‘Other Leonard’ makes big play
It was only a matter of time before the "other Leonard" tag came off.
The biggest play of a surprisingly tight first half in Hawaii's 52-37 win last night went to the lesser known of Hawaii's two defensive Leonards, backup left tackle Josh Leonard, who gave the Warriors a much-needed spark just before halftime.
Leonard, not related to starting linebacker Adam Leonard, came up big when he quelled a Utah State drive by falling on an Amani Purcell-induced fumble on Aggie running back Derrvin Speight at the Hawaii 32 with 3:30 left in the half. To that point, the Warriors' success containing quarterback Leon Jackson III was spotty at best, as USU nailed two first-half field goals to remain within 24-13.
The turnover set up an energized Warrior offense, leading to Tyler Graunke's 1-yard option score with 5 seconds to play. The Warriors went into the locker room with momentum fully in their camp, proving useful as USU matched UH score-for-score in the third quarter.
"I'm trying to (get the recognition), we'll see," Leonard said with a smile. "Doing the best I can right now, but (Adam's) a hell of a player."
The 6-foot-3, 274-pound junior transfer out of Sierra College (Calif.) also notched three tackles while backing up Fale Laeli.
The defense was hurting without the leadership of senior team captain Michael Lafaele, out with a hamstring injury, and all-around athleticism of junior cornerback Ryan Mouton (knee). But in an instant, the Warriors had a poignant moment to rally around.
"Utah State's a real good team, despite their record," Lafaele said in the locker room afterward. "Josh and Amani stayed focused, made that play, and came up with it."
Defensive coordinator Greg McMackin was less than pleased with the overall defensive effort, which was more akin to a sieve than a vise.
"I was pleased with the first half inasmuch as, we knew they had Jackson, we knew they had (receiver) Kevin Robinson, and we held them to two field goals," McMackin said. "It was a win, but it wasn't exactly as I wanted everything to happen."
Jackson went for 216 of USU's 370 yards of offense in the game, and Utah State actually outscored Hawaii 24-21 in the second half.
Neither team had much success defensively in the third quarter, with Jackson operating at will for keepers and passes on the run to set up Speight with a 9-yard touchdown run, then a 77-yard TD bomb to Robinson.
The first half turned out to be the best one overall for the defense.
"We stopped them two times within the 20, then we got (Josh Leonard's) turnover," McMackin said. "Some guys had to step up with Mike (Lafaele) not being in there, but we weren't as consistent as I'd like to see."