GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Gerard Lewis got ready to pounce on the loose ball in last night's game against Northern Colorado.
Kalilimoku steps in to lead stingy defense
With Hawaii thoroughly dominating Northern Colorado in every phase, Brad Kalilimoku didn't spend a whole lot of time on the field.
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It was long enough, however, for the Warrior linebacker to help set the tone for a 63-6 season-opening blowout of the Bears at Aloha Stadium.
A Hawaii defense starving to face someone other than the Warrior offense was on the field for just 25 plays last night, but contributed to the feeding frenzy with two early turnovers.
And by the time the backups took over for good, Kalilimoku had registered a team-high nine tackles, including eight solo and two for losses.
"Our whole team was ready to whack somebody," Kalilimoku said. "We've been working so hard, first team, second team, third team, everybody was busting their butts.
"We know how hard everybody works on the team and it's good to see everybody get out on the field and play."
In his stint on the field, the senior flowed to the football from his outside linebacker spot to stuff UNC backs at the line of scrimmage, run down a receiver in the flat or chase down quarterback Dominic Breazeale for a 6-yard loss in the second quarter.
"He's a player," UH linebackers coach Cal Lee said. "He plays with heart, he plays with his soul, you gotta love the way he plays."
Though UH's base defense employs three linebackers, Kalilimoku was considered a fourth starter by defensive coordinator Greg McMackin -- along with Adam Leonard, Solomon Elimimian and Blaze Soares -- entering fall camp.
With Soares hampered by shoulder and hamstring injuries over the past three weeks and sidelined for last night's game, Kalilimoku made the most of his chance to start as a touted linebacker corps enjoyed a solid start to the season.
Elimimian made two of his five stops behind the line of scrimmage and Leonard batted down a pass on Northern Colorado's first play of the game. Timo Paepule had seven tackles with the second unit.
"We always thought (Kalilimoku) was an excellent player, he can run, he can hit and he's a great athlete," McMackin said.
"I thought the 'backers played well, the front seven. I'm really happy with the effort."
Along with setting up the offense with two fumble recoveries on Northern Colorado's first two possessions, the Warriors allowed just three first downs in the first half while limiting the Division I-AA Bears to 46 yards. The Warrior offense, meanwhile, turned the stops into scores and rolled up 439 yards and 42 points before the break.
When the clock mercifully ran out, the Warriors had surrendered just 182 total yards, an average of 2.9 per play, and finished with three takeaways.
"I was really happy with the intensity," said McMackin, who stayed with the base 4-3 alignment for nearly the entire first half. "We wanted a starting point to set a standard of where we are and then we have to continue to get better. There's a lot of things that we can get better at, but I thought they played very hard and they came to play, that's what I was really looking for."
A fourth quarter touchdown run by UNC quarterback Mike Vlahogeorge meant the Bears would avoid becoming UH's first shutout victim since a 24-0 win at Idaho on Sept. 24, 2005.
"You always have your problems here and there, but we'll work through it and get better," Kalilimoku said. "It's our first game and we set our character as a defense."