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Warriors deliver a victory and receive a Hawaii Bowl invitation with a 45-10 blowout of Idaho

By Stephen Tsai

LAST UPDATED: 2:36 a.m. HST, Oct 31, 2010

On homecoming night, the Hawaii football team brought home a Hawaii Bowl invitation.

The Warriors' sixth victory in a row — a 45-10 rout of Idaho before a crowd of 35,322 at Aloha Stadium — improved their overall record to 7-2, guaranteeing a winning regular season and earning the accompanying berth in the Dec. 24 bowl game.

What's more, the Warriors remained unbeaten in five Western Athletic Conference games, setting up this coming Saturday's showdown against second-ranked Boise State.

"We're excited for the state of Hawaii," offensive tackle Austin Hansen said in the celebration of the postgame locker room. "We usually have the 48-hour rule (to enjoy victories), but we're cutting that short. We're over it. The 'W' is in the books. We're ready to move on."

The outcome was delivered thanks to an opportunistic defense — which produced a touchdown on safety Richard Torres' 57-yard dash following a fumble recovery and set up two other scoring drives with interceptions — and a never-say-uncle offense, led by quarterback Bryant Moniz.

After an erratic start, in which he misfired on six of his first seven passes, Moniz calmed down, going 26-for-31 the rest of the way. He finished with 326 passing yards and three touchdown throws. He also punctuated UH's scoring with a 3-yard keeper in which his only option was himself.

"The late hit two plays before, that really pissed me off," Moniz said. "I was really mad at that point. I wasn't going to let somebody stop me. I was on a roll. I was on fire."

It appeared Moniz broke free at the 1 from defensive end Aaron Lavarias, who had been assessed two roughing-the-passer penalties.

"Didn't notice," Moniz said. "They're all wearing the same colored jersey."

UH offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said: "It was a little sloppy. We dropped some balls. We missed some protection. We missed some throws. We're going to need to clean that up going into next week's game. But the kids played well enough to win. They made some plays. And Mo had a great game. You don't expect him to go (1-for-7) to start the game, but I thought he made some big throws down the stretch. After the first (two) series, he was pretty lights out, I thought."

Indeed, Moniz was on the mark on his scoring passes — a 10-yarder to a wide-open Royce Pollard on a post route; a 4-yarder to slotback Kealoha Pilares, who broke between linebacker Tre'Shawn Robinson and safety Gary Walker, and the 16-yarder to Dustin Blount, who weaved past a labyrinth of defenders.

Running back Alex Green, who did not practice in the preceding week because of a wear-and-tear injury, rushed for 74 yards, including a 1-yard score.

"I was focused," Green said. "You can't worry about little injuries. You have to play."

The Warriors, to be sure, would not be slowed by ailments. Moniz played despite missing a practice because of a variety of sore body parts. Right tackle Kainoa LaCount, filling in for injured Laupepa Letuli, played despite a broken right hand. Still, LaCount held off Lavarias in the first half before the outcome lost its suspense.

"Give all the credit to Kainoa," Hansen said. "He played firm over there. He had a broken hand. He had to cast it up. He had to go against a guy we feel is the best defensive end in the WAC. The proof is in the pudding. Kainoa gave him a heck of a game."

LaCount said: "(The injury) didn't bother me that much."

And, surprisingly, the Warriors were not bothered — too much — by the Vandals' high-octane offense.

The Vandals, led by quarterback Nate Enderle and an eclipse-inducing offensive line, entered averaging 33 points per game.

But the Warriors contained the Vandals' running attack, and did not allow a touchdown until backup quarterback Brian Reader's 18-yard pass to tight end Tyler Elmo with 2:18 to play.

"I wish we were able to finish it," said UH defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, who calls the plays from the coaches' booth on the loge level. "I feel for the people who were standing by me. I probably said some things I shouldn't have said."

Still, the Warriors were effective with their 45 scheme, which utilizes a nickel back in place of a third linebacker. The Warriors went to that defense because of injuries at linebacker and the Vandals' three-receiver sets.

For this game, the defensive motto was: Affect the quarterback. Enderle usually is accurate throwing to the flats off of a three-step drop. The Warriors countered with press coverage on the receivers, and the defensive ends raising their arms, Rush end Paipai Falemalu tipped two passes.

"Everybody was really relentless in getting to the quarterback," said Tony Tuioti, who coaches the UH defensive tackles. "Any time you can affect the quarterback, it makes a difference. He wasn't the same guy we saw on film."

Enderle completed 23 of 41 passes for 207 yards, and was sacked three times.

UH linebacker Corey Paredes and safety Mana Silva intercepted Enderle to set up UH scoring drives. Silva's pick came two plays after he was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit.

"Yeah, it was a penalty," Silva admitted. "As for the return, I have no comment on that."

After a spin move, it appeared Silva was going to head in the wrong direction.

"We're playing at a high level now," Silva said of the defense.

That was apparent when Enderle completed a pass to tight end Daniel Hardy. Freshman nickel back John Hardy-Tuliau hit Hardy, forcing a fumble, which was scooped by Torres.

"I thought to myself: ball first," Torres said. "I made sure I bent my knees to pick it up. Once I picked it up, I took off to the end zone. It was a nice feeling. It's been a while."

That could be said about the good times, which stopped rolling following the loss to Wisconsin to end the 2009 season. That outcome prevented the Warriors from the postseason, making it a difficult offseason.

"Everybody was down on us — radio guys, blogs," defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga said. "It was in our mind, mentally, that it was us against the world. I think that drove us. We wanted to prove everyone wrong. It feels good to be on this winning streak. But we have a lot more games left. It's not over."

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