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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Taumua out for revenge against Hawaii

Junior defensive end hopes to secure bragging rights for his next trip home

Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2009 | 2:30 a.m.

More than anything, UNLV junior defensive end Malo Taumua would just like a more pleasant trip home on his next voyage to the Hawaiian islands.

"It's for bragging rights," he said of the Rebels upcoming showdown with 2-0 Hawaii at 8 p.m. Saturday night at Sam Boyd Stadium. "The last two times we lost to them, I went back home, I got nothing but trash talk."

Taumua's heard it from Hawaii senior linebacker R.J. Kiesel-Kauhane and senior defensive lineman Rocky Svaiigaea, both of whom he went to school with at Aiea High in O'ahu. The Rebels were thumped by the Warriors during each of Taumua's first two seasons on campus, losing 42-13 on the road in 2006, then 49-14 in Vegas a year later.

Now, as a junior, he feels he'll have more to do with the Rebels fate, rather than watching from the side.

"When we played them my freshman year, I was getting picked on a lot because I was a freshman," he said. "Now I'm a junior. I'm aware of more things, I'm focused."

The 6-foot-2, 270-pound Taumua has also transformed himself into the heart and soul of an improving UNLV defense.

Through two games, the vocal and animated Taumua has four tackles, a sack and an interception.

A year ago, he had a fall camp which gave every indication that he'd have a monster sophomore season. Overmatched at times and swallowed up by double teams on the interior line, he's already on pace to smash his numbers from 2008 at his new defensive end post.

Though Taumua isn't the only Rebel who sees the showdown with 8 p.m. as a game that carries added meaning. On top of the other four players who consider the Hawaiian islands home — defensive tackle Ramsey Feagai, long snapper Kamu Kapanui, guard Sean Tesoro and offensive lineman Daniel Kaanana — the Polynesian influence on the UNLV roster is extensive.

"You try not to put extra added incentive to it and keep it in perspective and keep it just a game," said UNLV offensive line coach Keith Uperesa, who recruits Hawaii for the Rebels. "The more you add to it, the more pressure you put on people. I like for the kids to just relax and play ball."

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