JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Malcolm Lane's kickoff return for a touchdown was one of the highlights for UH's special teams units last night.
Life in the fast Lane
Brashton Satele couldn't have been happier to misplay a ball.
After winless Utah State took a lead on No. 16 Hawaii in the second quarter of last night's Western Athletic Conference game at Aloha Stadium, a bouncing kickoff headed straight for, then right past, Satele.
Lucky for the Warriors.
The ball ended up in the hands of the much speedier Malcolm Lane, who bolted through the coverage unit and into the end zone to give Hawaii the lead for good as the Warriors went on to roll to a 52-37 win over the Aggies.
The return was one of the high points on a roller-coaster night for Hawaii's special teams units.
The dip came in the form of a 100-yard kickoff return by Utah State's Kevin Robinson that gave the Aggies a lead early in the game.
The peaks included Lane's 87-yard return and Dan Kelly's career-long 54-yard field goal in the first quarter as Hawaii fended off the early challenge and pulled away.
Lane's score -- his second in three kickoff returns this season -- was Hawaii's eighth touchdown return on defense or special teams.
"I was a lot more pleased about this one than the one I had in the first game of the season. This one meant a lot more," said Lane, referring to his 94-yarder late in a blowout of Northern Colorado. "We were down and it put us ahead and gave us the momentum of the football game."
That UH had to battle back against the winless Aggies was due in large part to Robinson, who stunned the Warriors with a goalline-to-goalline sprint, giving the Aggies their only touchdown of the first half and a 10-7 lead.
The return prompted the Warriors to kick the ball away from Robinson on subsequent kickoffs, opting for a short pooch kick at one point.
"We had big breakdowns, obviously," Kelly said. "We didn't execute on that certain play and when you don't execute against a returner and a return team like that, they will punish you.
"If you kick the ball to him you're asking for trouble, he's a phenomenal returner."
Many of the Hawaii players who watched Robinson blow past them on the coverage unit later helped clear the way for Lane.
"A great player (Robinson) is going to make plays and he got one on us," said UH assistant Dennis McKnight, who coordinates the special teams. "This is a prideful group and we got one back."
Lane's score came moments after Utah State had taken a 13-10 lead early in the second quarter as Aggie kicker Chris Ulinski bounced it downfield, through Satele's legs and into Lane's grasp.
"As soon as I picked it up everybody from their team just broke down too far away from the ball," Lane said. "So I just took it to the middle, made a little move and I saw a crease out of the corner of my eye and just hit it."
Said Satele: "We take a personal pride in all of our special teams, we don't want anyone touching him."
And after Lane went by ...
"Just keep on running and give him a high five."
Kelly's 54-yard field goal in the first quarter was the fifth-longest in school history and 2 yards shy of the school record, shared by Jason Elam (1992) and Justin Ayat (2004).
"It was a good solid hit and I got a hold of it. Just another day at work," Kelly said.
Kelly even got a bit of contact, getting tangled up with Utah State's Aaron Lesue in a brief scuffle at the end of a kickoff.
"I'm a football player, I'll get hit when I need to get hit, but there's a difference between getting blocked and getting tackled," Kelly said. "You can't let that stuff get to you. If I had let it get to me I might have missed my field goal. I'm a football player and I'll get hit. I'm not going to shy away from it."