Isaac Sopoaga was greeted by Vili Fehoko at a recent Warriors game. Sopoaga is expected to miss two games with an injury.


Backup players performed mightily for Hawaii in Saturday's 41-21 victory over Rice. And because of injuries, even more of the same will be asked for as the Warriors (2-2, 1-0 Western Athletic Conference) travel to Tulsa (2-2, 0-0 WAC) this week.

Tackle Isaac Sopoaga -- UH's most imposing defensive football player -- is out with a partially torn ligament in his right knee, and coach June Jones said top receiver Jeremiah Cockheran might be out with an ankle sprain.

Jones said he doesn't expect Sopoaga to miss more than two games.

"He's tough and has a high pain threshold," Jones said.

Diagnostic tests are not completed, team physician Jay Marumoto said.

"Right now it looks like an MCL," he said. "But we're still awaiting (a magnetic resonance imaging) test so we can't rule out an ACL or a meniscus."

A partial tear of a MCL (medial collateral ligament) does not usually require surgery, but an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) or meniscus tear might.

Defensive line coach Vantz Singletary said UH doesn't need to rush Sopoaga back into action because the Warriors have a capable replacement in senior Lui Fuga.

Sopoaga is second to end Travis LaBoy among UH's defensive linemen with 17 tackles, including three for loss. Fuga has only one tackle in limited action in three games, but he also has an interception and a fumble recovery. Fuga was Hawaii's best defensive lineman in 2000, but has suffered from shoulder and ankle injuries since.

"Lui's a great leader, a communicator out there," Singletary said. "I think Ice might be out for two games, but obviously we'd like to have him back for Fresno State (at Aloha Stadium on Oct. 11). That's a money game."

Cockheran could also miss the Tulsa game with a sprain of his right ankle. Cockheran caught six passes for 122 yards before leaving last night's game in the second half with the recurrence of an injury he first got in a mo-ped accident.

"His recovery time's limited and he might miss the game," Jones said. "If he can go, he'll go, but I'm not sure if he'll have enough recovery time."

Said Marumoto: "Medically, he's probable. But the team leaves Wednesday, so that might figure in."

The other starting wideout, junior Britton Komine, was knocked out of Saturday's game in the second half.

"Toward the end he got his bell rung. But he's OK," receivers coach Ron Lee said. "But at one point, we had all our starting receivers out."

Starting slotbacks Nate Ilaoa (season-ending knee surgery) and Chad Owens (first of a two-game suspension) were replaced by Gerald Welch and Ross Dickerson.

Welch, playing in his third game as Owens' replacement, shined with two touchdown catches among his six receptions for 71 yards.

Dickerson, in his first start, caught five passes for 42 yards.

Michael Miyashiro, Cockheran's backup, caught three passes for 25 yards and Komine's understudy, Jason Rivers, grabbed a game-high seven passes for 45 yards.

The depth of the Warriors' linebackers unit took a hit, as Watson Ho'ohuli is out for the year with knee damage. Also, Keani Alapa, who started the first three games at outside linebacker, injured a quadriceps Saturday and is listed as probable for Saturday. Backup linebacker Tyrone Brown has a strained left hamstring and is doubtful for the Tulsa game.

Up for honors: UH nominated quarterback Tim Chang, linebacker Ikaika Curnan and kick blocker Abraham Elimimian for WAC player of the week honors.

Chang completed 42 of 70 passes for 397 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. The completions are a school record and the attempts a WAC mark.

Curnan was in on a team-high 10 tackles, including two for loss and UH's only sack.

Elimimian blocked a field-goal attempt that could have tied the game. He also intercepted a pass for one of five Rice turnovers.

Short yardage: UH has won its last six consecutive WAC games, and its last five conference home games. ... Hawaii had fewer turnovers than its opponent for the first time since last Nov. 2 in a 40-31 victory over San Jose State. The Warriors went 4-4 in the games between then and Saturday. ... UH is still behind opponents in turnovers 14-9.

Where they stand

Hawaii's rankings in several D I-A categories
Team total offense
12. Hawaii: 326 plays, 1,845 yds., 461.3 ypg
Team total defense
48. Hawaii: 254 plays, 1,332 yds., 333.0 ypg
Team passing offense
2. Hawaii: 236 att., 141 cp., 1,518 yds., 379.5 ypg
Team offense per game
2. Tim Chang: 1,060 yds., 353.3 ypg (3 games)
Receptions per game
7. Chad Owens: 3 gms., 23 rec., 7.7 rpg
17. Jeremiah Cockheran: 4 gms., 28 rec., 7.0 rpg
Receiving yards per game
9. Jeremiah Cockheran: 28 rec., 428 yds., 107.00 ypg
34. Chad Owens: 23 rec., 255 yds., 85.00 ypg
Field goals per game
22. Justin Ayat: 8 fga, 6 fgm, .750 pct., 1.50 fgpg


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