Appalachian State’s upset inspires Warriors
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The state of Hawaii might have considered UH's 63-6 rout of Northern Colorado a glorified scrimmage. But the Warrior players didn't go into Saturday's season opener at Aloha Stadium thinking that way. They knew of Michigan's big embarrassment at the Big House earlier in the day.
If Appalachian State could knock off the No. 5 team in the land, the reasoning had to be that the Bears could do the same to the Warriors if UH went in sleepwalking.
Well, maybe not.
But we'll never know, as the Warriors were motivated and efficient on both sides of the ball from the opening series, building a 42-0 lead in the first half that had the starters in T-shirts and shorts after the break.
Then the special teams took over with two touchdowns on returns in the second half.
Now the 23rd-ranked Warriors must stay on task for their first Western Athletic Conference encounter -- at Louisiana Tech on Saturday.
Hawaii's opening games since June Jones became coach
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Contrary to popular belief, there is something positive to be said for starting your game after many of the ones back east are done.
The Hawaii Warriors were well informed of what Appalachian State did to Michigan on Saturday, and the UH players used the Mountaineers' win as inspiration -- as well as a warning.
"That was pretty much the talk of the (pregame) locker room," said slotback Davone Bess about the huge upset at No. 5 Michigan by ASU. "Coach McKnight (assistant Dennis) talked to us about it."
The Wolverines booked the Division I-AA two-time national champions instead of hosting the Warriors, and now, Michigan's hopes for a national championship are over after one game.
"Big ups to Appalachian State. That's a good example of how you can't take anyone lightly," UH captain and defensive tackle Mike Lafaele said.
The Warriors certainly didn't do that against Northern Colorado on Saturday at Aloha Stadium. Everyone knew the bad news Bears were nothing close to the Mountaineers in talent, but the point was clear.
"A lot of guys saw what happened with Michigan and Appalachian State," linebacker Solomon Elimimian said. "We knew we had to take this seriously. We took it as a mental challenge to be aligned correctly, make adjustments and play fast."
The Warriors completely controlled the game offensively and defensively for the entire first half that the starters played. Then the special teams took over after the break with two touchdowns on returns and a blocked kick. It added up to a 63-6 decimation of Northern Colorado.
Bess, who caught two of Colt Brennan's six first-half touchdown passes, said he and his teammates have a spiritual bond with the Mountaineers, whom UH beat 40-17 in 2003 (the last time Hawaii started the season with a win before Saturday).
"We know exactly how that feels, to be counted out," Bess said.
Those days of playing the underdog card could be fading fast for 23rd-ranked UH, which now inhabits a strange land of limbo between the worlds of David and Goliath. While some elitists will continue to look down on them because of conference affiliation and schedule, the Warriors might be favored in every game this year. They venture to Ruston, La., this week as 28-point bullies against rebuilding Louisiana Tech -- despite the Bulldogs' 28-7 victory over Central Arkansas.
Lafaele said this is no trap game. He and many teammates remember too well being pounded by the Bulldogs' running game two years ago in a 46-14 loss.
"Right now this game is over, but it's time to put our other foot down," Lafaele said minutes after Saturday's romp. "I think our mental focus is there and we'll be ready for LaTech."
Graunke hurts other hand
Backup quarterback Tyler Graunke injured his left (non-throwing) hand Saturday, but said he doesn't expect to miss any practice. Graunke hurt his throwing hand in spring practice.
"It's full of liquid and there's lacerations and swelling, but it's already going down. Nothing's broken," Graunke said.
"Colt Brennan was calling me Mike Lafaele," Graunke added, noting the injury is similar to one the defensive tackle suffered during fall camp.
Graunke completed seven of 15 passes for 66 yards with no TDs and two picks in the second half Saturday. He was 32-for-43 last year with four TDs and no interceptions as Brennan's backup.
"I'm totally disappointed in my performance. I have to put it behind me and move on to the next one," said the junior and heir apparent to the starting job next year. "I've got to make my reads on every play. I should've played like it was 0-0 instead of trying to force passes."
Brennan, linebacker Brad Kalilimoku and punt returner Mike Washington were nominated for WAC Player of the Week honors.
Brennan completed 34 of 40 passes for 416 yards and the six TDs in one half.
After review of game tape yesterday, Kalilimoku was judged to have made 10 tackles in little more than one half of play.
Washington returned a punt for an 80-yard touchdown.
BACK TO TOP
Five big plays from Hawaii's 63-6 win over Northern Colorado
1. The Kid
Hawaii 0, Northern Colorado 0; around 12:20 remaining, first quarter, Hawaii ball, second and 1 at Northern Colorado 15.
RB Kealoha Pilares appears to miss a block, but it is part of a ruse, and Pilares slips past the line of scrimmage. He catches the short pass from Colt Brennan and covers the remaining 10 yards for the score..
The Warriors, who led the nation in scoring and passing last year, are off to the races on the first possession of 2007, cashing in at the end of an 8-play, 80-yard drive.
"That's how it's supposed to look. Huge for us to start momentum on the first drive."
2. Textbook defense
Hawaii 7, Northern Colorado 0; 11:15 remaining, first quarter, Northern Colorado ball, third and 10 at own 25.
LB Adam Leonard makes a low, solid hit on TB David Woods and FS Keao Monteilh comes in a little higher and knocks the ball loose. CB Gerard Lewis is right there to pounce on the fumble and give UH the ball.
Two plays later, Brennan hits Rivers for a 30-yard TD pass and Hawaii extends its lead to 14-0. DT Mike Lafaele recovers a fumble on the next series, and Hawaii recycles that into a TD also.
"That's like you see it in the textbook, and that's what we practice. We always like to set the tempo early with energy and playing fast."
3. One for all
Hawaii 35, Northern Colorado 0; around 2:00 remaining, second quarter, Hawaii ball, first and 10 at Northern Colorado 26.
Brennan checks off a receiver in the flat and finds Ryan Grice-Mullins open across the middle between two defenders in the end zone. Grice-Mullins makes his ninth and final catch of the game. His 130 yards also stands up as game high.
Hawaii takes a 42-0 lead into the lockers and the starting offense gets the rest of the night off. The touchdown pass to Grice-Mullins gives Brennan at least one to all four starting receivers. It is the 99th TD pass of his career, tying him with Matt Leinart for 6th in NCAA history.
"It's crazy if you let yourself think about it."
Hawaii 42, Northern Colorado 0; around 13:20 remaining, third quarter, Northern Colorado ball, fourth and 4 at own 30.
Rafael Mendoza sends a punt 50 yards, pushing Mike Washington back to his own 20 to catch it. Washington goes right, makes a quick cut left to avoid the first wave of tacklers, and bursts out of an ankle tackle at midfield. After that, no one can catch him and he goes 80 yards for a TD.
Any hope Northern Colorado had of getting back into the game after intermission is gone.
Hawaii coach June Jones
: "It was fun to do all phases, kick return, punt return, offense, defense."
5. Running Lane
Hawaii 49, Northern Colorado 6; 10:22 remaining, fourth quarter, Northern Colorado kicking off from own 30.
Malcolm Lane takes in the kick at the Hawaii 6 and runs up the right sideline. He breaks an attempted tackle by kicker Zak Bigelow at midfield. From there, the only man who can catch him is teammate Mike Washington, who jumps on him when he reaches the end zone.
Combined with Washington's punt return, UH has two runbacks for touchdowns in a game for the first time since Chad Owens played for the Warriors.
"(Washington and Lane are) still little babies on the team and we're still the big dogs. But I'm glad they got to shine."