UH seeks Big Wednesday


POSTED: Wednesday, September 30, 2009

MONROE, La. » Time-warp week ends today.

With a Wednesday night game offering a national television appearance, the Hawaii football team has been operating under a modified schedule to prepare for a game at Louisiana Tech. So last Thursday's practice on campus represented the Warriors' customary “;game-plan Tuesday”; session, and yesterday's hour-long walkthrough at Trinity High School in Euless, Texas, took on the feel of a Friday.

But whatever the calendar reads, all the Warriors are concerned about is game day, which finally arrives in Ruston.

Hawaii (2-1) and Louisiana Tech (1-2) meet in an early yet pivotal game for both teams looking for a jump in the Western Athletic Conference race with an ESPN2 audience looking on for the 2 p.m. (Hawaii time) kickoff.

“;We just have to continue getting better,”; UH head coach Greg McMackin said. “;But because it's our first WAC game and because it's a national TV game, I feel a real good energy with this team. So we'll line it up on Wednesday night and see where we're at.”;

Like Hawaii, today's game will be Louisiana Tech's first since Sept. 19. Unlike the Warriors, the Bulldogs have been able to rest up at home for the entire break.

The Bulldogs opened the season with back-to-back road games, losing at Auburn and Navy before beating Nicholls State at Joe Aillet Stadium. The Warriors, meanwhile, arrived in town after spending a day and a half in Texas.

Derek Dooley's teams have generally been ground oriented in his two seasons at LaTech. But the Bulldogs have generated the bulk of their yardage through the air so far this season behind quarterback Ross Jenkins, who threw for 357 yards against Nicholls State and piloted the Bulldogs to their late-season run to a bowl game last season.

Running back Daniel Porter — the WAC's second leading rusher a year ago with 1,164 yards — is averaging just 3.3 yards per carry and the Bulldogs enter the game 103rd in the country in rushing offense at 97.3 yards per game.

Despite the relatively modest totals through three games, preventing Porter from having the breakout game he's been seeking remains a key for the UH defense. Keeping the running game under control will require holding their ground at the line of scrimmage against an offensive line returning five starters.

“;Porter is obviously a talent,”; McMackin said. “;I think people have been keying on him and they've been behind their first couple of games so they've thrown it.”;

Receiver/kick returner Phillip Livas' ability to break a big play either on offense or special teams is also among the Bulldogs' primary weapons.

After being tested on the ground in their first three games, the LaTech defense will have to shift gears in facing a UH offense ranked among the nation's most productive through the air.

“;It gets better as you keep going and I think we're at the point right now where everybody feels comfortable with each other and has a good idea of what we're all thinking and we're all seeing the same things,”; said UH quarterback Greg Alexander, the nation's leader in total offense.

Alexander is completing 62 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns against two interceptions. Greg Salas and Rodney Bradley have been the primary big-play threats, with Kealoha Pilares finding holes underneath the coverage to lead the Warriors with nine receptions per game.

“;They've really got it rolling and they look like the Hawaii of two years ago and it's going to be a big challenge for our defense,”; Dooley said.

LaTech's defensive front is led by tackle D'Anthony Smith, a first-team All-WAC pick last season. Those getting past the front line will likely deal with free safety Antonio Baker, second in the country among active players in career tackles.

Disaster hits close to home

As the team arrived in Monroe yesterday, attention turned to the situation in American Samoa and neighboring Samoa in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami that struck the region.

About a dozen players on the traveling squad have family members in the islands, and have been monitoring the news and trying to get in touch with relatives.

Short yardage

Rece Davis, Mark May and Lou Holtz will call the game on the ESPN2 telecast. ... Today's game has been designated as a “;Red Out”; game. The Bulldogs wear red jerseys once a year. ... The seventh-grade team from Euless Junior High attended yesterday's walkthough at Trinity.