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POSTED: Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The view from the sideline is getting pretty old for Kealoha Pilares.

               

     

 

 

SHERATON HAWAII BOWL

        Notre Dame (6-6) at Hawaii (7-6)

       

When: 3 p.m. Dec. 24.

       

TV: ESPN

       

Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM

       

       

The Hawaii sophomore has dealt with foot and ankle injuries over the second half of the season and missed the Warriors' last two games, heightening his appreciation for a chance to finish the season in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

“;I think I've watched enough already,”; Pilares said yesterday. “;I just want to get into things.”;

After a week off, the Warriors (7-6) returned to practice yesterday to prepare for their Christmas Eve matchup against Notre Dame (6-6).

Though eager to get back into the rotations at slotback and running back, Pilares is taking a cautious approach to this week's practices.

Pilares put the pads back on and ran some routes from the slotback spot during passing drills yesterday morning, but he sat out the 7-on-7 and team periods.

“;The doctors and trainers just said to take it slow,”; Pilares said. “;Hopefully, by Wednesday or Thursday I'll be going full speed. I don't want to aggravate it more.”;

Pilares proved to be among the most effective Warriors in finishing drives with a team-high seven touchdowns this season. Finishing strong is the theme for the team leading up to their meeting with the Fighting Irish at Aloha Stadium.

The last time they took the field, the Warriors were positioned to pull off an upset of Big East champion Cincinnati. But they gave up 19 unanswered points, eight on offense, in the fourth quarter of a 29-24 loss to the Bearcats.

“;We let one slip away,”; senior linebacker Adam Leonard said. “;Anyone who watched that game could tell we had it won, but that's why you play four quarters. They took full advantage of the time they had. That's our challenge this game. We have to put four quarters together.”;

Said quarterback Greg Alexander: “;We can have some confidence that we had some success against a great team, but at the same time we know we should have finished it off.”;

The Warriors focused on fundamentals following their eight-day break from the field. UH coach Greg McMackin's bowl plans call for the Warriors to brush up on the basics before turning their attention to the Notre Dame game plan.

Yesterday's practice even included a “;sudden change”; period, a conditioning drill that was a staple of fall camp but hadn't been called for most of the season.

“;The most important thing is get back to the basics,”; McMackin said. “;We have to get back to getting our pads down, we have to get back to the fundamentals of tackling, blocking, securing the football.”;

After playing 13 games in 15 weeks, the Warriors welcomed some time off.

“;I had time to sit back and let my body heal up and I feel a lot different today than I felt all season,”; Leonard said. “;I feel refreshed and I feel like it's a whole new season.”;

Senior defensive back Ryan Mouton did not practice yesterday. Although he played against Cincinnati, he's recovering from a sprained ankle he suffered late in the season.

 

Hitting the books

The return to practice coincided with the start of final exams, which will result in players missing practices or meetings as they close out the fall semester.

“;It's just part of life as a college athlete,”; said Leonard, who has three finals this week.

McMackin said 18 players will miss Saturday's practice to take part in fall commencement exercises.

 

Looking ahead

While the UH starters worked back into practice mode yesterday, some of the players hoping to see more action beyond the bowl game were given more repetitions. The coaches are using the extra practices to give the younger players—most of whom spent the regular season on the scout team—more work in 7-on-7 and team drills.

“;That's one of the advantages of the bowl, you get to look at the young guys and the redshirts,”; McMackin said.