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Wednesday, April 23, 2014         

FERD'S WORDS


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Revealing moment highlights cohesiveness of team

By Ferd Lewis

POSTED:



Redshirt freshman David Graves turned a fumble recovery into an important 6-yard touchdown for the University of Hawaii on Saturday at Utah State.

One problem: The announcer mistakenly credited it to the Warriors' Spencer Smith (who wasn't even suited up), instead.

It was a natural — and for this Warriors football team — revealing moment.

Natural because both Graves, a special-teams performer, and Smith, a starting strong safety when healthy, wear the No. 9 on their jerseys.

Because Graves is listed as a quarterback, it was assumed the scoring player had to be Smith because, well, most quarterbacks just don't do special teams apart from, maybe, holding on place-kicks.

But Graves does, and with shoulder-pad-popping pride. In his refreshing anything-to-help-the-team and get-on-the-field approach to the game he says a lot about himself and the Warriors.

In the course of their five-game — and counting — winning streak, the 6-2 (4-0 Western Athletic Conference) Warriors have been all about helping each other out. All about jumping in and finding ways to win, whatever — and whomever — it might require.

You see it, for example, when slotback Greg Salas lights up a defender with a block to help spring a teammate downfield. And in the way they pick each other up, even when something has gone badly.

And heaven help the opposing team when things are going grand for the Warriors, because it must seem, as it did in the 45-7 victory over Utah State, that the Warriors are playing with many more than 11 on the field at one time, so thick and impenetrable is their bond.

It is easy, of course, to be gung ho and exhibit camaraderie when things are going well. But the Warriors found their cohesiveness quite genuinely and bit by bit coming out of the debacle at Colorado. They have added to it by the week.

A team that struggled to make plays against Southern California and Colorado now makes them by the bushel, if games against Nevada and Utah State are any guide.

The 38 unanswered points Saturday, an accumulation of plays by a variety of contributors, against the Aggies harkened to the kind of effort we got used to seeing in the magical 2007 Sugar Bowl-bound season. This isn't to say they will go as far as the '07 Warriors, only that they have picked up one of the more telling traits.

If the offense struggled, well, somebody else, the defense or special teams, usually made a play to start things rolling. Saturday everybody played a part, which is, increasingly, the way things have been going.

"It is about playing together, everybody helping each other out," said Kaniela Tuipulotu, a defensive lineman.

Like when the UH offense struggled and special teams, in the form of the on-rushing John Hardy-Tuliau, knocked the ball from the juggling grasp of the punter for Graves to make a play and give UH a 21-7 lead and a spark.

Tuipulotu, a Maui native who transferred back home from Arizona, said the ohana spirit was one of the things he most missed. "Here, with this team, we help each other. We've got each other's backs."

Even fourth-string (for now) would-be quarterbacks, it seems.

That's when you know you have something special going on.

Reach Ferd Lewis a flewis@staradvertiser.com.






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