Hawaii defensive back Abraham Elimimian knocked down a pass intended for Rice receiver Jeremy Hurd during the first half yesterday in Houston. Hawaii won 33-28.

Hawaii ‘D’ proved to be
the best option

Warriors hang on

By Dave Reardon

HOUSTON >> They weren't always perfect yesterday, but Hawaii's defense against the option was good to the last stop.

Before the season began the Warriors were said to have a tough schedule because their road games were against Brigham Young, Texas-El Paso, Boise State, Fresno State and Rice -- places they had rarely, if ever, won.

But there was at least one little advantage. Because of the way UH's byes were set up, the Warriors had two weeks to prepare for Rice's ground-pounding option. Hawaii used the time well and the proof was the Warriors' 33-28 victory at Rice Stadium.

"There were some lapses, definitely some lapses that hurt us. Against the pass," defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa said. "There's a team that makes a living out of running the ball and we're a good pass-defense team and they pass all over us. But we made some adjustments to stop the option."

Linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa led the way with 10 stops, including three behind the line. Safety David Gilmore added eight tackles and cornerback Abraham Elimimian and tackle Isaac Sopoaga made seven apiece. Cornerback Kelvin Millhouse contributed another game-saving interception.

Coach June Jones was proud of his defense's overall play.

"Very good. Defense on the road. A helluva job. We had a couple of mental errors that cost us, but overall they played a great game," he said.

Sophomore Chad Kapanui, who was moved back to linebacker three weeks ago specifically for this game, set the tone early by stopping quarterback Kyle Herm for a gain of 1 yard and snuffing halfback Vince Hawkins for a loss of 2 on Rice's first two plays.

"If we didn't show we can stop the run early, they're just going to keep running against us," Kapanui said. "It worked out for us in the long run."

The Owls had few long runs. Only 10 of their 19 first downs came via the ground game. Rice did run for 256 yards, but the only two breakaways by the nation's sixth-leading rushing team were Marcus Battle's 60-yard reverse and Robbie Beck's 32-yard run for touchdowns.

Later, when Rice began driving down the field with a two-minute drill at the end of the game mixing sideline passes and runs, the Warriors appeared to be tired and resigned to a fate similar to last year, when Greg Henderson, then a freshman, led the Owls to a game-winning drive at Aloha Stadium.

But this time, when the Owls faced fourth-and-three at UH's 11 with the outcome on the line, it went to its signature option left for the fifth time in six plays.

It proved to be once to often.

"They were trying to get out of bounds, but we kept them inside," Kapanui said.

That allowed end Houston Ala to stuff Henderson for a 4-yard loss.

"That was a stunt where the end comes for the quarterback and the outside linebacker goes for the pitch and the linebacker takes the dive," Lempa said. "We wanted to play aggressive on that and Houston came up with a big play."

"We came back in the second half and had to make plays," said Ala, who finished with six tackles. "All kinds of guys changed the momentum and made a big impact. It changes the atmosphere within the team."

The Warriors took over on downs and the game was over.

"They tried to run the option again and Houston got them and that was it," senior defensive end La'anui Correa said. "Everybody had a job to do and we did it. We had tackles for loss and great plays."

UH Athletics

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