Mouton working his way back
UH receivers relish chance to hit someone
Following a restful weekend, the Hawaii football team got back to work yesterday, with a hobbled Warrior aiming to soon rejoin the action.
The Warriors (7-0, 4-0 Western Athletic Conference), ranked 17th in this week's Bowl Championship Series standings, return from a bye week to face New Mexico State and defensive back Ryan Mouton is hopeful he'll be ready for the conference contest.
Mouton Making an impact
How Ryan Mouton fared before getting injured at Idaho:
» Northern Colorado: Had two solo tackles, one for a loss
» at Louisiana Tech: Returned four kicks for 93 yards and assisted on two tackles
» at UNLV: Returned an interception 40 yards for a touchdown and returned three kicks for 71 yards
» Charleston Southern: Returned three kicks for 149 yards and a touchdown. Also made a solo tackle.
» at Idaho: Assisted on two tackles and batted down a pass.
Mouton missed the last two games with a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee suffered in UH's win at Idaho on Sept. 29. Still wearing a brace on the knee, he watched yesterday's practice from the sideline but ran with the team after the morning workout.
"I'm just testing it out right now," Mouton said. "I just have to get cleared. Hopefully I'll know some time today or tomorrow and see what the doctor says."
Prior to the injury, Mouton had been contributing in UH's nickel package and on special teams and scored touchdowns on interception and kickoff returns this season. In his absence, JP Davis and Calvin Roberts have moved into the backup cornerback slots behind starters Gerard Lewis and Myron Newberry.
Having Mouton back would boost a UH secondary preparing for a New Mexico State team that ranks second in the WAC and seventh in the country in passing offense with 316.9 yards per game.
If he's not quite ready to play on Saturday, Mouton would have another bye week to recover before the Warriors face Fresno State on Nov. 10.
The rest of the Warriors went through a full practice yesterday morning to begin preparations for New Mexico State (4-4, 1-2) and shake off the rust following the weekend off.
"Everybody's fresh, fresh legs, it's good to get that break," receiver Davone Bess said. "But we have to get back in the groove now."
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Davone Bess and Ryan Grice-Mullins have a closeness with their fellow Hawaii receivers that carries into their play -- they are willing and eager to block for each other.
UH receivers relish chance to hit someone
On weekday mornings in Manoa, Hawaii's receivers typically spend the bulk of a 2-hour workout running routes and shagging down passes.
But it's a skill they don't normally work on in practice that helps power the nation's fourth-leading offense on Saturday nights.
"A lot of the time our blocks make the difference between a 10-yard gain and a 60-yard touchdown," junior receiver Ryan Grice-Mullins said.
For all of the yards, receptions and scores they've accounted for this season, the receivers also revel in clearing the way for their partners.
Not getting the ball doesn't mean not being involved in the play, as they'll peel back to screen a defender or deliver a big hit to help the ballcarrier pick up a few extra yards. And as much as the catches, those hits tend to light up the meeting room when the group reviews game footage.
"We get excited in there when we see someone make a killer block," senior C.J. Hawthorne said after yesterday's practice as the No. 16 Warriors (7-0, 4-0 Western Athletic Conference) prepare for Saturday's homecoming game against New Mexico State (4-4, 1-2) at Aloha Stadium.
The receivers make up the back end of a Hawaii passing attack that enters the week second in the nation with 464.4 yards per game. Grice-Mullins (108.1 ypg) and Jason Rivers (104.2) top the WAC rankings, with Davone Bess (90.9) and Hawthorne (72.7) not far behind, regularly turning short throws into big gains with a little help from their friends.
"They're probably the best blocking group that I've had," UH coach June Jones said. "The last two or three years they've taken a lot of pride in helping their buddies.
"We just talk about it and they pay attention to detail and do it. We don't have blocking drills, but they do a great job of understanding what we ask of them."
While they work on recognizing coverages, running their routes accordingly, then securing the ball in practice, the blocking phase comes naturally in the games.
"Ryan and Davone, they both have a few pancake blocks and Jason is probably our most physical guy, so I think he's excellent at making blocks, especially downfield," Hawthorne said.
"We don't practice it much, but it's instinctive. We understand the more we help each other out the better it's going to be in the long run."
The long runs often come as a result of a solid block, whether it comes downfield on a pass play or simply getting in the way of a defender to provide a crease on a draw or shovel pass to the running back.
"It's really positioning," receivers coach Ron Lee said. "It's not a physical type of block, it's more of screening and let the backs or receiver run off the blocks. Nothing fancy, just getting there and sticking your nose in his chest."
But given the opportunity, the receivers will inflict a toll on a defensive player caught unaware.
"I had one against LaTech and my guy actually flew," Bess recalled with a grin when asked about the season's biggest hits, "and Ryan had one against San Jose State where his guy was pretty much out for the count."
Said Grice-Mullins: "You just react, and when you see an open shot you just take it."
Having become UH's all-time leading receiver against San Jose State, Rivers resumes his chase of the WAC career reception mark this week. The senior has 246 catches, 17 receptions short of the league record of 263 held by New Mexico's Terance Mathis. Bess is eight catches behind Rivers with 238 and needs six more touchdowns to tie the WAC career record of 42 held by Wyoming's Ryan Yarborough.
Hawaii moved up a spot in the Bowl Championship Series standings to No. 17 following its bye week based on their rise in the coaches and Harris polls while strength of schedule factors into a meager showing in the computer rankings. WAC commissioner Karl Benson remains confident the Warriors will reach No. 12 and earn a BCS bowl berth if they finish undefeated.
"The computers right now are not treating Hawaii favorably," Benson said "I think that is going to change as they finish the season playing teams that are going to have winning records."