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StarBulletin.com

Hobbled Warriors left waiting 'til next year


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POSTED: Sunday, December 13, 2009

Growing pains tend to be aggravating to endure.

Hawaii hopes to emerge from a trying 2009 football season strengthened for having gone through the aches.

After his second season fell short of a bowl appearance at 6-7, head coach Greg McMackin spent the last week meeting with each player to go over the past campaign, get feedback and—for the returnees—start planning for 2010.

“;We have to get everybody together, have a good offseason program and a good spring,”; McMackin said.

Having USC atop next season's schedule figures to help spur the Warriors' offseason workouts, along with the bitterness of missing the postseason for the first time since 2005.

“;It's going to be a challenging schedule, but we have more to work with as far as experienced players,”; McMackin said.

A relatively green lineup, particularly on defense, was thinned by a series of injuries that coincided with a six-game losing streak. The skid began with a one-point loss at UNLV, which proved to be the most vexing of the seven defeats after the Warriors fell one win short of a bowl berth.

A victory over Navy highlighted a late-season burst that brought the Warriors within sight of bowl eligibility. But a season-ending blowout loss to Wisconsin snuffed those plans.

“;Most teams would pack it in and give up,”; UH athletic director Jim Donovan said of the Warriors' 2-6 start. “;They had to win all five games and for four out of five weeks, they pulled it off.”;

The injuries forced several youngsters to take on more prominent roles, including quarterback Bryant Moniz.

The sophomore walk-on jumped from third string to the starting quarterback job after Greg Alexander suffered a season-ending knee injury at Louisiana Tech. Although Moniz will top the chart going into the spring, he'll have to fend off Shane Austin, Brent Rausch and a group of freshmen to maintain that position next fall.

“;Competition is good for everybody,”; McMackin said. “;Mo did a great job and earned being penciled in, but we're going to open up the competition.”;

Following is a look at the Warriors heading into the offseason:

 

Offense

Key losses: The offensive line loses four starters, most notably All-WAC center and team MVP John Estes. Slotback Jon Medeiros became a reliable target after moving into the starting lineup. Running back Leon Wright-Jackson started every game and provided balance during the late-season run.

Moving forward: Slotback Greg Salas turned in one of the school's most productive receiving seasons (106 catches for 1,590 yards) and leads a receiver corps that returns largely intact. Kealoha Pilares caught 66 passes for 690 yards while playing both slotback and wide receiver. Running back Alex Green developed into a backfield threat while splitting time with Wright-Jackson.

The line could get a lift if tackle Laupepa Letuli's appeal for another year of eligibility is granted. Guard Brysen Ginlack, a part-time starter in 2008, redshirted this season. Receiver Malcolm Lane is also expected to return following a redshirt season. Rodney Bradley is rehabbing a broken leg and hopes to be back to speed by fall camp.

 

Defense

Key losses: In their first seasons as full-time starters, senior linebackers Blaze Soares and R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane led the Warriors with 192 combined tackles. The line loses playmakers in defensive tackle Tuika Tufaga and end Fetaiagogo Fonoti.

Moving forward: The entire secondary returns, led by safeties Mana Silva and Spencer Smith. Silva led the WAC with six interceptions while Smith was named the Warriors' most outstanding defensive player.

McMackin traced the defense's improvement to the return of sophomore tackle Vaughn Meatoga from an ankle injury. Freshmen Geordon Hanohano, Haku Correa and Paipai Falemalu all gained valuable experience up front. The line figures to be bolstered by a group of transfers—including former Arizona starter Kaniela Tuipulotu—who sat out this season.

Sophomore Corey Paredes and junior Jake Heun lead the returning linebackers. Brashton Satele is applying for another year after having shoulder surgery in fall camp. Aaron Brown moved from safety to linebacker before redshirting due to a hamstring injury.

 

Special Teams

Key losses: Not many with underclassmen holding most of the significant roles.

Moving forward: Kicker Scott Enos had a bumpy junior year in going 12-for-19 on field-goal attempts. He made all 34 of his PATs. Punter Alex Dunnachie had his rough spots as well, but finished strong to average 39.2 yards on his 42 kicks. Freshman Luke Ingram was steady in taking over long-snapping duties.

When healthy, Jovonte Taylor and Royce Pollard provided threats on kickoff returns. UH's punt coverage unit ranked second in the country in allowing 15 yards in returns.

