Thirty minutes after Hawaii lost to Tulsa in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl, senior slotback Kealoha Pilares sat on a bench in front of his locker, his left knee in a brace, crutches at his side.
His post-UH plans had included training for an audition with NFL scouts this coming spring.
"Everything changes with this," Pilares said, pointing to his leg.
He will undergo an MRI to determine the extent of the injury, which he suffered on the punt return preceding the Warriors’ first possession of the bowl game.
"If I didn’t have this, I’d start training," Pilares said. "Now I’ll probably have rehab, stuff I wasn’t planning on."
The Warriors, to be sure, did not expect the mistake-filled, one-sided outcome that spoiled an otherwise productive season. The Warriors finished 10-4 — the fourth time they’ve had double-digit victories in a season since they began playing an all-Division I schedule in the mid-1970s. They also claimed a share of their fourth Western Athletic Conference football title.
"It was frustrating," said quarterback Bryant Moniz, who was intercepted four times in the first half — he was picked off 11 times in 13 regular-season games — and sacked six times. "It’s going to make us work harder in the offseason."
The Warriors will have to replace three starting receivers (Pilares, Greg Salas and Rodney Bradley), two running backs (Alex Green and Chizzy Dimude), five key offensive linemen (Laupepa Letuli, Adrian Thomas, Bronson Tiwanak, Brysen "Bula" Ginlack and Kainoa LaCount), two defensive ends (Kamalu Umu and Elliott Purcell), four defensive backs (Spencer Smith, Lametrius Davis, Jeramy Bryant and Mana Silva), and a kicker (Scott Enos).
Most of the openings can be filled with in-house players. Tyler Hadden, who redshirted this season, will replace Enos.
Darius Bright, who redshirted, is the likely successor to Bradley at left wideout. Billy Ray Stutzmann, who started in place of Bradley in the bowl game, likely will move to slotback.
Jeremiah Ostrowski, moonlighting with the UH basketball team, Terence Bell and Allen Sampson also will compete at slotback. The Warriors received commitments from four receivers.
Sterling Jackson, another redshirt, is being heralded as the back of the future.
Left tackle Austin Hansen, who was ineligible for the bowl, and left guard Brett Leonard, who started in place of Ginlack, will be back for their senior seasons. Matagisila Lefiti, the No. 1 center before suffering a broken foot in the spring game, is now healthy.
Chauncy Winchester-Makainai can play at either right guard or right tackle. The coaches have praised freshman offensive tackles Sean Shigematsu and Jordan Loeffler.
On the defensive line, redshirts Moses Samia, Marcus Malepeai, Beau Yap and Siasau Matagiese should contribute next season.
Nickel back John Hardy-Tuliau is expected to move to safety or cornerback. His cousin, Bubba Poueu-Luna, will compete for a safety position. Dee Maggitt is a top candidate for a cornerback’s job.
"There’s a lot of talent," Salas said.
Salas returned to his home in California yesterday. He said he will choose an agent this week, then begin preparing for the Senior Bowl in January.
"I had a great time in Hawaii," Salas said. "I want to thank everybody."