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D-line gets healthier


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POSTED: Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Hawaii's pass rush could get a needed boost for the start of the Western Athletic Conference season with the expected return of two defensive ends.

“;I think we're going to have Paipai (Falemalu) back, I think we're going to have (John) Fonoti back, which is really going to help us,”; UH head coach Greg McMackin said during his press conference yesterday.

Falemalu had earned a starting job at left defensive end, but sprained his ankle three days before last week's game at UNLV. Fonoti has yet to suit up after hyperextending his knee the week of the season opener.

After returning from an 11-day road trip, the Warriors (2-1) have a 10-day break before opening the WAC schedule at Louisiana Tech (1-2) on Sept. 30, giving those players dealing with injuries some extra time to recover.

Defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga is also expected to be ready for the Louisiana Tech game after suffering a sprained right ankle late in Saturday's game.

“;It's getting better. I've just been trying to get rehab three times a day and icing it,”; Meatoga said. “;If (the game) was on Saturday it would be a close call. But since it's next week Wednesday it gives me a little longer.”;

Fonoti traveled with the team during the two-game road trip, but his knee hadn't responded well enough for him to get on the field. McMackin said there was a possibility Falemalu could have played against UNLV last Saturday, but he was held out rather than risk further injury.

Jake Heun and Liko Satele started at the end spots in UH's 34-33 loss at UNLV, with the coaches substituting liberally in the 97-degree heat.

Elliott Purcell, a starter in the first two games, posted a career-high eight tackles against the Rebels. On a series in the first quarter, Purcell made three straight stops, dropping quarterback Omar Clayton for a loss on third down.

“;Elliott Purcell played really well this weekend,”; McMackin said. “;He played very physical, and if he continues to play like that and play every down, then he'll be fighting with those guys (for a starting job).”;

McMackin said the injury situation led the Warriors to play more three-man fronts than usual, and contributed to him calling a more aggressive game.

“;As you guys saw, we couldn't get a four-man rush, so we had to blitz,”; McMackin said. “;I love to blitz, but we had to blitz too much because we couldn't get a four-man rush.”;

Taking a breather

With an 11-day road trip behind them and a rare 10-day break between games, McMackin is giving the Warriors two days to step back from football.

“;It'll help us clear our minds. It's kind of like our first break since camp,”; said sophomore defensive back Richard Torres. “;It'll help us get away and make us more hungry for LaTech when we get back.”;

As they did yesterday morning, the players will run and lift today and tomorrow. But they'll otherwise take a break from the game before returning to practice on Thursday.

“;We've had some physical ballgames, the O-line's playing every snap, we have to give these guys a little rest,”; McMackin said.

The made-for-ESPN2 game against Louisiana Tech on Sept. 30 creates extra-long breaks on either side of the game. But McMackin doesn't consider either a bye week.

“;So you might not be playing on Saturdays, but we don't have a bye,”; McMackin said. “;That's fine if that's what's in the cards for us and we'll handle it.”;

The Warriors depart on Sunday and will practice at a high school in Dallas on Monday before heading to Louisiana.

The ring's the thing

Though the Warriors were aiming for a 3-0 start, McMackin wore his 2007 WAC championship ring yesterday to remind the players of the targets that remain.

“;You don't ever feel good about a loss, but it didn't take any of our goals away from us,”; McMackin said. “;That's why I wore this ring. Just to let the players know ... we still can win the WAC and we can still go to a bowl game.”;