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Poueu-Luna sprinting his way up the charts

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    Breyden Torres-Keohokapu, left, scored on a 27-yard pass from Jeremy Higgins during Thursday's Scout Bowl.

On Wednesday, Bubba Poueu-Luna won a sprint among safeties who were not on the Hawaii football team’s recent travel roster.

Thursday, Poueu-Luna won the sprint against the top non-traveling cornerback.

After Thursday’s Scout Bowl involving redshirts and developing players, Poueu-Luna is on the fast track to a significant role with the Warriors.

"We’re going to talk about the travel squad for (next week’s game against) San Jose (State), and I would think Bubba’s stock just went up," head coach Greg McMackin said.

With a bye this weekend, the Warriors set up their annual Scout Bowl. Poueu-Luna, alternating between strong safety and nickelback, was the defensive star of the 25-play, full-contact scrimmage. He made two interceptions. On the first, Poueu-Luna sped into the left flat to make a diving interception in front of slotback Donnie King. On the second, he seized the interception and ran 25 yards for a touchdown.

"That was a lot of fun," Poueu-Luna said.

Indeed, Poueu-Luna is enjoying his second year at UH after feeling blue during a redshirt year in 2010.

"Last year was a bad year for me," said Poueu-Luna, who suffered a broken left foot and high sprains to both ankles. Returning to his California home for a month this summer proved to be refreshing.

"When he came back, he was bigger and stronger," safety Richard Torres said. "He’s matured a lot. He’s knowing the defense better. He’s starting to make plays."

Poueu-Luna did not make the 66- and 64-player travel rosters, respectively, for the Warriors’ first two trips. While the team was away, Poueu-Luna and several teammates trained daily.

"Just because they were gone, I wasn’t going to give up," Poueu-Luna said.

In crafting the travel roster, "Bubba’s been in the conversation," said associate head coach Rich Miano, who coordinates the secondary. "He’s been the ‘next guy’ to travel. He’s taken it well. He could have gone in the tank. He stayed focused."

Poueu-Luna also sacked quarterback Stump Godfrey. That was significant because the nickelback in the UH defense often is aligned in the tackle box as a blitzer.

"Bubba is coming along," McMackin said. "He’s been making big plays in practice, and he can hit. He can run fast, too. We’ve been waiting for him to show up. We gave him an opportunity, and he showed up."

To be sure, the offense played well. Jeremy Higgins, a Saint Louis School graduate who is redshirting after transferring from Utah State, completed his first five passes, including a 27-yard scoring throw to slotback Breyden Torres-Keohokapu. Higgins finished 7-for-10 for 69 yards.

Kevin Spain, who did not play in 2010 after undergoing shoulder surgery, was the front half in the scrimmage’s best play. On fourth and 10 from the offense’s 20, Spain lofted a pass to wideout Cecil Doe, who was repeatedly bumped by cornerback Ijumaa Armstrong. Doe secured the pass at the defense’s 35, and ran the rest of the way for the touchdown.

"It was the relationship between me and the quarterback," Doe said. "He had faith in me to get past the defender."

The third quarterback, Godfrey, had pedestrian statistics — 1-for-6 for 17 yards — but displayed the most awe-inducing throws. Godfrey, who is redshirting after transferring from New Mexico, lasered two passes that zipped through the grasps of receivers. One of his incompletions traveled 70 yards.

"He can let the ball fly," McMackin said.

Offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said: "He has a strong arm. He gets it out quick. That’s not always what you’re looking for. You’re looking for ‘catchability.’ I’m not sure if that’s in the dictionary."

Of his quick release and strong arm, Godfrey said: "Just go out there and spin it."

He said he is working on putting a softer touch on some of his passes.

"It’s all about being on the same page with the receiver," Godfrey said.

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