Cast of Warriors chipped in


POSTED: Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Some performances were readily recognizable.

Others were tucked in the game's deeper layers.

The combination added up to a much-needed win for the Hawaii football team.

Running back Leon Wright-Jackson's cathartic outing against Utah State was singled out by the Western Athletic Conference yesterday, when the senior was named the league's offensive player of the week.

Hawaii head coach Greg McMackin also pointed out several performances that may have been harder to detect, but played a significant role in getting the Warriors back in the win column after six straight losses.

Wright-Jackson obliterated his previous career highs in rushing for 167 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries against Utah State.

To that point, Wright-Jackson had largely scuffled through his two-plus seasons in the program, occasionally displaying the open-field ability that earned him Parade All-America honors at Pasco (Wash.) High School. He was slowed by a foot injury for much of last season and entered last week's game averaging a little more than three carries and 18 yards per game for his career.





        » Sept. 4: at Hawaii 25, Central Arkansas 20

        » Sept. 12: Hawaii 38, at Washington State 20

        » Sept. 19: at UNLV 34, Hawaii 33

        » Sept. 30: at Louisiana Tech 27, Hawaii 6

        » Oct. 10: Fresno State 42, at Hawaii 17

        » Oct. 17: at Idaho 35, Hawaii 23

        » Oct. 24: Boise State 54, at Hawaii 9

        » Oct. 31: at Nevada 31, Hawaii 21

        » Nov. 7: at Hawaii 49, Utah State 36

        » Nov. 14: New Mexico State at Hawaii, 5:05 p.m.

        » Nov. 21: Hawaii at San Jose State, 3 p.m.

        » Nov. 28: Navy at Hawaii, 5:30 p.m.

        » Dec. 5: Wisconsin at Hawaii, time TBA

Along the way, he developed as a blocker in the backfield to solidify his place in the starting lineup, and enjoyed a breakthrough last weekend along with running mate Alex Green, who ran for 110 yards in relief.

“;Running the ball is a physical, tough thing,”; McMackin said at his weekly press conference. “;The offensive line did a great job of blocking, they got him past (the line of scrimmage) and he'd make them miss and the receivers took over from there. It was really a total combination of things, so it really does make me feel good that he got that.

“;He's been nicked up and injured and he's got himself together health-wise, mentally, the whole part of the game. He's having a great life and having fun and that's the way it should be. ... He's got great speed, great vision, he's a strong guy, blocks well. And then Alex is coming, too.”;

While the stats compiled by Wright-Jackson, Green, Greg Salas (187 receiving yards) and quarterback Bryant Moniz (four touchdown passes) tend to attract the eye, McMackin also highlighted the contribution of receiver Kealoha Pilares, who accounted for one reception for no gain.

McMackin credited Pilares and the Warriors receiver corps for contributing to the team's rushing output by pulling defenders with them downfield, then helping clear the path for the ballcarriers.

“;(Pilares) graded out higher than any receiver because of his run blocking, because of his unselfishness running down the football field,”; McMackin said. “;Our receivers played their best game, and a lot of that run was because they were blocking and they were running their guys off.”;

Just getting onto the field was part of the challenge for several members of the UH defense.

Strong safety Spencer Smith was in the hospital due to a staph infection the day before the game and was cleared shortly before kickoff. He started in the secondary and posted three tackles.

“;They released him. but we were being careful, so he proved to the doctors that he was fine and he was, and played the whole game, then we got him out,”; McMackin said.

Free safety Richard Torres missed practice last week while recovering from a pulled hamstring, but was also in the starting unit and had six tackles, including one for loss.

Linebacker R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane was fitted with a cast last Thursday to protect a broken hand and contributed four tackles in the win.

“;He had a decision if he wanted to have it operated on and miss the season or cast it up and play,”; McMackin said.

Blaze Soares' practice time was limited last week due to illness and nagging injuries, but he finished with a team-high nine tackles, including his first sack of the season.

“;We have a lot of guys who are playing hurt,”; McMackin said.