Sports Notebook

UH looking for
improved special
teams against Rice

Special teams haven't been especially special for Hawaii so far this season. But coach June Jones and special teams coordinator Tyson Helton said it is too early to start kicking around the kicking game as the Warriors (1-2) prepare to open conference play against Rice (0-3) tomorrow at Aloha Stadium.

"We're not changing anything," Helton said. "We've just got to get back to our technique and the basics and I think we'll be fine. More than anything we've got to cut out the personal fouls. We had three personal fouls on special teams during the game (last week's 33-22 loss at UNLV) and that's inexcusable."

Field position was terrible last week, as Hawaii started 18 of its 21 possessions from no farther downfield than its own 26. Eight drives were started at or inside the Warriors' 10.

Conversely, UNLV began 11 of its 20 possessions beyond midfield. Five times it was because of UH turnovers, but Jones said the punting game was at fault, too.

"Well, Mat McBriar's gone. ... That's directly related to our punter. We haven't punted the ball as well," Jones said.

Kurt Milne has averaged 40.4 yards per kick, but he also fumbled a low snap from backup snapper Chad Kapanui, giving the Rebels the ball at UH's 12. UNLV scored a touchdown four plays later.

"We had a situation where our snapper (starter T.J. Moe) was out, but we should've gotten the ball up and punted it but we didn't," Jones said.

Helton said UH will stick with Milne for now.

"He's done a decent job other than fumbling the snap," he said.

Justin Ayat's kickoffs have improved, but he missed his only field-goal try -- a 35-yarder -- last week. The miss came after UH got the ball deep in Rebels territory after a UNLV turnover.

"He can make it blindfolded. He's got to come up with that," Helton said.

The return game is affected by the suspension of Chad Owens for missing the team's charter flight back from Las Vegas on Friday after the game.

Owens leads UH with six punt returns for 68 yards this season, and his replacement at slot, Ross Dickerson, leads the Warriors with 17 kick returns for 408 yards.

"Now that he's playing he'll still get some of it, but not as much," Helton said. "Mike Brewster and John West will probably handle kickoff returns.

"We have all kinds of guys for punts; (Mike) Bass, Brewster, Clifton Herbert," he added.

Anipati Mailo, a solid member of UH's wedge on kickoff returns, is out with a knee sprain. Helton said Kila Kamakawiwo'ole replaces him.

"It's bad any time you lose a dependable player like Pati, but I'm confident Kila can do the job," he said.

Esera to start: Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh said second-year freshman Tala Esera will start at right tackle tomorrow.

Sophomore Brandon Eaton started the last two games, but he is hampered by a mild ankle sprain.

Esera (6-foot-3, 283 pounds) moved from the defensive line to offense after spring practice. He played extensively in the 61-32 loss at Southern California on Sept. 13.

UH will start its third different combination of players on the offensive line in four games.

Return to Vegas?: UH athletic director Herman Frazier said he believes his counterpart at UNLV, Mike Hamrick, will control violence at Sam Boyd Stadium enough where Frazier feels comfortable about scheduling more games there.

Witnesses reported dozens of fights during and after the Rebels-Warriors game Friday, which was attended by 34,287, among them an estimated 10,000 from Hawaii. Several people were arrested and charged, including a Honolulu man who claims police brutality.

"I've known Mike a long time," Frazier said. "I know he'll take care of business as soon as he gets settled in there.

"As much as our fans like to go there, it's important for us to continue to consider playing there."

Hamrick, formerly athletic director at Eastern Carolina, took the UNLV job last month.

"I'm still unpacking my boxes," Hamrick said. "But I am getting people together to see why these fights occur. We'll break it all down and see what we can do to prevent them in the future."

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