Sunday, November 29, 2015         


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Iosefa upbeat despite struggles

By Jason Kaneshiro


There's a pretty good chance Joey Iosefa won't see this.

Even if the Hawaii running back does happen to glance at the Sports section, he probably won't pay it much mind.

With discontent swirling around the University of Hawaii football program in a season of struggle thus far, Iosefa said the focus remains fixed on moving forward as a unit while keeping perceptions on the periphery.

"I don't read the newspaper or listen to any of that, I just have to do what I have to do," Iosefa said. "We just have to not worry about what happens outside, the main thing is us. If we believe in ourselves and what we're doing, I think we're going to be successful."

Wins have been elusive for the Warriors in a 1-6 season to date and they continue to search for their first Mountain West Conference victory going into Saturday's game at Fresno State (6-3, 4-1). The season has been rough on Iosefa individually as well. He has battled a stubborn foot injury that sidelined him for four games. The sophomore returned in last week's loss at Colorado State and, consistent with his running style, is motivated by driving ahead.

"It's not what we expected, but we're still all in this thing together," Iosefa said after a practice this week. "I feel this is the closest team I've been with. So it's more exciting seeing my brothers not even quitting and keep playing.

"In practice today everybody was hyped up," Iosefa added. "We're excited, we love to play, we believe in ourselves. This team is close and everybody is on the same page no matter what the record is."

Through the trials, Iosefa's upbeat demeanor remains constant, boosted by his return to the field after missing most of the first half of the season. He ran for a career high 106 yards on 22 carries against Colorado State, becoming the first UH player to run for triple digits since Bryant Moniz went for 120 against Colorado to open the 2011 season. The last running back to accomplish the feat was Alex Green in 2010. Iosefa combined with Will Gregory and John Lister to lead a rushing attack that generated 193 yards.

"I was super excited to finally get that chance to help out the team. It feels so good to be part of the team on the field," said Iosefa, who averages 4 yards on his 47 carries this season. "My hat goes off to the O-line for the great job up front and to the receivers for blocking the safeties. Everybody does their job, good things happen."

While freely distributing credit for the yardage total, Iosefa accepted responsibility for a second-quarter fumble that eventually led to a Colorado State score, and contributed to a turn in momentum after UH took an early lead.

"That's something I've been working on this whole week," he said. "It's not an excuse for me, missing a couple games. … As a running back that's the main important thing, the ball. I've been working on that the whole offseason. No excuse. It's something I have to get better at."

Iosefa said he had some pain in his foot after the game but it was gone by the time the Warriors resumed practice in advance of their trip to Fresno State. The rivalry with the Bulldogs bridged the programs' migration from the Western Athletic Conference to the Mountain West, though their fortunes have diverged under first-year coaches.

Tim DeRuyter, formerly the defensive coordinator at Texas A&M, took over the Fresno State program this season and the Bulldogs enter the week second in the league in total defense and fourth in rushing defense. The Bulldogs yield 171.1 yards per game on the ground and have surrendered 12 rushing touchdowns in nine games, five coming in a loss to Oregon on Sept. 8. Nose guard Andy Jennings is tied for the MWC lead with 10 tackles for loss.

"They're a really solid front, they're really good athletes," Iosefa said. "We have to really work on ourselves and get mentally ready."

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