JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii running back Leon Wright-Jackson burned by Fresno State's Tyler Clutts and Kenny Borg en route to a first-half touchdown last night.
Backs carry the load
Chances are the Fresno State defensive coaching staff didn't have Daniel Libre circled on the roster as one of Hawaii's primary offensive threats as they finalized the game plan for last night's meeting with the Warriors.
After all, Libre -- whose previous game action this season was limited to UH's Scout Bowl three weeks ago -- hadn't carried the ball at the Division I level when he arrived at Aloha Stadium last night.
That changed in the first quarter when the Konawaena graduate scooted for 13 yards on his first carry and combined with sophomore Leon Wright-Jackson to power a UH ground game that provided an effective counter to the Warriors' passing attack in a 37-30 victory over the Bulldogs.
"We complemented each other a lot, we have different styles," said the 5-foot-8 Libre. "I guess they really weren't ready for it, because I came out of nowhere."
Hawaii rushed for 137 yards in the game, with Wright-Jackson and Libre carrying the ball six times each.
With Kealoha Pilares, UH's leading rusher entering the week, out with a knee injury, Wright-Jackson finished with a team-high 65 yards and a touchdown, while Libre picked up 61 yards to help the Warriors improve to 9-0 in his debut.
"Me and Libre had a game plan of coming out here and let's just work hard and play our game," said Wright-Jackson, who also caught three passes for 33 yards. "Let's not worry about all the fans and all the hype with the rivalry. Let's just go play the game."
David Farmer started the game in the backfield, and although his primary duty remained to block for the UH quarterbacks, he picked up 14 yards on his only carry and caught two passes for 29 yards.
"I knew the last four games we would have to run the ball," UH coach June Jones said of the Warriors' pivotal stretch run as they make their push for the Western Athletic Conference title and a Bowl Championship Series berth.
"Daniel Libre has some quickness, happy to see Leon do well."
Libre, who transferred from Menlo College this year, had been stationed at running back, receiver and cornerback before recently being moved back to running back.
He had been getting a heavy load with the first team in practice over the past two weeks and sparked a scoring drive by picking up 42 yards on three carries early in the second quarter.
"I just wanted to make sure I did my job," Libre said of his first appearance on the field. "It was my first opportunity and I didn't want it to be my last."
Libre said his time playing with the first unit in practice helped calm his nerves last night.
"The first day they put me in (in practice) I was so nervous," he said. "I was probably more nervous that day than I was today. But it helped me a lot"
Wright-Jackson hadn't seen much playing time in recent weeks, either. He carried the ball a total of three times in UH's last three games for 21 yards.
He made his first appearance of the game on UH's second possession, lining up behind Brennan in an alignment similar to Nevada's "pistol" look.
The alignment gave the 6-foot-1 Wright-Jackson room to utilize his long strides as he picked up 19 yards on back-to-back swing passes.
He then took the handoff on a draw play and went untouched on a 33-yard sprint to the end zone, his second score of the season and first since a Week 2 win at Louisiana Tech.
"I guess they noticed that I'm a downhill runner, so (the pistol) probably helped me," Wright-Jackson said. "Instead of going side to side, just go straight and hit the hole as fast as I could.
"We wanted to wrinkle with it and see what happens and it worked," he said. "We don't know if we're going to keep it, but you never know. Coach Jones is a brilliant man when it comes to this offense. I'm just waiting to see what else he's got."