Sample steps up big time
The play hadn't been called all night and Ian Sample conceded feeling a few butterflies when quarterback Colt Brennan announced it in the huddle.
"When you know the ball's going to you, I'm not going to lie, you get a little nervous," Sample said.
If he was experiencing a few jitters before the snap, Sample got Aloha Stadium rocking after the play by scoring the decisive touchdown in No. 25 Hawaii's dramatic 42-35 win over Purdue last night.
With Hawaii facing second and 6 at the Purdue 23, the call was for Brennan to get the ball to Sample on a wide receiver screen coming from the right side of the formation.
Sample caught the ball in stride, turned upfield, then angled to his left and found open field all the way to the goal line to give Hawaii the lead for good in a seesaw game before the Warriors' largest home crowd of the season.
Sample went untouched into the end zone and got one final block at the goal line from fellow receiver Jason Rivers to clear the way.
"I owe it to the linemen and Colt, he saw the window, double-clutched it then threw it," Sample said. "The linemen blocked and Rivers had the best block of the year. For me it was, 'catch the ball, see the end zone and get to it.'
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Senior running back Nate Ilaoa sparked the Warriors' ground game by rushing for 159 yards on 12 carries and two touchdowns in Hawaii's win over Purdue at Aloha Stadium last night.
"It's designed to go up the middle, but the linemen were all just pushing (the Purdue defenders) so far to the right that I kept it going. It was a piece of cake after that."
It was just Sample's third catch of the game and he finished with 43 yards for the night. But with the game tied at 35 and the clock winding down, Hawaii head coach June Jones called for the screen --normally a staple of the UH attack -- and it popped open for the Warriors.
"We hadn't run it all game so it was a great play-call by Coach Jones," Brennan said. "A huge play-call.
"Because the D-ends were doing such a great job of knocking our balls down, we knew we probably would have it, but we needed to get the ball to him. Dane Uperesa cut the D-end unbelievably, he set the whole play up and he gave me a wide-open shot to get it to Ian."
The Warriors had seen a 17-0 halftime lead evaporate with a series of second-half turnovers and trailed 35-27 with 6:50 left in the game.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii's Davone Bess latched on to this pass for 49 yards that set up one of two Nate Ilaoa touchdowns against Purdue during first-half action.
They tied it up with Brennan hitting slotback Ryan Grice-Mullins for a touchdown and 2-point conversion with 4:48 left.
"It doesn't matter how many catches you get or how many yards or how many touchdowns you score, it's about the win," Grice-Mullins said. "It's about making that big play when you're number is called."
After UH knotted the game, it took an interception by cornerback Gerard Lewis to set up the game-winning drive.
"We owe it to the defense," Sample said. "They have so much heart. We made our mistakes on offense for sure, we had fumbles and dropped balls and the defense comes up with timely picks. ... We owe this game to the defense for sure."
Sample might not have had the opportunity to be on the field if not for an NCAA ruling granting him a sixth-year of eligibility prior to the start of fall camp. And the senior's 10th touchdown of the season may have been the biggest.
"It's this team, I can't find words to explain it," Sample said. "We've got so much heart, if we're down 50 points we know we're going to be fine."
GEORGE F. LEE / GLEE@STARBULLETIN.COM
Purdue's Kory Sheets couldn't find any running room on this play as the Warriors' defense swarmed all over the running back.
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Record-setting quarterback Colt Brennan threw for three touchdowns against Purdue last night, including the game-winner to Ian Sample.