[ WARRIOR FOOTBALL ]
Warriors banged up
after snagging second
Several Hawaii players are nursing
injuries after Saturday’s 48-26 victory
over WAC foe Nevada
The Hawaii football team is gaining momentum, but losing players.
Second-string defensive tackle Keala Watson is out for at least the season because of a medical condition, and starting linebacker Ikaika Curnan will probably miss Saturday's game at Texas-El Paso, coach June Jones said yesterday.
UH (2-2, 2-1 WAC) will likely lose starting cornerback Kenny Patton (hamstring) and the other second-string defensive tackle, Kahai LaCount (knee), for the Western Athletic Conference game against the Miners (3-2, 1-1). All three are listed as doubtful for this weekend.
Curnan, Patton and LaCount were injured during UH's 48-26 victory against Nevada at Aloha Stadium on Saturday, the Warriors' second win in a row.
Watson, a true freshman from Nanakuli High School, earned a spot in the tackle rotation during preseason camp, and played against Florida Atlantic on Sept. 4 and Tulsa on Oct. 2. Watson also made the team's travel roster for the Rice game on Sept. 18, but was held out of the game because of the same medical condition. He was later cleared to play against Tulsa, but Jones received an updated non-clearance before the Nevada game.
"He's done for the season," said Jones, who could not disclose the medical condition due to privacy laws. Watson has declined to disclose the condition when asked.
Watson was credited with two tackles in the Florida Atlantic game, including half of one for loss.
"He's a real good football player who can help us, and a great kid," defensive line coach Vantz Singletary said. "He's a football player, not just a body. He plays like a junior, not a freshman."
Senior Darrell Tautofi and converted offensive lineman Larry Sauafea, a second-year freshman, are now the second-string tackles while LaCount is out.
The starters are banged up, too. Lui Fuga's wrenched knee from preseason is not completely healed, and Matt Faga sprained an ankle Saturday.
"Lui's knee swelled up like a watermelon. I don't know how he played," Singletary said. "And Matt fought through a high ankle sprain because I told him we really needed him.
"It will be really interesting with eight weeks to go," he added.
The Warriors have two other true-freshman defensive tackles on their roster the coaches thought might contribute this season. But Fale Laeli underwent shoulder surgery last month, and Clarence Tuioti-Mariner also has an injured shoulder and Jones wants to redshirt him.
The potential losses of Curnan and Patton are just as troubling, if not more.
Curnan was the team's leading tackler last year as an outside linebacker. He was moved to the middle this season, and he played through an elbow injury against Tulsa. Curnan, who has been in on 19 tackles this year, limped off the field in the first half Saturday.
Watson Ho'ohuli replaced him and was in on seven tackles. At times, starting outside linebacker Tanuvasa Moe played the middle, too. Moe was Saturday's defensive star for UH, with 11 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and an interception.
"When Ikaika went out, T.J. (Moe) was all over the place," Jones said. "He played better than he played in the first three games."
Patton has a history of hamstring problems. The third-year sophomore received a medical hardship redshirt last year because of a nagging hamstring injury.
"I think he strained it and kept playing (Saturday)," Jones said.
Patton was in on four tackles. He has 21 for the season, plus an interception. Cameron Hollingsworth replaced him and was in on two stops.
"I left the stadium thinking we'll miss Ikaika this week," Jones said. "We made a lot of mistakes, but we played hard, and that's what we needed to do. We're getting thin, but we're still playing hard."
Komine hits stride: An outstanding offensive performance got lost in the shadow of Michael Brewster's 150 yards rushing, Chad Owens' three touchdowns (for the second week in a row), quarterback Tim Chang's surpassing 14,000 career passing yards, and right guard Uriah Moenoa's first career TD (on a fumble recovery).
Senior wide receiver Britton Komine caught six passes for 147 yards, including Chang bombs of 62 and 46 yards to set up first-half touchdowns.
"Britt played very well -- he also made an unbelievable catch on a hitch pattern on third down," Jones said. "He did what he's supposed to do. We need to have other receivers step up and do their assignments like Britt did. Chad had a very good game, but we need everybody to play like that."
Komine caught eight passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns against Nevada in 2002.
"Coach Jones talked about going deep this week, and it turned out the DBs were trying to play us one-on-one," Komine said. "They weren't really respecting the deep routes and finally we took advantage of that. I was just glad I was the guy who made the play that hopefully changed the course of the game. The ball was perfect.
"The first couple of games (this season) I hadn't really lived up to my own expectations," he added. "Finally, I think I played a game I'm happy with. But there's still a lot of things I need to work on and I have to come to each game with confidence."
Chang passed for 322 yards, including three TDs and his first interception of the year.
"It feels really good to get the deep balls going," he said. "It helps get the underneath routes going."
The nominees are ...: UH submitted the names of Brewster, Moe and Owens for WAC offensive, defensive and special teams players of the week.
"As (many) big plays as we had, I think we might have had more mistakes," Moe said. "But we're ready to watch video and hopefully we can get better."
Short yardage: Chang celebrated his 23rd birthday Saturday. ... Abraham Elimimian's block of a Nevada point-after attempt was his fourth career block of a field goal or PAT. ... Leonard Peters' team- and career-high of 13 tackles was one more than his previous high of 12 set against Houston last year. He also grabbed his second interception of the season Saturday.
The Star-Bulletin's Stefanie Nakasone contributed to this report.