Warriors are getting revved up for Vandals


POSTED: Friday, October 16, 2009

PULLMAN, Wash. » On a crisp fall afternoon, the Hawaii football team welcomed some on-field fire.

The temperature was in the high 50s for the Warriors' practice yesterday, but things heated up when linebacker Blaze Soares and offensive lineman Brett Leonard got tangled up after a play.

The scuffle broke up quickly yet seemed to inject energy into an already lively 2-hour workout at Colfax High School.

“;We were just spicing things up a little bit,”; Soares said. “;What you do on the field stays on the field. After we were done practicing we were all cool about it.”;

Still, “;after that it was like a Warrior practice. ... More adrenaline flowing, more hitting, more people flying around,”; Soares said.

The next play ended with a jarring collision between cornerback Jeramy Bryant and running back Jayson Rego at the line of scrimmage.

“;I like to see emotions. That's what we're trying to do, have fun, play football and you play with emotion,”; UH head coach Greg McMackin said.

After banging against each other for the last week, the Warriors (2-3, 0-2 WAC) will try to unleash the frustration of a three-game losing streak when they face first-place Idaho (5-1, 2-0) tomorrow at the Kibbie Dome in neighboring Moscow, Idaho.

The Warriors arrived in town late Wednesday night and practiced in Colfax, Wash., a small wheat-farming town about 15 miles outside of Pullman.

They shuffled the lineup a bit after last week's loss to Fresno State, with Soares moving back to outside linebacker after starting the last two games in the middle and Mana Lolotai returning to the first unit.

“;I was looking for some playing time and this is my opportunity. I have to take advantage of it,”; said Lolotai, who began the season as the starting middle linebacker.

After three straight losses, the Warriors are looking to reverse course and regain their swagger against an Idaho team in the midst of a dramatic turnaround.

“;They're not 5-1 for nothing,”; Soares said. “;They're doing things right these past weeks. ... They're a different team, a different identity.”;


Almost home

This week's trip brings running back Leon Wright-Jackson within a 2-hour drive of his hometown of Pasco, Wash.

“;It feels good, like I'm at home,”; Wright-Jackson said yesterday. “;It just feels good to be in this atmosphere.”;

Wright-Jackson said the number of family and friends expected to attend tomorrow's game numbers in the 60s, and he's looking to build on a solid performance in last week's loss to Fresno State.

Wright-Jackson's 66 yards were a career high, but the bulk of his contributions didn't show up in the stats.

“;He was pretty much perfect on his reads in the run game, was physical and had his best game protection-wise,”; running backs coach Brian Smith said.

Wright-Jackson, an acclaimed runner at Pasco High, said adjusting to the Warriors' blocking schemes took time. But he's embraced his role in protecting the quarterback.

“;I'm going to do what I can. If it's blocking I'm going to do that to the best of my ability and give (Bryant) Moniz some time to get rid of the balI,”; Wright-Jackson said.

“;I was taught, even in pee-wee football, to be an all-around back. You have to be able to block and run the ball. I take pride in both.”;


Game-time decision at tackle

Adrian Thomas returned to practice yesterday after resting his back early in the week. Thomas and Austin Hansen, who has filled the spot in Thomas' absence, split repetitions with the first unit at right tackle. Which one starts tomorrow will be a game-time decision, offensive line coach Gordy Shaw said.

Victor Clore and Paipai Falemalu got some first-team work at left defensive end in place of Elliott Purcell, who is expected to be ready for tomorrow's game.