Veikune, Fonoti dole out punishment
POSTED: Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Though they've been among Hawaii's most productive defenders this season, David Veikune and John Fonoti had generally taken turns in putting up big performances this season.
When the Warriors reviewed the tapes, Fonoti tended to show up more prominently in home games and Veikune's best outings came on the road.
That was until last weekend.
"Finally we put it together and we fed off each other and made some big plays," Veikune said.
The senior defensive ends combined on Hawaii's first defensive score of the season—a tone-setting fumble return for a touchdown in UH's 38-31 win over Nevada—and led the Warriors defense in meeting the highlighted targets on its goal board.
"The things we talked about on defense were to score or set up a score, we needed to play well on third-down conversions, and get three turnovers," Hawaii head coach Greg McMackin said. "That's what we focused on."
Veikune was credited with two sacks and two forced fumbles for the Warriors, who finished with three takeaways. Fonoti pounced on two fumbles and returned the first 9 yards for his first score since his days as a two-way player at Farrington.
Veikune enters Saturday's conference game at Utah State (1-7, 1-3 WAC) leading the Warriors with seven tackles for loss and was credited with his first two sacks of the season last week. Fonoti has 37 stops, three behind the line of scrimmage.
"They're like big linebackers playing defensive end," McMackin said. "So they're really athletic guys and we ask a lot out of them."
Veikune was third in the WAC in sacks with seven last season, including one for a safety against Nevada, but went six games this year before recording his first.
"It's a relief," Veikune said. "There's still always pressure to make plays every week, but it kind of took off some pressure."
Veikune tallied his first sack when he blew by Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick, knocking the ball loose along the way, though he initially wasn't sure he'd made much of an impact at all.
"I didn't know it was a sack or a fumble. I thought I just missed a tackle and I was disappointed," Veikune said. "But I got up and saw the ball was loose and went to go block for John."
Fonoti, calling on the "score drills" the defense runs most mornings in practice, secured the bouncing ball and took it 9 yards into the end zone.
"I was thinking about jumping on it," Fonoti said. "But I saw a lot of my defensive guys helping me out and blocking for me, so I figured I'd try to pick it up."
It was the second time this season Fonoti scooped up a loose ball. His recovery of a fumble was a turning point in UH's win over Louisiana Tech two weeks earlier.
"The assistant coaches did a great job of coaching the fundamentals and we see those kind of things come out and it wins ballgames," McMackin said.
The Warriors' defensive front is among Utah State coach Brent Guy's concerns heading into Saturday's game in Logan.
The Aggies are 113th in the country in sacks allowed (2.9 per game), but gave up none in a 30-28 loss to Fresno State last week when starting a revamped offensive line made up of four redshirt freshmen and a sophomore.
A week after chasing Kaepernick around Aloha Stadium, the Warriors will face another mobile quarterback in Utah State sophomore Diondre Borel.
"On defense they look a lot like last year's team," Guy said of the Warriors. "They bring a lot of pressure and have a lot of speed and we have to be able to protect the quarterback."
ESPN2 picks up Cincinnati game
ESPN2 will air Hawaii's regular-season finale against Cincinnati on Dec. 6. Kickoff has been set for 6:30 p.m.
The network was scheduled to pick up either UH's game against Cincinnati or Washington State. The Washington State game on Nov. 29 will start at 6:05 p.m. and will be available on Oceanic Cable pay-per-view.
The Cincinnati game will be UH's second appearance on national television this season. The Warriors' loss at Boise State aired on ESPN on Oct. 17.
Leonard ready to go
UH defensive tackle Josh Leonard sat out yesterday's practice to rest his sprained ankle, but said he could be back at work today and will be ready for Saturday's game. Leonard has started every game and has 4 1/2 tackles for losses.
Nobriga still looking
Liloa Nobriga, a standout linebacker at top-ranked Palo Verde High in Las Vegas, said he sees himself ending up as a Warrior after graduation and has "100 percent respect for UH." But he said he'll take a look at a couple of other options before completely closing the recruiting process.
"I grew up a UH fan and Hawaii is where my heart is," said Nobriga, who attended Iolani before moving to Nevada with his family last year.
Nobriga (6-foot-3, 235 pounds) has 106 tackles for 9-0 Palo Verde and said his visit to UH over the weekend, "was everything I could have imagined."
After talking over the decision with his father upon returning to Las Vegas, he said he plans to visit other campuses before finalizing his choice.