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Salas sets UH record


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POSTED: Sunday, November 15, 2009

CHECK MATE.

Greg Salas drew those words under his eyes, then channeled his inner Bobby Fischer by staying several moves ahead of New Mexico State in Hawaii's 24-6 win last night at Aloha Stadium.

The junior slotback snagged 16 passes—breaking Davone Bess' UH record 15—for 196 yards and a touchdown. He was an enigma to the man-to-man defense thrown out by the Aggies for much of the night; usually, the only person who could stop him was Salas himself. He nabbed more than half of the Warriors' 366 passing yards from a quarterback combination of Bryant Moniz and Shane Austin.

“;I do play chess sometimes. It's just a name Coach Rolo (quarterbacks coach Nick Rolovich) gave me. He gave all of us one. I just thought I'd rep it a little bit.”;

He might have had an even more prolific night, but dropped several balls against minimal pressure.

His mistakes were the equivalent of sacrificing a rook to take the queen. Salas fed off his own disappointment and the reactions of the 25,103 in attendance to keep making plays immediately after a gaffe.

The prime example of that occurred in the fourth quarter, when he caught a 13-yard touchdown pass on an out pattern from Austin with 11 minutes left. The previous play was identical, except Salas dropped a ball placed on the money by Austin.

“;Dropping balls kind of motivates me a little bit to make a play,”; Salas said. “;You don't want to hear those 'Awwww's in the crowd. You want to get the crowd rolling.”;

“;That's the kind of guy he is,”; wide receiver Kealoha Pilares said. “;He just talks a lot of stuff, and he knows he has to back it up. He will come back to make plays.”;

Most of the time, it was like watching the king fend off pesky pawns, like when he hauled in a 41-yarder from Moniz in the first half against double coverage across the middle.

In a season of eye-popping numbers—he topped 100 yards for the seventh time this season in leading the team in receiving yards also for the seventh time—the 6-foot-2 native of Chino, Calif., outdid himself again. He topped by 1 yard his previous best of 195, set earlier this season against Washington State, and is primed to reclaim his position as the national reception yardage leader he enjoyed earlier in the season.

Salas considered it an honor to have broken the record of Bess, now with the Miami Dolphins.

“;Being mentioned with his name ... he's great, playing in the NFL,”; Salas said. “;You know, to top him on something like that is really surreal to me, a little. It lets me know I'm doing an all-right job right now.”;

Austin wrapped up the game for Moniz when the starter went out with hurt ribs early in the fourth quarter. He didn't realize Salas broke a record, and when informed of it, he slugged the slotback on the shoulder. Hard.

“;I had no idea at the time, I was just trying to move the ball down and he kept getting open,”; Austin said. “;When he gets open like that ... he puts in the work. I'm happy for him and glad to be a part of it, too.”;

Head coach Greg McMackin was also unaware until the postgame press conference.

“;Sixteen catches? And he dropped some, too. That's what immediately hit my mind,”; McMackin said. “;But 16 catches? That's awesome. He's amazing. He's had a big-time year.”;

Salas already had eight catches and 127 yards at halftime, and made his personal-best 11th grab midway through the third quarter. When NMSU got a Davon House interception return to cut the lead to 17-6, Salas went back to work, catching three passes to set up his TD from Austin.