No rest for the Warriors after slim opening victory


POSTED: Sunday, September 06, 2009

Rather than spend the morning soaking in a dramatic season-opening win, the Hawaii football team was dripping in sweat yesterday.

A little less than 12 hours after the clock hit double zeroes on their win over Central Arkansas, the Warriors were back on campus and already back to work in a 10 a.m. conditioning session.

“;It was a good win last night. We overcame a good opponent. We want to celebrate. Everybody did a great job, but we've got to move on,”; senior defensive tackle Rocky Savaiigaea said. “;Hard work is only going to make you better.”;

The Warriors (1-0) will have a day off today to rest up a bit before returning to practice tomorrow to prepare for Saturday's game against Washington State (0-1) at Qwest Field in Seattle, the front end of a two-game road trip.

Bouncing back for yesterday's workout might have been tougher if the Warriors hadn't rebounded from a shaky start to escape Aloha Stadium with a 25-20 comeback win and avoid a damaging loss to an FCS team to open the season.

There were some pains for sure, but the Warriors grew up a bit in the process.

The offense committed three turnovers in the first half and Central Arkansas moved the ball against a relatively inexperienced defense as the Warriors fell behind 14-2.

The Warriors and Bears traded rallies in the second half, with UCA taking a 20-19 lead late in the game. UH responded with a 66-yard completion from Greg Alexander to Greg Salas and Rodney Bradley's go-ahead TD reception with 1:22 left.

While Bradley was among the Warriors newcomers getting adjusted to the speed of the game, he said time seemed to slow as Alexander's winning throw came his way.

“;Everything just pretty much slowed down,”; said Bradley, who'd relived the moment a few times since the end of the game. “;I came out of my break, I saw the ball and everything slowed down and I got the big eyes so I could see it in and secure the catch and tap two in the back of the end zone.”;

After Central Arkansas drove through the defense for a score on its previous possession, the UH defense came through with its lone takeaway to seal the win.

Safety-turned-linebacker Aaron Brown shot in from the left side for a sack of Robbie Park, UH's first of the season.

“;We needed a big play and Coach called a good play and we executed,”; Brown said. “;The end squeezed down on Blaze (Soares) coming off the end, and it left me free.”;

But Brown strained his hamstring on the play and was replaced by Corey Paredes. With a similar blitz called, Paredes also drilled Park, knocking the ball loose, and Richard Torres scooped it up. After an official's review, the play was ruled a fumble rather than an incomplete pass, allowing the Warriors to run out the clock.

“;It was awesome. Thankfully, Coach gave me a chance,”; Paredes said of his lone snap of the game at linebacker.

While some of the newer names contributed to the win, Bradley said the tone was set by the upperclassmen, who kept their cool when adversity hit.

“;They've been playing at this level, so they know how to come back and I was able to feed off of that,”; Bradley said.


Postgame aches

Along with Brown, cornerback Jeramy Bryant also didn't run with the team yesterday due to a deep cut on his right knee. Defensive end Elliott Purcell suffered a bruised thigh in the game, opening the way for redshirt freshman Paipai Falemalu to see extensive time in his debut.

“;There were a lot of butterflies going in, but after I took a few reps I got comfortable,”; said Falemalu, a converted linebacker.

Defensive end John Fonoti (knee) didn't play in the opener and sophomore Liko Satele made his first start, with Alasi Toilolo also getting into the rotation on the right side.

“;They fought hard. I thought they played better as the game went on,”; defensive line coach Dave Aranda said of the young linemen. “;When the game first started they had some wide eyes. It was good to see them face some adversity and have to focus in and make plays when it counted.”;


Stat watch

After one game, UH is 12 yards shy of its punt-return yardage total of last season. Ryan Henry had 50 yards in five returns on Friday. UH had 62 yards all of last season. UCA gave up just 25 punt-return yards last year. ... Alexander rushed for a career-high 76 net yards, the most for a UH quarterback since Inoke Funaki ran for 79 against Fresno State last year.