Ryan Mouton's bruised knee suffered against Charleston Southern won't keep him out of Saturday's game at Idaho.
Mouton turning into a threat on special teams as well as defenseSTORY SUMMARY »
Quick, name the only Hawaii player who has scored a touchdown in both of the last two games.
Hint: Neither came on offense.
Ryan Mouton has added a new dimension to the Warriors. Make that two. He's a threat at cornerback and returning kicks.
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At UNLV two weeks ago, Mouton applied the coup d'gras, slicing 40 yards to the Rebels end zone with an intercepted pass.
Then he applied a knockdown punch last Saturday against Charleston Southern with a 90-yard TD on a kickoff return.
He's also top-notch on punt coverage.
So the Warriors were happy to learn yesterday that the knee Mouton wrenched on Saturday is just bruised, and he'll make the trip to Idaho (1-3) tomorrow ready to play as 19th-ranked Hawaii (4-0) tries to up its Western Athletic Conference record to 2-0.
Quarterback Colt Brennan (ankle) and linebacker Blaze Soares (hamstring, shoulder) both practiced with the first teams yesterday.
Brennan sat out last Saturday, sacrificing one game against a Division I-AA opponent in the hopes of a healthy remainder of the season. The Heisman Trophy candidate and nation's passing leader hopes to pick up where he left off after the first three games.
Soares -- expected to be a volatile force on the other side of the ball -- hasn't played a down yet. The Warriors will ease him back into the mix with Brad Kalilimoku playing well at strongside 'backer.
UH's depth at safety has taken a hit with a knee injury ending the season for true freshman Le'Marcus Gibson. But Gibson has a bright future and could start for the Warriors into the next decade.
The 64-man travel squad leaves for Idaho tomorrow, where UH won 24-0 in its last shutout victory, two years ago.
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Ryan Mouton knows the Kibbie Dome is a unique place. And to the relief of the Hawaii coaching staff, he'll be there to see it in person Saturday.
The prospect of playing full-bore on a tender left knee at Idaho's cramped, 16,000-seat indoor arena isn't something he'll shy away from, either.
Who: Hawaii at Idaho
Time: 11:05 a.m.
Where: Kibbie Dome, Moscow, Idaho
TV: Live, PPV 255; replay 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday, KFVE, Ch. 5
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
"We have to play in all types of conditions, and be ready to get out there and get after it," Mouton said yesterday after the Warriors' practice. "(The knee) is just a little sore."
Just two days removed from getting an MRI to check the joint for damage, Mouton will join his fellow 19th-ranked teammates on their team flight to Moscow tomorrow, Hawaii defensive coordinator Greg McMackin said.
Mouton's MRI came up negative for any serious harm, and the junior participated fully in team drills yesterday. That was a big relief for both the UH defense and special teams, for which he has become a knight on the chessboard: versatile and shifty.
"He's a big-time player," McMackin said. "He's for real, and he complements our corners. He's playing our nickel (package), and we're getting him more and more reps and we consider him a starter and one of our better players."
The Warriors' last defensive shutout came the other time UH visited Idaho's home dome, in 2005, a 24-0 victory.
The Blinn (Texas) Junior College transfer could have an important role in a repeat performance. He already has a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown as a "third starter" with Gerard Lewis and Myron Newberry at cornerback, and his 90-yard kickoff return for a score against Charleston Southern got the Warriors rolling in all phases last weekend.
He's averaged 31.3 yards in 10 returns so far, leading the way for UH's average of 32.4 (good for third nationally), and is tied for seventh on the team in scoring with three offensive players.
"I try to come in and contribute any way that I can, and I guess I'm doing that so far," the 5-foot-10, 182-pound Houston native said. He's also tallied a 20-yard tackle for loss and a pass broken up, with five total tackles.
Offensive line coach Dennis McKnight also instructs the kickoff coverage units, and glows about Mouton's play on special teams.
"He's just a natural at it," McKnight said. "You can have a fast guy, but that don't necessarily mean he'll be a good return guy. Ryan has a good feel for 'setting it,' which we talk about making 'em think you're going one way, then BOOM, snap it the way the return's going."
Mouton described a well-timed pickup by Timo Paepule as the reason he completed the Warriors' second score on a kickoff this season.
"We were trying to go back right, and I saw (the opening) up the middle," he said. "I saw my blockers were staying on their blocks, and Timo came through with a clutch block at the end to set me free, and got there and ran with it."
He's thrived under high expectations. Thriving under the Kibbie Dome is simply the next step.
Surgery for Gibson
True freshman safety Le'Marcus Gibson will undergo surgery within the next few days for an ACL tear in his left knee. Gibson will apply for and likely receive a medical redshirt. He played in one game, the season opener against Northern Colorado.
"The coaches let me establish myself in the system," Gibson said. "They know I can play and hopefully I can come back next season ready to go."
The injury could turn out to be in Gibson's long-term benefit in terms of playing time.
"He'll have a chance at starting for four years, because he's got that kind of potential," McMackin said.