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StarBulletin.com

Salas emerges


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POSTED: Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Trust has been one of the popular talking points around the Hawaii football team lately, and putting the concept into practice paid off in at least one key instance last weekend.

With Hawaii locked in a second-quarter tie with Louisiana Tech, receiver Greg Salas left the huddle with a few extra words for quarterback Inoke Funaki.

“;He was like, 'If you don't see anything just put it up there and I'm going to go get it for you,' “; Funaki said.

With Funaki's first option—a short route to slotback Aaron Bain—covered, Salas' words echoed in his mind and he put his trust in the sophomore wide receiver in firing a pass to the corner of the end zone.

Sure enough, Salas rewarded Funaki by outdueling his defender to pull down the throw for the go-ahead score and the Warriors went on to a 24-14 victory.

“;I just told him he can trust me,”; Salas said. “;We do it all the time in practice and it finally carried over to the game.”;

Salas had three catches for 87 yards, each reception more impressive than the last, and will have a chance to make plays on a national stage this Friday when the Warriors (3-3, 2-1 Western Athletic Conference) face No. 15 Boise State (5-0, 1-0) at Bronco Stadium on ESPN.

“;It's not going to be easy, but we're looking forward to it,”; Salas said. “;These are the kinds of games you want to play in so I'm just looking forward to the opportunity.”;

Salas enters the week with 20 catches for a team-high 305 yards and two touchdowns, and gives the Warriors quarterbacks a big target on the outside.

“;He knows how to use his body to position himself,”; offensive coordinator Ron Lee said. “;He's 6-2 and can jump and he's got great hands. We just have to get him the ball.”;

Salas started and finished the 91-yard drive that gave UH the lead for good in last week's win. On his first reception of the game, Salas took a short out and powered upfield for a 21-yard gain and his second catch resulted in the go-ahead score.

His third catch, which opened the Warriors' second possession of the third quarter, topped both.

Salas twisted around to adjust to a deep ball lofted over his left shoulder, tracking the ball over his head and cradling it with one hand for a 41-yard completion. The catch set up UH's lone score of the second half, a Dan Kelly field goal that gave UH a controlling 24-7 lead.

“;I thank him all the time. 'Thanks Greg for making that big catch, you're making me look good out there. I appreciate it,' “; Funaki said.

“;It's a big catch in the game and it was the first time for maybe a lot of the people of Hawaii to see him make a catch like that. But it's not a big surprise he made that type of play in a game because we've seen him make even more amazing catches than that in practice.”;

Salas has been a steady contributor, despite playing the early portion of the schedule with a broken bone in his left hand. He suffered the injury in the first quarter of the Warriors' season opener at Florida, but stayed in the game and scored UH's first touchdown of the season on a throw from Funaki.

Salas, who wore a cast under his glove for a few games, said the injury has healed and may have actually had some benefits.

“;It made me catch the ball better now, more concentration,”; Salas said. “;If I can catch the ball with one hand, now I've got two.”;

 

Field work starts

The process of replacing the playing surface at the Clarence Ching Athletic Complex (formerly known as Cooke Field) started yesterday, but the field won't be ready before the end of the regular season.

A crew began removing the black rubber surface now on the field and UH athletic director Jim Donovan said the target date for completion is “;early to mid-December”; barring delays.

“;If there's any underground damage that has to be fixed, that's the big issue,”; Donovan said.

 

Loeffler picks UH

It's a good thing Jordan Loeffler listened to his father.

Loeffler wasn't much of a football fan growing up and initially resisted his dad's insistence that he try out for the Hilo High team as a freshman. But he gave the game a shot “;and I loved it,”; he said.

Four years later, the Vikings lineman has a Division I future ahead of him, having committed to sign with the Warriors in February.

The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Loeffler plays on both sides of the line of scrimmage, though he spends most of his time at offensive tackle, and credited former Hilo coach Albert Kawelu for putting him on track toward playing college ball as a sophomore. He said he first started hearing from UH coaches after participating in a camp in Honokaa.

Loeffler said he had been in contact with several Pac-10 and WAC schools, but opted for a shorter flight.

“;I gotta have my rice,”; he said.