 

 

               

     

 

SIGNIFICANT INJURIES OF THE 2009 SEASON

       

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
PLAYERPOS.INJURYGAMES MISSED
Brashton Satele#^LBShoulder*13
Chris LeatigagaDTKnee6
Fetaiagogo Fonoti#DEKnee3
Brent RauschQBFinger7
Paipai FalemaluDEAnkle1
Aaron Brown^LBHamstring10
Greg Alexander#QBKnee*9
Laupepa Letuli#^OTKnee*10
Vaughn Meatoga#DTAnkle2
Rodney Bradley#WRLeg*7 
Royce Pollard#WRLeg3
Adrian Thomas#OTBack7
Bryant Moniz#QBConcussion/Ribs1
Jeramy Bryant#CBBiceps3
Kenny EstesDB/STShoulder1

       

*—Season ending injury
        #—Starter at time of injury
        ^—redshirted or will appeal for another year of eligibility

       

 

       

       

 

               

     

 

A GAME-BY-GAME LOOK BACK AT 2009

        Sept. 4—Hawaii 25, Central Arkansas 20, Aloha Stadium
       

Hawaii fends off the Bears of the FCS thanks to Greg Alexander's 8-yard touchdown pass to Rodney Bradley with 1:22 left. Greg Salas had a 66-yard catch-and-run to set up the winning score.

       

WAC Player of the Week: Greg Salas (offense), seven catches, 180 yards, TD.

       

Sept. 12—Hawaii 38, Washington State 20, Qwest Field

       

The Warriors begin a two-game road trip by jumping out to a 35-0 lead less than 20 minutes into the game against the mistake-prone Cougars. The UH defense comes up with seven turnovers to feed an offense that generates 626 yards.

       

WAC Players of the Week: Greg Alexander (offense), 453 yards, three TDs; Corey Paredes (defense), eight tackles, two forced fumbles.

       

Sept. 19—UNLV 34, Hawaii 33, Sam Boyd Stadium

       

Phillip Payne's 15-yard touchdown reception with 36 seconds left is the last of five second-half lead changes. Alexander throws for 477 yards and three TDs, but UNLV's rally would prove costly for UH at season's end.

       

Sept. 30—Louisiana Tech 27, Hawaii 6, Joe Aillet Stadium

       

The Warriors' third straight road game results in a defeat in their WAC opener. More significantly, Alexander suffers a season-ending knee injury late in the third quarter. He has surgery shortly after the team's return.

       

Oct. 10—Fresno State 42, Hawaii 17, Aloha Stadium

       

Hawaii's opening possession results in a blocked field goal to set up a Fresno State touchdown. The game deteriorates from there, as the Bulldogs build a 42-3 lead. Bryant Moniz goes 24-for-52 with two TDs and two interceptions in his first career start.

       

Oct. 17—Idaho 35, Hawaii 23, Kibbie Dome

       

Hawaii has a second devastating injury in three weeks when Bradley suffers a broken leg in the second quarter. With their big-play receiver out for the season, the Warriors can't keep pace with the Vandals, who become bowl eligible with the win.

       

Oct. 24—No. 6 Boise State 54, Hawaii 9, Aloha Stadium

       

Six Hawaii turnovers lead to 27 points for the Broncos, who continue their march to the BCS by sending the Warriors to their fifth straight loss. Shane Austin takes over at quarterback after a concussion forces Moniz out of the game.

       

Oct. 31—Nevada 31, Hawaii 21, Mackay Stadium

       

The Warriors jump out to a 14-0 lead before Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick leads the Wolf Pack back by rushing for two scores and passing for two more. UH's six-game losing streak is its longest since 1998.

       

Nov. 7—Hawaii 49, Utah State 36, Aloha Stadium

       

After falling behind 7-0, UH turns to the ground game to reel off 35 unanswered points and end the skid. Leon Wright-Jackson and Alex Green become the first UH running back duo to rush for more than 100 yards each since 1993.

       

WAC Player of the Week: Leon Wright-Jackson (offense), 167 yards, three TDs.

       

Nov. 14—Hawaii 24, New Mexico State 6, Aloha Stadium

       

The Hawaii defense shuts out the Aggies' offense, while Salas sets a school record with 16 touchdowns for a season-high 196 yards. Austin leads a clinching TD drive after Moniz leaves the game with bruised ribs.

       

Nov. 21—Hawaii 17, San Jose State 10 (OT), Spartan Stadium

       

A game-saving turnover in the fourth quarter forces overtime, and Wright-Jackson's 5-yard run gives UH a dramatic win over SJSU's Dick Tomey, coaching against his former team for the last time before retirement. Austin passes for 299 yards in his first career start.

       

Nov. 28—Hawaii 24, Navy 17, Aloha Stadium

       

The Warriors defense stifles Navy's option attack to spoil Ken Niumatalolo's return to Aloha Stadium. UH shuts out the Midshipmen in the second half and ends the game with back-to-back sacks. Moniz returns to throw for 366 yards and three TDs and UH's fourth straight win keeps its bowl hopes alive.

       

WAC Player of the Week: Blaze Soares (defense), 12 tackles, sack

       

Dec. 5—Wisconsin 51, Hawaii 10, Aloha Stadium

       

Hawaii's quest for a berth in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl comes to a somewhat anticlimactic end as the Badgers roll up 514 yards while the Warriors sputter on offense. Wisconsin running back John Clay rushes for 172 yards and three TDs. Hawaii ends its season at 6-7, missing the postseason for the first time since 2005.

       

WAC Player of the Week: Alex Dunnachie (special teams), 49.2 yards per punt, season-high 66-yarder.

       

Jason Kaneshiro, Star-Bulletin