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Salas steps up


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POSTED: Wednesday, November 11, 2009

To think, Greg Salas might have been using those hands to knock down passes rather than reel them in.

Coming out of Chino (Calif.) High School, the scholarship offers coming Salas' way were predicated on his potential as a cornerback, and defense appeared to be in his future when he eventually signed with Hawaii.

That is, until then-Warriors head coach June Jones saw promise in the rangy freshman in the run-and-shoot.

“;Coach Jones wanted me on offense and that was that,”; Salas said.

Nice call, Coach.

In his fourth year in the program, Salas has established a place among the nation's most productive pass catchers this season.

The 6-foot-1 junior blessed with tractor-beam hands enters this week's Western Athletic Conference game against New Mexico State second in the FBS in receiving at 129.3 yards per game. His 1,164 yards through nine games trails only Bowling Green's Freddie Barnes' 1,176.

Seems the switch to offense agreed with Salas just fine.

“;I played a little bit two-ways (in high school), and there's really not a better place to play receiver (than Hawaii), so I went with it,”; Salas said. “;I liked to catch passes on defense too and get interceptions. But this is better.”;

Salas led the Warriors with 831 yards operating on the perimeter as a wide receiver last season. He's thrived with a move inside to slotback this fall.

With four games left, he's already blown past his reception and yardage totals of his sophomore season and has improved on his per-catch average, covering 16.87 yards on his 69 receptions so far.

Last season marked the first time since Jones implemented the run-and-shoot in 1999 that the Warriors went without a 1,000-yard receiver. Salas passed the benchmark last weekend with his sixth 100-yard performance of the season. He matched a career high with 10 receptions, picking up 187 yards with two touchdowns in the Warriors' 49-36 win over Utah State, ending a six-game losing streak.

Along with being a reliable target, snagging a pass in 23 consecutive games, Salas' big-play ability is evidenced in 10 receptions of at least 30 yards this season. He had a 33-yarder and a 59-yard gain to set up Warriors touchdowns last week.

Salas owns three of the top five single-game receiving performances in the WAC this season, led by his 195-yard showing in a win against Washington State.

“;Every time they do a yell with their group (of receivers) they always say 'playmakers,' “; Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz said. “;That's what he does.”;

Moving to slot has given Salas greater opportunity to explore the middle of the field rather than being fenced in by the sideline and has shown a knack for finding soft spots in the coverage to turn short to midrange throws into sizable gains.

While he's broken loose in the open field with greater frequency, Salas has proven willing to pick up yards the hard way as well. Finding himself caged in, he'll square his shoulders upfield and plow into defensive backs.

“;I think it's just getting the ball more. I'm able to do more (at slotback),”; Salas said. “;Here I'm able to catch the ball over the middle and get physical with people.”;

Salas has seen action in all three phases this season. He provided a spark as a punt returner and played a down of defense as a deep safety at the end of the first half against Idaho.

Salas leads a UH aerial show that entered the week atop the WAC and third in the country in passing offense. But the running game proved to be more than simply a complementary aspect of the offense in last week's breakthrough win.

The Warriors churned out 360 yards on the ground—led by Leon Wright-Jackson's 167 and Alex Green's 110—to power an offense that produced a season-high 697 yards. The uncharacteristic balance in the offense helped loosen the defense for the passing game as well.

“;That helped us a lot. When they're thinking about the run, they can't re-route us,”; Salas said. “;We were ripping them for big gains, the running backs did a great job, the O-line did a great job.”;

The Warriors (3-6, 1-5 WAC) enter the back end of a two-game homestand looking to continue a trend of highly productive offensive performances against New Mexico State (3-6, 1-3).

Hawaii is 4-0 against the Aggies since New Mexico State joined the WAC in 2005. The Warriors averaged 47.5 points while generating 518.8 yards in total offense in those meetings. Salas caught seven passes for 91 yards in last year's 42-30 win in Las Cruces, part of Hawaii's 447-yard performance.

The going could be a bit tougher this time around. With a defensive-minded coach in DeWayne Walker now running the program, the Aggies rank second in the WAC in pass defense, surrendering 190.2 yards per game.

 

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KEY STATISTICS (2009)

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OTHER STATS

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
 UHOpp.
First Downs
» Rushing52107
» Passing12993
» Penalty158
Penalties
» Penalties-yards56-43448-451 
» Avg. per game48.250.1
Total Offense
» Total plays595642
» Avg. per play7.06.0
» Avg. per game461.7425.3
 UHOpp.
Rushing Yards
» Attempts202383
» Avg. per rush5.04.7
» Avg. per game111.3201.1
Passing Yards
» Att.-Comp.-Int.393-236-14259-166-7
» Avg. per pass8.07.8
» Avg. per catch13.412.2
» Avg. per game350.3224.2
Time of Possession/game
 28:2931:28

 

2009 INDIVIDUAL LEADERS

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
Rushing
 GPAtt.GainLossNetAvg.TDLg.Avg./G
Leon Wright-Jackson94836583577.446239.7
Passing
 GPEffc.A-C-IPct.Yds.TDLG.Avg./G
Bryant Moniz7129.7203-115-756.71,5391071219.9
Receiving
 GPNo.Yds.Avg.TDLg.Avg./G
Greg Salas9691,16416.9766129.3

 

SCORE BY QUARTERS

                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
 1ST2ND3RD4THOTTotal
» Hawaii74581970221
» Opponents73758071299

 

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At Aloha Stadium

PARKING/TURNSTILES/GATES

» Lower Halawa Parking Lot opens at 11:30 a.m., all other parking lots open at 12:30 p.m. Turnstiles open at 3:30 p.m.

» Traffic updates available on KKEA, 1420-AM

» Entrance through Gate 1 (Main Salt Lake): ADA, Bus Lot and Sections 1-7 only (passes only)

» Entrance through Gate 2 (North Kamehameha): Parking areas 8-14 only (passes only)

» Entrance through Gate 3 (Halawa): Upper and Lower Halawa parking lots only

» Entrance through Gate 4 (Lower Salt Lake): Upper and Lower Halawa parking lots only

» Entrance through Gate 5 (Kamehameha): Kamehameha parking lot only

Note: Access to the Lower Halawa Lot will be through Gates 3 and 4. Vehicles will not be allowed to move to other sections of the parking lot from the Lower Halawa Lot.

» Alternate parking sites: Kam Drive-In ($5 per vehicle with free shuttle service); Leeward Community College (parking is free, cost is $2 for shuttle service with free admission to the Aloha Tailgate located at Pole 29); Radford High School (Parking is $5, no shuttle service available).

 

Contributors

Sports Editor: Paul Arnett | Designer: Michael Rovner | Photographers: Jamm Aquino,  Dennis Oda | Cover Art: Bryant Fukutomi | Copy Editors: Sjarif Goldstein,  Steven Berkowsky, Jerry Campany