Sports Notebook

Safety David Gilmore is leading the Warriors with two interceptions this season, but the senior's specialty is making punishing tackles, of which he has 24.

Gilmore heads up
UH hit squad

The Warriors hope their
hard-hitting senior safety's season
continues to be a smash

Interceptions are great. But there's something very special about a safety slamming a receiver in the middle of the field -- separating him from the ball, his senses, and his desire to venture into that area ever again.

"When I was in college, given the choice between an interception and a big hit, I'd go for the big hit," Hawaii secondary coach and former UH and NFL safety Rich Miano said. "It electrifies the crowd. The fans in Hawaii love our offense, but they're waiting for people to make big hits."

Senior safety David Gilmore leads Hawaii with two interceptions this season, but he also specializes in pounding opposing players who traipse into his territory. Gilmore did it against Fresno State, and again last week in the Warriors' 44-41 victory at Louisiana Tech.

Those hits are among the 24 tackles he's made this season, and are big reasons he's displacing Leonard Peters in the starting lineup Saturday against Texas-El Paso.

"It's definitely great to end up being free and seeing something like that coming across the middle," Gilmore said of zeroing in on a target. "That's like the best, when you see the quarterback looking right at him. You don't get that too often. Of course you'd rather have the pick, but a big hit is always good. Hopefully it gets the guys around you fired up and they start hitting other guys, too."

Gilmore crushed Fresno State's Jermaine Jamison early in the Warriors' 55-28 victory over the Bulldogs at Aloha Stadium, helping set the tone for the blowout.

Then, last week, Gilmore made a big hit on LaTech receiver Erick Franklin late in the fourth quarter. UH cornerback Abraham Elimimian said it contributed to Franklin dropping a third-and-2 pass with time running down, stopping LaTech's final drive in Hawaii's win.

"When (Frederick) dropped that slant, I think he was anticipating somebody in the middle trying to blast him because David had previously blasted him," Elimimian said. "He was afraid. He remembered the last one. Dave punished him."

Miano said big hits are so resounding that they sometimes affect future games.

Gilmore, who started 10 games last season and made 70 tackles, will be making his second start of the season on Saturday.

"The best thing is those hits are on film for the next three teams to see. It can change the way they approach playing us," Miano said. "It's something that might have been lacking for us, but that David can bring to the table for us."

Gilmore started 10 games last year and made 70 tackles. But this will be only his second start of his senior season.

"He's played well," Hawaii coach June Jones said. "Every chance he's gotten he's performed."

That includes his first career touchdown, a 43-yard touchdown pass from Chad Kapanui that was the coup de grace of the Fresno State game.

"I was happy with my role as long as I could help out on special teams and come in at safety once in a while," Gilmore said.

Gilmore, now 6-feet and 197 pounds, was about 165 pounds when he arrived at Manoa as a walk-on from Albuquerque, N.M., four years ago.

"I always thought it would be kind of cool to go to school in Hawaii, and I made up my mind when I was watching a golf tournament on TV and they kept showing all kinds of beautiful pictures of the islands," he said. "My main goal was just to earn a scholarship. When that happened last year I was thrilled. From there it was just to try to keep playing hard."

Elimimian, who is from Los Angeles, and Gilmore stayed in Hawaii last summer and worked out together to prepare for the season.

"He just kept his mouth shut and worked hard when he wasn't starting. He's valuable because when you got guys back there willing to hit people, the receivers think twice about going over the middle," Elimimian said. "And he leads the team in interceptions (with two)."

"You run out of clichés to describe him," Miano said. "Every year he's gotten a little faster, a little stronger, a little better. It just seems to mean more to him than most people to do a good job."

Injury report: The Warriors are banged up, but not too seriously.

Receiver Jeremiah Cockheran's sore ankle is getting better, and Elimimian practiced through a bruised heel and a sinus infection.

Wide receiver Jason Rivers has a bad hamstring.

It's starting to look like sophomore defensive back Kenny Patton might redshirt with a chronic hamstring problem.

Back to hoops?: Sophomore defensive end Nkeruwem "Tony" Akpan said he plans to return to the basketball team when the football season ends.

"I watch practice. I haven't talked with Coach (Riley) Wallace yet, but when football's over I might go back and play if he will have me. Coach Jones wants us to compete in as many sports as we can."

Akpan missed Saturday's game as he tried to make arrangements to return to his native Nigeria for his father's funeral last week.

"My family agreed I should stay here. After school is over I will go see them," said Akpan, who has been on his own in America since high school.

Short yardage: UH has won back-to-back games for the first time since its six-game winning streak last year that ended with a 21-16 loss to Alabama on Nov. 30, which was 10 games ago. ... UTEP planned to practice at Aloha Stadium after arriving today. ... Former UH QB Nick Rolovich was at practice yesterday.

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