Brennan says best is ahead
The QB says UH's prolific offense is just getting going
Colt Brennan has some bad news for Purdue, Oregon State and the Pac-10 team that will play against him in the Hawaii Bowl:
He's just getting warmed up.
The Hawaii quarterback has thrown 419 passes (plus thousands more in practice) in 11 games this season. But Brennan, headed into the home stretch of the greatest offensive season in school history -- individual and team -- said he doesn't feel arm-tired or worn out in any way.
Actually, it's quite the opposite for the 6-foot-3, 196-pound junior from Irvine, Calif., who is still widely considered a candidate for one of the top three spots in the Heisman Trophy race, which Ohio State's Troy Smith will probably win.
The No. 25 Warriors (9-2) host Purdue (8-4) tonight, with UH looking for its ninth consecutive victory. That would be the most in a row in one season in school history.
Brennan -- who leads the nation in several passing categories and needs six touchdown passes to tie the NCAA single season standard of 54 -- sounds as energized as he did on the first day of fall camp.
"At the end of the season, games 11, 12, 13, 14, that's when everything clicks for you. That's when it all comes together. Our success came sort of in the early-middle of our season and we've been riding it ever since," said Brennan, triggerman of the nation's leading offense in scoring, total yards and passing yards. "Now we're kind of at the high point and we're ready to go out and play these next few teams at a real high level, an efficient level."
Quite a different tone than that of Purdue coach Joe Tiller. On Tuesday, Tiller bemoaned the fact that the Boilermakers had to spend half a day traveling to Hawaii to play a 13th game a week after their rivalry game with Indiana, and without a bye all season.
"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak," Tiller said. "They practiced hard (on Monday), but they looked slow. They looked a little leg weary. That's not uncommon. We're going into our 16th consecutive week without a break, when you talk about training camp and then getting into the season."
That was just one of many complaints Tiller had about playing here this week. Biased officiating presumably won't be among them, since a Pac-10 crew will work the game because Purdue didn't want WAC zebras.
Unlike their coach, the players would rather play football than dodgeball.
"If we didn't have this game, we'd be practicing," quarterback Curtis Painter said. "But it's always better to face another team and see where you're at. ... It's a Top 25 team and it's another tough challenge for us. It will help us a lot going into the (Champs Sports) bowl game."
Tiller knows about dominating offense, having coached Wyoming to 52-6 and 66-0 victories over Hawaii in 1995 and 1996. He expects UH -- which averages 544.7 yards and 39.2 points per game -- might score a few more points against his defense than it did 10 years ago.
"This is probably as gifted an offensive team as we've played since coming to Purdue. It might be the best offensive team that I've ever seen," said Tiller, who has been coaching football since 1965. "Out west there were some great BYU teams with LaVell Edwards that were pretty impressive. But this Hawaii team is as prolific an offense as I've ever seen."
The Warriors, who are favored by more than two touchdowns, view tonight's game (their first against Purdue) as an opportunity to validate their first national ranking since 2002.
Hawaii's last six wins have been by an average score of 60.5-20.2. Those opponents have a combined record of 19-44, and San Jose State (6-4) is the only one with a winning record.
"That's what's been holding us back, people saying we're playing lesser opponents in the WAC," Brennan said. "Here comes two teams at the higher end of their conferences, the Big Ten and the Pac-10. So, for us to win these two games would make a huge statement. If we do it in the manner we've been lately, it makes a gigantic statement. There's a lot riding on these next two games for us."
Defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold said the players know the credibility they've built up in two months can vanish in 3 hours tonight.
"In our meeting room we talk about how this can all disappear in one bad outing. Everything you've built so far, the level of play, the ranking. They're all tenuous at best. You need to play well against elite level teams," Reinebold said. "The great thing about our schedule, the next three games, Purdue, Oregon State and hopefully UCLA or whoever the Pac-10 sends, is going to give these guys a chance to make a statement about who they are."
UH coach June Jones said the defense is coming off its finest game of the year, and "we're the best we've been since we've been here at every spot" on offense. He considers winning an expectation, but not an assumption.
"We've got our hands full, don't get me wrong. I mean this is an 8-4 Purdue team, are they not? From a conference that's pretty good. So looking at them on film, they're fast, they're big, they're a good football team. And we're going to have to play our best to beat them," said Jones, who is one victory away from tying Dick Tomey as UH's winningest coach. "Fortunately we've got them at home and we play pretty good at home."
The Warriors have won six in a row at Aloha Stadium, including the season finale against San Diego State last year.
More than 40,000 tickets had been distributed by yesterday morning, and the biggest home crowd is expected since last year's season-opening sellout against USC.
Defensive backs coach Rich Miano said it's too bad more didn't come earlier in the season.
"It's such a charismatic team, filled with great local players and Colt Brennan. So exciting offensively and defensively and special teams. You couldn't ask for more," Miano said. "We don't have an NFL team -- I just wish the community would embrace these guys more, because they're deserving."