Warriors linemen connect with program's history
With a former All-American looking on, UH prepares for a homecoming clash with Idaho
This is homecoming week, when the Hawaii football team is reminded it represents everyone who ever attended the university.
The Warriors defensive linemen were already getting that sense of history, sometimes several days a week. Former star defensive tackle Al Noga's college playing days ended in 1987. But the former NFL player and recent Manoa graduate is a regular observer at practices this fall.
"Al being out here is good motivation for all of us," sophomore defensive end Keala Watson said after the 5-2 Warriors' practice yesterday. "We all know what he's done for the program here and he inspires us to succeed. We even have posters of him in our D-line room. Coach Jeff (Reinebold) put them up to remind us of who set it up for us to be in this position and who to thank for being here."
Noga mostly keeps to himself, but the players know who he is.
"I found out about him when I was in high school, when I was doing personal research on UH and past players," said Watson, who was born in 1986, a few months before Noga became UH's only Associated Press first-team All-American.
For the second consecutive day, Watson took the first-team reps at right end in place of Ikaika Alama-Francis. Alama-Francis was getting treatment for back spasms.
"He went to the doctor this morning. He's a little better. Hopefully he'll be all right by Saturday," UH coach June Jones said. "We've had guys with back injuries before and a lot of times it's how they feel on gameday. I'm not worried about him, knowing what the deal is. We've seen the same thing over and over, so we think he'll be all right."
Watson, who is listed at 6-feet-3 and 328 pounds, is regaining weight and his health after a severe flu two weeks ago. He lost around 25 pounds.
"He was playing real good football until he got sick two weeks ago and lost some weight," Reinebold said. "Last year he had to step up a couple times when we had injuries and did a good job. I fully expect he'll go in and play well."
Another good day:
Slotback Ryan Grice-Mullins, who hasn't played since the third game of the season due to an ankle sprain, performed well for a second consecutive practice yesterday.
"Ryan took a lot of reps today and he looks ready to go," Jones said. "I think he's ready to roll. I made him take a lot of reps today. He ran hard and cut. He looked like his old self."
Kamehameha defensive lineman Vaughn Meatoga turned down an offer from UNLV and orally committed on Tuesday to accept a scholarship from UH, becoming the first player to do so this recruiting season. Washington, Colorado, Boise State, New Mexico State and Utah were also interested in the 6-foot-2, 274-pound defensive tackle from Kauai.
Meatoga said he doesn't plan to visit any other schools and he will make his commitment binding with UH on Feb. 7, national letter of intent day.
"Not right now. I'm not too sure (about visits). My mind's set on Hawaii. UH recruited me the hardest," he said. "I liked Hawaii from the start. Coach Reinebold is a good coach and I think I'll fit in well."
Meatoga is fully qualified academically.
Still his job:
Sophomore kicker Dan Kelly missed a point-after-touchdown in Saturday's 49-30 win at New Mexico State, a week after having two PATs blocked in the 68-37 win at Fresno State.
Jones said he's not worried about Kelly, who has made four of five field goals this fall in addition to 33 of 36 points after. Eight of his nine kickoffs at New Mexico State resulted in touchbacks.
"Dan's done a good job. He's had his moments of excellence and moments where he's got to get better," Jones said. "He'll develop consistency as he gets more experience."
Senior Bowl bound:
Samson Satele hopes some of his teammates join him in Mobile, Ala., on Jan. 27. The UH center accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, the most prestigious of the postseason all-star games.
"Hopefully we got more guys. Leonard (Peters), Mel (Purcell), Ikaika (Alama-Francis). I hope Nate (Ilaoa) gets invited because I'd feel honored to block for him," Satele said.
It's more likely the other Warriors standouts will get invitations to either the East-West Shrine Game, the new Border War game in El Paso (Texas vs. the rest of the country) or the Hula Bowl (if it is played).
Satele's linemates -- tackles Tala Esera and Dane Uperesa -- are also all-star game candidates.
Satele said he was going to contact the Shrine Game officials with his regrets and a suggestion.
"Hopefully they can give Dane that spot or somebody else," he said.
IDAHO AT HAWAII
Where: Aloha Stadium
When: Saturday, 6:05 p.m. (Stadium gates open at 3 p.m.)
TV: Live (and rebroadcast at 10:30 p.m.) on pay per view (Dig. 255). Call 625-8100 on Oahu or (808) 643-2337 statewide. Delayed free on Sunday, 10 a.m. on KFVE (Ch. 5).
Radio: KKEA (1420-AM)
Parking: $5. Lot gates open at 2:30 p.m. Alternate parking at Leeward Community College (free, $2 shuttle), Kam Drive-In ($5, free shuttle). Shuttles are from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and approximately 1 hour after game ends. Parking also at Radford High School ($3, no shuttle). No tailgating at alternate parking sites.
Stadium security: Fanny packs, purses and backpacks and handbags will be permitted subject to check. No illegal contraband, weapons, fireworks, coolers, cans, bottles, air horns, noisemakers, umbrellas, outside food and or beverages are allowed inside the stadium gates.
Tickets: $5-38. Available online at hawaiiathletics.com, by phone at 944-2697 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or at the Stan Sheriff Center, Aloha Stadium, UH Campus Center, RainbowTique at Ward Center and Windward Community College's OCET office.
Student buses: Four free buses will pick up students in front of Gateway House (2653 Dole Street), leave for the stadium at 4 p.m. and return 30 minutes after the game ends.