GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
UH defensive end David Veikune batted down a pass by Charleston Southern QB Eli Byrd.
Reserves play key roles in victory
Starting at the Division I level is a goal that drives many athletes.
University of Hawaii juniors David Veikune and Desmond Thomas have yet to earn that feeling, but both were instrumental in keeping the Warriors' dream of an undefeated season alive in last night's 66-10 win over Charleston Southern.
Veikune had two sacks at critical times and Thomas helped jump-start a struggling offense with a key interception midway through the second quarter to help Hawaii get on track and rout Charleston Southern.
"We have been just missing takeaways," defensive coordinator Greg McMackin said. "Balls were going off our hands, but it was good to get them tonight."
Neither guy is listed as an official starter, but both play a significant amount as the first guys off the bench.
"The only thing I don't do is come out of the tunnel and have my name called at the beginning of the game," Veikune said. "But I'm cool with that."
Thomas splits time with Keao Monteilh at safety. His playing time generally hinges on what offense the opponent runs.
"Tonight I was in there in a couple plays and probably played about 90 percent of the time," Thomas said. "I just want the coaches to be able to depend on me."
Veikune, a backup defensive end, made the first big play that got the Warriors going with a huge sack on third down that ended the Buccaneers' drive.
He circled all the way around the line from the left side and caught a scrambling Eli Byrd from behind for a 2-yard loss.
It led to Hawaii's second touchdown.
"I've got to give credit to Karl (Noa) and Amani (Purcell)," Veikune said. "They were able to force (Byrd) back to the middle, where I could make a play."
The UH defense was giving up its share of yards, but made the key plays when needed.
CSU drove inside the Hawaii 10-yard line on the ensuing drive. Veikune again came up big, sacking Byrd for a 5-yard loss. Two plays later, a Buccaneers fumble was recovered by Jacob Patek, and the defense stood tall again.
"Big plays like that help get the 12th man going," Veikune said. "Those are the types of plays that get us ... momentum."
Thomas added his own big play midway through the second quarter. Byrd tried to catch the Warriors defense sleeping by calling for a quick snap.
An alert Thomas was all over it, jumping the route on top and intercepting the pass. He returned it inside the CSU 10-yard line to set up a touchdown run by backup quarterback Tyler Graunke.
Since giving up 44 points to Louisiana Tech two weeks ago, the Warriors have surrendered just 24 points in their last two games.
Hawaii matched its season total in takeaways with four and had five sacks.
"The LaTech game was a humbling process for us," Thomas said. "We know we're a good defense, and we want to show the nation we're a good defense."