GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii linebacker Blaze Soares sacked Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter, who threw an interception on the next play.
UH defense does the job
After watching Purdue celebrate touchdowns five times in the second half of last night's shootout at Aloha Stadium, the Hawaii defense came up with the big plays it needed to tilt a seesaw battle in the Warriors' favor.
Hawaii gave up 472 yards as a 17-0 halftime lead turned into a 35-27 deficit in the fourth quarter. But after the offense tied the contest, the defense came through with two takeaways to set up the winning score and seal the 42-35 win.
An interception by cornerback Gerard Lewis with 2:27 left in the game set the stage for Ian Sample's game-winning touchdown reception from quarterback Colt Brennan. Another pick by linebacker Adam Leonard on Purdue's ensuing possession punctuated the dramatic victory.
"We just had to get our offense the ball back," Lewis said. "We just needed a big play on defense to get our offense the ball back. Nobody in the country can stop our O. We kept telling each other, 'one more stop.'"
Lewis' interception on an overthrown pass by Curtis Painter was preceded by a sack by freshman outside linebacker Blaze Soares that forced Purdue into a third-and-13 situation and got Aloha Stadium shaking.
"When I came off the edge, the tackle didn't get me, and linebacker Solomon (Elimimian) got the back to go toward him and that opened up the door for me," Soares said. "So thanks to Solomon for letting me get that sack."
With his parents and younger brother in the stands, Leonard ended Purdue's comeback hopes by picking off a Painter pass to the right side with less than a minute remaining.
"It's real special, my first interception at the college level, it's exciting and I'm thankful," Leonard said. "Our team is great and that's what great teams do, you face adversity and you bounce back from it."
In the house: Last night's crowd of 44,298 (47,825 tickets issued) was Hawaii's largest at home since last year's season-opening sellout against Southern California.
The turnstile count easily eclipsed the previous season high of 29,523 set the previous week for UH's win over San Jose State. The Warriors' first six home dates drew an average of 27,749 through the gates with 32,480 tickets distributed.
With the increased turnout and the holiday shopping season came congestion on the roadways surrounding Aloha Stadium.
"We did a good job of getting everybody in here," Stadium spokesman Patrick Leonard said. "There were some traffic problems because this is the first big shopping day ... going to Pearlridge and going out to the outlet stores."
Nate's mixed plate: Running back Nate Ilaoa had another great game last night. He scored two touchdowns. He was clearly the catalyst for Hawaii's offense.
And yet he was on the sideline in the game's final moments.
"I kind of twisted my ankle on one of those long runs. And I also got my head knocked and my contact came out."
And there were two fumbles, both lost, both leading to Purdue points.
"And that (his contact) was just bugging me. That's not the reason I fumbled, but I was worried about my eye more than anything else, you know, I've got to have better ball security," he said.
"The first one (Purdue's Anthony Spencer) made a great play. The second one was mine, I was in a big group of traffic, I didn't do a good job of putting it away. And good teams will capitalize on that, and they did."
Still, Hawaii pulled it out. And Ilaoa, on balance, had another big game, coming up with 211 total yards and averaging 13.2 yards a rush.
"Oh, I don't even know what the stats were," he said.
On second thought, it's good: Officials checked the video replay to see if a Brennan incomplete pass was a fumble instead, which gave June Jones time to change his mind after having sent out his punt team on fourth and 8 from the Purdue 35.
Instead, Jones called back the punt team, and Dan Kelly hit a field goal to make it 20-14 with 4:48 left in the third quarter.
"Coach (Jerry) Glanville kind of coerced Coach Jones to kick a field goal," Kelly said. "I looked at Coach Glanville, Glanville looked at me and I told him I could hit it. And he said, 'I know.'
"And then he went to Coach Jones and said 'kick a field goal.' "
The 52-yarder was Kelly's career high.
Football friends back in the day: Purdue cornerback Terrell Vinson knew Brennan while the two were growing up in Irvine, Calif.
"We're from the same area. He's a good guy," Vinson said after the game. "We played against each other and knew each other for a while. We didn't hang around too much, it was at football, basically."
Vinson forced UH's Ilaoa to fumble in the fourth quarter and it led to a Purdue score, giving the Boilermakers a 35-27 lead with 6:50 left.
"I swiped at it and may have gotten a piece of it, I don't know," Vinson said. "Our defense didn't play like it has in the last six games. We didn't play up to our capability."