JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Davone Bess hauled in a pass ahead of Boise State's Marty Tadman in the first half.
Slots pay off for Hawaii
Ryan Grice-Mullen's mother and cousin surprised him by flying into town Friday, and the Hawaii slotback certainly put on a show for them last night.
Grice-Mullen caught a team-high nine passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. But the biggest night of his young career was dampened by the Warriors' 44-41 loss to Boise State at Aloha Stadium.
"They surprised me last night," Grice-Mullen said of his relatives coming to Honolulu. "They didn't tell me they were coming to the game, and they flew in from California to watch me play, so that felt pretty good. But the win, that's what was most important. We've got to have it."
It was a big night for both of UH's starting slotbacks. Fellow freshman Davone Bess snagged six throws from quarterback Colt Brennan covering 106 yards and also had two touchdowns.
"We had a great game plan going in and it just so happened that it was the slots who did good today," Grice-Mullen said. "Everybody seems to be getting better and better every day and we're going to have a fierce threat at receiver."
Both of Grice-Mullen's touchdowns came in a fourth-quarter shootout between the teams.
With the Broncos' leading 35-28, Brennan was forced to scramble and motioned for Grice-Mullen to head downfield. Grice-Mullen obliged and got behind the secondary for a 73-yard score to tie the game.
"That was crazy because I came back and I saw him point and I took off down the sideline," Grice-Mullen said. "I didn't really think he was going to get it there, but he got it there on the money and I just made a play."
Grice-Mullen's 19-yard TD catch with 4:11 left brought UH within a point at 42-41. But the extra point was blocked and returned for two points by BSU.
Junior receiver Jordan Slye saw his first action of the season.
Slye, one of UH's tallest receivers at 6-foot-4, saw action as both a slot receiver and wideout. He caught a 2-point conversion pass in the third quarter to give UH a 28-21 lead.
Ilaoa back: Nate Ilaoa returned from a hamstring injury to start at running back last night and reached the end zone for the first time since 2002.
His 37-yard third-quarter score was just the fourth of his career, and his second rushing touchdown.
"Everybody was doing their job," Ilaoa said. "It was the little things, from Michael Washington running off that corner, to the blocking, everybody just came together.
"Just playing in front of the home crowd again was the best part about it."
Zabransky hung tough: Boise State quarterback Jared Zabransky turned what could have been a poor performance into a respectable outing in the second half last night.
The heralded junior completed five first-half passes on 16 attempts for 68 yards and the Broncos went into intermission trailing 20-7.
But he made up for the bad start with three second-half touchdown passes and finished 18-for-33 for 207 yards and an interception.
"We were real close (to putting things together) in the first half, but close isn't good enough," Zabransky said. "Defense and special teams kept us in it. And then we had some great drives in the second half."
Still hurting: Hawaii's depth took a hit again last night, with a player on defense and a starter on offense leaving the game.
Senior center Derek Fa'avi was knocked out of action with a bruised hand. The captain, who is valued for his skill in making line calls, was replaced by junior Marques Kaonohi.
Reserve corner Ryan Keomaka, who started in the season opener against USC, also had to leave the game.
"We lost corner substitution. We lost No. 9 and he couldn't function at the corner. That's football," Hawaii defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said.
Keomaka's injury was later diagnosed as a strained shoulder. He was credited with two tackles for the night.