Hawaii slotback Ryan Grice-Mullen tried to elude Darnell Bing of USC after making a catch during their game on Sept. 3.

Grice-Mullen is
putting up numbers

Hawaii's freshman slotback
leads the team in receptions

Hawaii at Idaho

Where: Kibbie Dome, Moscow, Idaho

When: 4 p.m. Saturday, Hawaii time

TV: Live, Oceanic Cable, pay-per-view (Ch. 256). Call 625-8100 on Oahu or (808) 643-2337 statewide. Delay at 9:30 p.m. and 10 a.m. Sunday on KFVE (Ch. 5).

Radio: KKEA-1420

Internet: sportsradio1420.com

This may seem strange, but Ryan Grice-Mullen wears only odd numbers on his football jersey.

At his high school in Rialto, Calif., he was No. 17. When he got to Hawaii two years ago, that was already taken by quarterback Jack Rolovich, so Grice-Mullen got 19.

Running back Mike Bass left UH, leaving No. 1 available last spring. Grice-Mullen asked for it and got it.

"The main thing is I don't like wearing even numbers. They have to be odd, that's just my thing," the second-year freshman slotback said. "If I couldn't wear 17, I guessed I could try 1. Luckily Coach (June Jones) had the confidence in me to let me wear it. At a lot of schools it's a privilege. I felt like it's an opportunity -- if you wear No. 1, you always have eyes on you."

Some of those orbs belong to opposing defenders who zero in on him because of his choice of digit.

"Yeah, I think it might get me a little more attention," he said. "Guys who wear lower numbers are the skill guys who think they can play a little bit. If they follow me and the other guys are wide-open, I'm happy doing my part that way."

So far, though, he hasn't been a diversion. No. 1 was the No. 1 target for Warriors quarterbacks Colt Brennan and Tyler Graunke in UH's first two games, against USC and Michigan State. He leads the team with 12 catches and is second with 119 yards. His seven catches for 68 yards were both team highs against the Spartans.

Not bad for a guy who wasn't even No. 1 at his position when the season started. The 5-foot-10, 174-pound former high school quarterback began the season behind Jason Ferguson at the H slot. But Ferguson suffered a season-ending knee injury on the opening kickoff.

Grice-Mullen -- who was slowed early in fall camp with a shoulder injury -- was ready to step in.

"I'm not surprised at all," receiver Desmond Thomas said of his roommate's productivity. "I worked out with him all summer. We pushed ourselves to the limit and he's extremely well-prepared. The situation is he wasn't going to be a starter this year, because he was behind Jason. Unfortunately Jason got hurt, but he stepped right in there and he was ready."

Receivers coach Ron Lee said Grice-Mullen is beginning to live up to his potential.

"We've seen some good things from him from Day One," Lee said. "His route-running is good. He's getting better, but he's not where we think he can be yet. He hasn't taken it to the end zone yet. He's going to get better as we go down the stretch, but I'm happy with what he's done so far."

Grice-Mullen has played through some pain.

"I don't worry about injuries when I'm on the field," he said. "My shoulder's gotten a real lot better. I've got little nicks and aches, but everybody does. I got a little bruised chest from the Michigan State game."

The Warriors lost by lopsided scores, but Grice-Mullen was far from intimidated playing against two elite teams in his first college games.

"Neither one hit that hard. The guy from Michigan State did get me with a good little hit, but it's nothing out of the usual.

"It helped us a whole lot playing against USC and Michigan State. It's not like they're pushovers. We just have to carry the momentum and play like we know we can after that second half (14-14 against MSU). We have to start off with a bang and continue at a consistent level."

Hamstring epidemic: Slotback/running back Nate Ilaoa, running back Bryan Maneafaiga and right guard Brandon Eaton sat out yesterday with mild hamstring strains. Jones said he expects all three will be ready to play Saturday.

Larry Sauafea took most of the first-team reps. If Eaton can't play, Sauafea or Marques Kaonohi would get the start.

If Ilaoa and Maneafaiga both can't go, Jones will choose between David Farmer and Kala Latuselu at running back. He said talented freshman Mario Cox likely isn't ready yet.

"I'd say it'd be hard for us to play him," said Jones, who also said he would "probably" bring Cox on the trip.

Cornerback Kenny Patton said after practice yesterday he was "100, no 105 percent" despite a separated shoulder.

Nose tackle Keala Watson returned to full duty after a day off with knee bruise.

Acclimation: Jones changed tomorrow's practice to the Kibbie Dome, site of Saturday's game (the Warriors had originally planned to practice at Lewiston High School).

"Getting used to the footing is probably key," he said.

The Kibbie Dome has an AstroTurf surface.

Conference call: The Western Athletic Conference council meets next week in Dallas to discuss several issues, including instant replay, and review host bids for the 2007 and 2008 WAC basketball tournaments.

Boise State, Nevada and New Mexico State have submitted bids, WAC commissioner Karl Benson said.

Catching on

Hawaii has four new starting receivers. Here is how they fared against USC and Michigan State:

Rec. Yds. Avg. TD LG
Ryan Grice-Mullen 12 119 9.9 0 25
Davone Bess 10 88 8.8 1 19
Ian Sample 8 111 13.9 1 27
Ross Dickerson 7 141 20.1 0 43

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