Nick Rolovich in the second half of a 39-7 loss in 2000.
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