Warriors wary of Dogs’ big plays


POSTED: Saturday, October 10, 2009

Rich Miano could probably use some extra rest this week while fighting off a flu bug.

But having those Fresno State game tapes running through his mind tends to get in the way.

“It’s one of those things, sleepless nights for the next few days thinking about the deep ball and the long run,” said Miano, Hawaii’s associate head coach.

The Warriors (2-2, 0-1 Western Athletic Conference) host the Bulldogs (1-3, 0-1) tomorrow at Aloha Stadium, looking to contain the nation’s third-leading rushing attack while guarding against the big play.

The Bulldogs grind out the clock on the ground, as they demonstrated against Cincinnati two weeks ago when they held the ball for nearly 44 minutes.

But they’ve also turned in 11 plays of 30 yards or more in four games. Running back Ryan Mathews has scored four touchdowns of 60 yards or more to lead what Miano calls “by far the most explosive offense” the Warriors have faced this season.

While the Warriors’ defensive front will need to hold firm against the Bulldogs’ surge at the line of scrimmage, the secondary will be under pressure to support against the run while remaining wary of the play-action pass.

“Discipline is very important,” said assistant Chris Tormey, who works with the Warrior safeties. “We have to do a great job with our eyes and read our keys.”

Much of the task of preventing the big plays in both phases will fall on safeties Mana Silva and Spencer Smith.

“It is challenging because they have a lot of weapons,” Smith said. “We have to be up fast enough to play the run, but at the same time if there’s a pass, we have to be back to help our corners to not leave them on an island.”

With the Warriors coming off a performance at Louisiana Tech in which they gave up 449 yards in total offense, UH head coach Greg McMackin turned up the volume to fire up the defense during yesterday’s practice.

“He knows we’re better than what we showed in the beginning of practice,” Smith said. “He got on our butts and we turned it around the rest of practice.”

When he hasn’t handed the ball to the Bulldogs’ stable of backs, Fresno State quarterback Ryan Colburn has completed 56 percent of his passes for 790 yards and seven touchdowns. Seyi Ajirotutu, a 6-foot-4 senior, leads the Bulldogs with 13 receptions.

Fresno State is touting junior Devon Wylie among the fastest players in the program’s history. He’s been timed at 4.25 seconds in the 40-yard dash, according to his media guide bio, and averages 17.1 yards in his 11 receptions.

“It’s a challenging test, but we’ve had a good week of practice,” Smith said. “Now we have to watch film until game day, pay attention to detail and study what they do.”

Likewise, Fresno State has had two weeks to study the Warriors since losing to Cincinnati on Sept. 27.

“They fly around, that’s the big thing,” Mathews said. “They’ve got some fast guys and they got at least three, four, five people at the ball on contact. They’ve got some good linebackers that fill the holes and safeties that come up. No. 43 (Silva) is a good player.”

Hanohano returns

Freshman defensive tackle Geordon Hanohano returned to practice yesterday and has been cleared for tomorrow’s game. Hanohano said he suffered a “small stinger” against Louisiana Tech, and was held out of practice this week as a precaution. Vaughn Meatoga has practiced the last two days since coming back from an ankle injury.

“Now we’re back to a good rotation and (Hanohano) played well for the limited amount of plays he had at LaTech,” defensive line coach Dave Aranda said.

Surprise appearance

True freshman Cayman Shutter was caught off guard when Nick Rolovich called for him to take a couple of snaps during the team period.

“I’ve probably taken more reps with the scout team offense than I have with our offense,” Shutter said. “It was a bit surprising, but I was definitely excited to get in.”

Shutter is among three freshman quarterbacks expected to redshirt this season, along with David Graves and Corey Neilsen. But with the Warriors’ top two quarterbacks entering the season injured, Shutter said he’ll stay ready just in case.

“We just wanted to see him in a little live action,” Rolovich said of the Punahou graduate. “He throws the ball well, but it’s different a year removed from the state championship game to now you’re going against the best defense that we have. Just wanted to see how he reacted.”

Bryant Moniz will start tomorrow, with Shane Austin backing him up. Running back Inoke Funaki will be the emergency quarterback.