Spencer a catalyst on 'D' for Purdue
The end leads the nation with 26.5 tackles-for-loss
COLT Brennan won't be the only national statistical leader on the field when No. 25 Hawaii hosts Purdue tomorrow night at Aloha Stadium.
The Boilermakers have their own star who came out of nowhere to be considered among the best in college football at his position.
And the Warriors want to make sure Anthony Spencer doesn't come out of nowhere to derail Brennan's assault on NCAA passing records.
PURDUE AT No. 25 HAWAII
When: Tomorrow, 6:05 p.m.
Where: Aloha Stadium
TV: Oceanic PPV 255; Sunday free rebroadcast, 10 a.m., KFVE (Ch. 5)
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Spencer, dogged by injuries before this season, has dominated most of his opponents this year and leads the nation with 26.5 tackles-for-loss.
Purdue (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) goes into its regular-season finale a 17 1/2-point underdog. The Boilermakers' pass rush, led by Spencer, is a major key to their hopes for an upset against Hawaii (9-2, 7-1 WAC), which has won its last eight games.
The Warriors are aware that Spencer is probably the best defensive lineman they'll face this season. His linemates aren't bad either, UH coach June Jones said.
"They're very athletic and they have some very good individual pass rushers," he said. "They do a lot of different looks. A lot of zone blitzing, a lot of different things.
We've seen a lot of that stuff all (season). This is just better athletes doing it."
Hawaii tackles Tala Esera on the left and Dane Uperesa on the right will likely both be tested by Spencer, since the Purdue coaches will shift him if they think they can find a weak spot in the blocking.
"Throughout the year I moved around a lot, but it just depends on the game plan," he said.
Spencer also has 10.5 sacks among his 85 total tackles, plus four forced fumbles and five pass breakups.
"My goal coming into the season was to lead the Big Ten in all the categories possible for a defensive lineman," Spencer said. "I've been fortunate and I've been able to do that."
The All-Big Ten selection from Fort Wayne, Ind., made 15 tackles against Notre Dame, but that doesn't lessen his respect for Hawaii's attack.
"They're the best offensive team in the nation. They've been doing it game in and game out. Putting up that many yards and that many points, they must be doing something right," Spencer said. "I definitely haven't seen anything like it."
Pass-rushing defensive ends aren't always considered the best team players, but the articulate Spencer is well-liked and admired by his teammates and coaches -- especially for fighting through injuries in earlier years to his shoulders and an ankle to have an outstanding senior season.
"Anthony has had a great year," coach Joe Tiller said. "I think he's a national player, in the sense that he's achieved much more than just about any other defensive end in the country. He's playing as well as anybody. The biggest difference in Anthony Spencer this year is that he's been healthy. We just nominated him for an award for overcoming adversity. He's had several season-ending injuries, but this year he's been healthy and playing at a high level."
Linebacker Dan Bick expects the 6-foot-3, 261-pound Spencer will be a solid NFL player.
"I think Anthony is one of the most talented players, if not the most talented player, that I've ever played with," Bick said. "That just comes from his work ethic. He's one of the hardest workers on our defense, he's flying around all the time, and he loves the game. He just loves playing football. I don't think he's a selfish person or a selfish player. He's always out there trying to help. It's going to take him to the next level."
Choice for Esera:
Esera has received invitations to both the Jan. 14 Hula Bowl and the Jan. 20 East-West Shrine Game.
He said he has not decided which bid or bids to accept.
Spencer has also been invited to both games.
Hula Bowl still not confirmed:
Aloha Stadium manager Kenneth Lum said a check for $10,000 was received from Hula Bowl owner Nick Logan last week, but that the stadium is still owed $37,000 more. Lum added the Jan. 14 date won't be reserved for the game until the total payment is received.