DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Nate Ilaoa leads UH in rushing with 586 yards and is the team's second-leading receiver with 44 catches.
The road has hurt LaTech
THERE'S a team in the Western Athletic Conference with travel rigors to rival those of Hawaii. Like UH, Louisiana Tech must travel thousands of miles through numerous time zones to play conference games.
Hawaii vs. Louisiana Tech at Aloha Stadium
Kickoff: 6:05 p.m.
TV: PPV, Dig. 255
The line: Hawaii by 38
LaTech is 1-5 on the road this year, with its only win away from home being last week's 34-31 squeaker at North Texas.
After tonight's game against the Warriors, they will have played in all five time zones in the United States where Division I football is played.
LaTech endured a 3-hour bus trip and then an 8-hour plane ride on Thursday to get here.
Here's what to watch for on Veterans Day at Aloha Stadium:
When Louisiana Tech has the ball: Quarterback Zac Champion is aware of UH's blossoming reputation for hard-hitting defense.
"It's a good defense and we know they're going to play hard. We just have to do what we can," Champion said. "They run hard and get to the ball quick."
Champion has possibly the fastest player in the WAC to throw to in wide receiver Jonathan Holland. One of his seven grabs for 139 yards against Nebraska won a national play-of-the-week award. Eric Newman is a solid possession receiver who has a 19-game streak of catching at least one pass.
Starting running back Patrick Jackson has been bothered by injuries, so freshmen Daniel Porter (412 yards, two TDs) and William Griffin (123, one score) have picked up some of the slack.
Gerard Lewis is the starter at left cornerback for UH, as the Warriors continue to move players in and out and in again. Ryan Keomaka, based on interceptions in two consecutive games, was the tentative starter on Monday, but Lewis outperformed him in practice. Keomaka will, however, get some playing time, according to UH defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville and secondary coach Rich Miano.
Defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold continues to mix and match up front due to injuries to key backups.
"One group is '684', That's the area code for Samoa," Reinebold said. "Mel Purcell, Lawrence Wilson and Larry Sauafea. They're pretty stout."
When Hawaii has the ball: Does the nation's top passing and scoring offense perform better against man-to-man or zone defenses?
"Hmm. Good question," answered UH slotback Ryan Grice-Mullins, who scored two touchdowns last week. "I'm not sure. Maybe we score faster against man-to-man. We've had four or five drives where we scored on one or two plays against man. But it doesn't matter. We're all about going out there and doing our jobs. No matter what coverage they're in, just run our routes right and Colt (Brennan) will get the ball to us."
The Warriors can expect a mix of schemes from the Bulldogs, who will try to perform with a banged-up defensive unit that is down to its third free safety and has had five starters miss significant playing time.
Special teams: UH's Dan Kelly hasn't attempted a field goal in a month. He kicked two against Nevada on Oct. 7 and is 4-for-5 for the season.
LaTech leads the nation in fumbles caused on kick coverage with five. Four have been on punts and one by the kickoff team.
Myron Newberry has displayed good hands fielding punts for UH, but has been less than spectacular with 5.2 yards per return. When Tech isn't forcing a fumble on punt returns, its smothering the returns at a rate of 3.47 yards per, which is seventh best in the nation.
LaTech offensive line vs. Hawaii defensive line
Hawaii nose tackle Mike Lafaele remembers last year's game at Ruston, La., but not fondly. The UH front three was pushed around, and that allowed the Bulldogs to rush for 327 yards and wear down the Warriors.
Lafaele's job in UH's 3-4 scheme usually is to occupy opposing blockers so teammates can make the tackles. But he'll be expected to pursue and make some plays himself this week.
"They run a lot of stretch plays, so I gotta run sideline to sideline. Cannot be playing in just one spot, I've got to be all over the field this week," said Lafaele, who has played the last four games with a broken finger.
UH defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold knows Bulldogs right tackle Bill Jones and left guard David Accardo pretty well. He recruited them when he was a Louisiana Tech assistant.
The Warriors starters -- Mel Purcell, Lafaele and Ikaika Alama-Francis -- are healthy, but Larry Sauafea and Siave Seti were brought over from the offense because of injuries.
"This week we're really coaching up these guys," Lafaele said. "I guarantee they're going to get playing time."
"We're mixing and matching," Reinebold said. "We'll keep 'em rolling, keep 'em fresh.
UH's depth should prevail, but if LaTech can control the line, it will help the Bulldogs limit the Warriors' offensive possessions and keep them in the game longer.