UH wary of UNLV option


POSTED: Thursday, September 17, 2009

LAS VEGAS » Hawaii coach Greg McMackin scheduled time in the afternoons and evenings for the Warriors to address their classroom assignments during their 11-day stay on the mainland.

The last two mornings have been devoted to making sure the Warriors defense heeds its responsibilities in preparation for a UNLV offense that will test the Warriors by land and air.

“;They run the option very well. They have skilled people,”; McMackin said. “;They'll run some stuff right at you, but basically they spread you out and run option and throw the football.

“;Against the option you have to be really sound on your assignments. ... Everybody's got to do their job.”;

The Warriors (2-0) and Rebels (1-1) meet on Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. Hawaii time.

The greater percentage of the Rebels' yardage has come through the air this season (478 passing, 297 rushing), but the Warriors are also wary of UNLV's ability to pick up yards with the option.

With such an occasion in mind, McMackin implemented a scheme to defend the option during spring practice and reviewed it in fall camp. So this week's practices at Palo Verde High School amount to a refresher course rather than an introduction.

“;Option is always a tough look. There's a lot of gaps that have to be covered and there's a lot of things we have to respect,”; linebacker R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane said. “;If there's a hole and somebody's not doing their assignment, there can be a leak and it can be a big play.

“;It's nothing new to us, now we just have to go out and execute it.”;

The Rebels have had effective play out of both quarterbacks this season, with Omar Clayton and Mike Clausen combining to complete better than 73 percent of their throws. Clausen stepped in when Clayton suffered a knee injury against Oregon State last week and threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes in a 23-21 loss.

UNLV coach Mike Sanford said whether Clayton starts against UH will depend on how his sprained knee responds in practice this week.

“;This team is real talented,”; Kiesel-Kauhane said. “;You can really see the difference (compared to) the two teams that we played.”;

When Clayton or Clausen drop into the pocket, they have a group of starting receivers all 6-foot-2 or taller, with 6-5 Rodelin Anthony topping the group.

“;That's going to test us and see where we really are,”; cornerback Jeramy Bryant said. “;I've been 5-9 for a long time, so I'm used to seeing bigger people. Just get in their pocket, play their hands and eyes.”;

While Bryant has held down one corner spot, Tank Hopkins and Lametrius Davis are sharing time at the other with the 6-foot Davis giving the Warriors more height on the outside. And the Rebels' versatility means being able to multitask in the secondary.

“;Now we have two big jobs to do, to watch the receivers and when he's blocking we have to play the run immediately to help out the linebackers and safeties,”; Bryant said.

As the Warriors prepare for any looks UNLV might throw at them, the Rebels also have an idea of what to expect come Saturday night.

“;Any time you go against a Hawaii defense they like to fly around and get after it,”; said receiver Ryan Wolfe, who faced the Warriors in 2006 and '07 and is already UNLV's all-time leading receiver. “;They'll be playing for big hits and they always seem to bring that tough mentality to the game. So we have to make sure we're sound and ready to match their physicality on defense.”;

New look for Nauahi

Viliami Nauahi has steadily moved closer to the line of scrimmage during his UH career.

Nauahi joined the program as a safety and moved to outside linebacker last season. Now he's practicing at defensive end.

“;I don't mind at all. It's kind of cool to learn different positions,”; Nauahi said.

Nauahi joined the team when classes started last month and his experience on special teams earned him a spot on the travel roster. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound senior moved to end just before the trip and is learning the techniques at yet another spot.

“;Coach Cal (Lee) took me on the side after one practice and asked me how I would feel if we moved you to D-end,”; Nauahi said. “;I said, 'Coach whatever you want me to do, I'll do it if it helps the team.' I get to learn more stuff. To me it's a good thing.”;

Short yardage

Freshman defensive end Paipai Falemalu hurt his right ankle during a 9-on-7 period and was on crutches after practice as a precaution. “;I'll be all right for Saturday. I just have to stay off of it for now,”; Falemalu said. ... UNLV is a 7-point favorite.