Sports Notebook


Ayat putting
best foot forward

UH at Nevada

When: Saturday, 10:05 a.m., Hawaii time
Where: Mackay Stadium, Reno, Nev.
TV: Live on KFVE (Ch. 5)
Radio: Live on KKEA-1420
Line: Hawaii favored by 3

Junior kicker Justin Ayat might be the Hawaii player most grateful for last week's bye. After missing a point-after try and both field-goal attempts in the 13-10 victory at San Jose State, Ayat needed a break.

There are some who would argue his vacation should extend through UH's game at Nevada on Saturday, at least for PATs. Ayat is only 28 of 36 on extra points and he has had four kicks blocked this year.

But special teams coordinator Tyson Helton said Ayat is still the starting place-kicker for all duties, at least for now.

"We've got a good kicker," Helton said. "We are going to try to fix the problem the best we can. We'll push up front with the line, and work on his kicking technique. If we can't fix it that way we'll go with somebody else. Right now we're doing everything we can to put the guy in the best situation. He and I sat down and talked about it and analyzed it. He hit it decent today and worked on it all last week."

Ayat said he found a flaw in his footwork, and that could be the answer.

"After watching the past two games on tape with Coach Tyson what I did was look back at last year's footage of myself to see what I did different. Come to find out it's a matter of being six inches or a foot back from where my last plant step was," Ayat said. "I'd be lunging into it, my plant foot was all over the place, my body out of control and unbalanced. A six-inch difference can make my kick go all over the place."

Ayat made good on 54 of 57 extra points last year, and 55 of 56 in 2001 when Football News selected him a first-team freshman All-American. He is 48-for-71 on field goals for his career.

"It was especially good to have a break since I was going through a frustrating time," Ayat said. "After my performances in the past games it's frustrating to my teammates but they don't get on me too much. They know I'm doing my best to get it corrected. It's just as frustrating for me. I don't want to continue to let them down."

Ayat's 287 career points makes him second in UH scoring behind Jason Elam (395). His 8.03 points-per-game average is Hawaii's best ever.

But if the time comes, Helton said he and coach June Jones won't hesitate to try someone else, like walk-on freshman Nolan Miranda.

"We have not had a game lost yet because of that," Helton said. "We're very fortunate and we know we have to fix it."

Discovering Samoa: Offensive line coach Mike Cavanaugh returned from his first visit to American Samoa on Saturday. He was impressed with the football talent as well as the island culture.

"When I was driving around, I thought I was on the North Shore. It's like Hawaii, but there's no Waikiki, no downtown. It seemed like driving around on the road to Laie," he said. "They are raised to respect people. Values of prayer and discipline are the foundation of their society."

Cavanaugh cannot talk about players UH might be recruiting, but he said there are between eight and 10 potential Division I players in the class of 2004.

He visited the families of current Warriors Mel Purcell, Isaac Sopoaga and Larry Sauafea.

"The food was terrific," said Cavanaugh, who especially enjoyed a banana dish called fa'i.

Cavanaugh found that his ancestors have at least one thing in common with the culinary taste of Samoans.

"They love corned beef, and so do the Irish," he said.

Healing up: Starting receivers Jeremiah Cockheran (ankle) and Britton Komine (calf) seem to have finally put nagging injuries behind them thanks to the bye week, as have defensive tackles Sopoaga (knee) and Lui Fuga (ankle, knee).

But special teams stalwart and reserve cornerback Gary Wright tweaked his right ankle yesterday and left practice on crutches. His availability for Saturday's game is not yet known.

"We've still got some guys limping and stuff, but we're obviously much better off than if we had to play a game last Saturday," Jones said.

Extended forecast: The weather figures to factor in heavily in Saturday's game. Warm helps Hawaii with its passing game, cold and windy hurts UH, and snow gives ground-pounding Nevada a big edge.

At least that's what most people believe.

"I don't think it's that big a factor. But coming from Hawaii a lot of kids have never been in it before," Jones said. "But I don't think it affects the game so much once it gets started and you get your sweat going."

Yesterday's forecast for Saturday from the National Weather Service calls for a low of 30 degrees, a high of 56 and zero chance of precipitation.

Conference stars: San Jose State quarterback Scott Rislov, Louisiana Tech linebacker Byron Santiago and Rice punter Jared Scruggs were named WAC players of the week.

Short yardage: ESPN has until next Monday to decide if it will televise UH's game against Alabama on Nov. 29. ... Hawaii Bowl executive director Jim Donovan said he will not be attending Saturday's game to present an invitation to UH should the Warriors win, but an ESPN Regional Television representative might do so.

E-mail to Sports Editor


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2003 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --