Fans in Idaho greet Warriors
LEWISTON, Idaho » Hawaii fans are everywhere now -- even in this timber town of around 30,000 where the Snake and Clearwater Rivers meet near the Washington State line.
Hawaii (4-0) at Idaho (1-3)
» Tomorrow, 11:05 a.m.
» Kibbie Dome, Moscow, Idaho
» TV: Live PPV 255; replay 9:30 p.m. tomorrow and 10 a.m. Sunday, KFVE, Ch. 5
» Radio: KKEA, 1420 AM
» Internet: htsportsnet.com
Just a few minutes after the Warriors arrived at the Red Lion Hotel, Colt Brennan and Ryan Mouton took pictures with five young adult fans, some of whom followed the team from the airport. These are real fans, not mercenaries trying to make a buck off of signatures.
"He should've gotten the Heisman last year," said Jerel Hight, who was born and raised in Wahiawa.
Brennan can add to his case for this year's trophy with a strong performance tomorrow against Idaho. The 19th-ranked Warriors (4-0) play the Vandals (1-3) about 30 miles up the road in Moscow.
Brennan is coming off the first game of his UH career missed due to injury; his sprained ankle kept him out of a 66-10 rout of Charleston Southern at Aloha Stadium.
Idaho also has ankle concerns with its marquee offensive player. Running back Deonte Jackson leads the WAC in rushing, but his high ankle sprain has coach Robb Akey not counting on him for tomorrow's game.
UH defensive coordinator Greg McMackin said linebacker Blaze Soares will see significant action. Soares, slated to start this year, hasn't played yet in 2006 because of hamstring and shoulder woes. Jason Rivers said his back strain feels better, and he was set to test it today at a walk-through.
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GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Malcolm Lane is among the players who have helped the Warriors excel on special teams this season.
Warriors’ extra-special teams thrive
Special teams play may have kept Hawaii from an unbeaten season in 2006. So far this year they're a major reason the No. 19 Warriors are 4-0 heading into tomorrow's game at Idaho.
"We're certainly playing with great pride right now," UH coach June Jones said.
Hawaii has returned three kicks for touchdowns -- a kickoff each by Ryan Mouton and Malcolm Lane, and a punt by Mike Washington.
UH leads the WAC and is third in the nation with 32.4 yards per kickoff return. The Warriors are 12th in the country with 16.8 yards per punt return.
Hawaii is only 48th in kickoff-return yards allowed, at 20.48. But most of the longer returns have come after UH has built up big leads.
Hawaii is third nationally and leads the conference with a 41.9 net punting average.
Punter Tim Grasso averages 42.8 yards per kick and kicker Dan Kelly is perfect on PATs and 2-for-4 on field goals, including a clutch 49-yarder to keep UH alive in its eventual overtime win at Louisiana Tech.
While the kicking game is a collaborative effort of dozens of players, most of whom also have day jobs on offense or defense, so it is with the coaching -- offensive line assistant Dennis McKnight is the special teams coordinator, with Rich Miano (secondary), Jeff Reinebold (defensive line) and Wes Suan (running backs) also monitoring various aspects.
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Guyton Galdeira is among the players who have helped the Warriors excel on special teams this season.
"Dennis has done a great job of tying it all together and creating an attitude amongst the players that special teams is important," Reinebold said. "And not just that, but giving the guys some fundamentals and techniques."
Junior cornerback Guyton Galdeira has found a niche as an outstanding special teams player, blocking on returns and making tackles on kickoffs and punts. He often blocks two defenders on the same play.
"I'm trying to get to three," Galdeira said. "Coach McKnight always talks about taking it to the next level. Once you know your block is secure, you go to the next level and find another one."
Jones calls it "unconscious confidence."
Galdeira says, "It's instinctive and comes from the heart."
As a kickoff returner, Mouton gets one of the most glorious special teams assignments. He went 90 yards with one to help ice UH's 66-10 rout of Charleston Southern last week. He appreciates the other 10 guys' efforts.
"Rustin (Saole), Guyton, Timo (Paepule), Micah (Lau), those front line guys, they bust their tails every day, even at practice or whatever," Mouton said.
"You win games with special teams."
McKnight was the Warriors' special teams coach in 1999 and 2000 before leaving UH for other opportunities and returning to Manoa last year. He extended his own NFL career by being an effective snapper in the kicking game for the San Diego Chargers, where he was coached by Jones.
The happy returns are a testament to hard work of the entire units as much as the speed of the return men, McKnight said.
"The kids work hard and they take pride in it. They believe that they're gonna get it. It's hard to do, but the fact that you've got three already, that's a tribute to ... your guys' belief every time that you're gonna do it, and their hard work, and they take pride in their job, and want to be the best," McKnight said. "They've instilled that in themselves."