RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii coach June Jones talked with Tyler Graunke, who started at quarterback in place of Colt Brennan last night.
Graunke takes offense for a spin
With a pat on the shoulder pad, Colt Brennan handed the keys to one of the nation's highest-powered scoring machines to Tyler Graunke.
With Brennan -- whose sprained ankle kept him out of practice most of last week -- relegated to riding shotgun, the Warriors offense bumped along for most of the first half of last night's game against Charleston Southern.
Graunke eventually found a groove after halftime and the Warriors, sparked by contributions from their defense and special teams, pulled away from the Division I-AA Buccaneers in a 66-10 win at Aloha Stadium.
After going 12-for-25 and being intercepted twice before the break, Graunke completed 10 of 11 passes and threw two touchdowns in the third quarter before being lifted.
"It was frustrating at first. I wasn't really throwing balls the way I know how to throw them, and my head was kind of spinning a little quicker than it should have," Graunke said. "I settled down and started throwing some good balls.
"I'm not happy with my performance, but as long as we get the win that's the main thing."
Brennan, the nation's leader in points responsible for, took part in pregame warm-ups last night and said he could have played. But when the Hawaii offense took the field for its first possession, it was Graunke who trotted off the sideline with a word of encouragement from the Heisman Trophy candidate.
Graunke promptly threw an interception to the aptly named Josh Warrior on UH's first play from scrimmage and an Aloha Stadium crowd accustomed to smooth acceleration from the UH offense grew increasingly restless as Charleston Southern hung around most of the half.
"I feel like there's a lot of expectations -- not just from the fans, but from us, the coaching staff and us as an offense," said Graunke, who said he was informed of his starting assignment Friday afternoon. "We expect to put up points on anybody."
But the nerves eased when the Warriors opened the second half with a kickoff and interception return for touchdowns to open a comfortable margin. Likewise, Graunke appeared to relax in finishing 22-for-36 for 285 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran for a score in the second quarter.
"He took a little while to get into rhythm. Coach (June Jones) was going to allow him to work his way through that and he did," UH quarterbacks coach Dan Morrison said. "I think he ended up more confident toward the end.
"There was nothing unusual about the coverages it was just about him settling down, seeing things, just relaxing and go play."
Graunke capped the first drive of the second half with a 19-yard score to Davone Bess and the next by hitting C.J. Hawthorne over the middle for a 35-yard touchdown.
"The second half I was more calm than I'd ever been," Graunke said. "I wasn't even thinking twice about it. I'd look at the coverage and know where I was going to go with the ball -- see what happened and adjust from there."
With UH ahead 49-10 entering the fourth quarter, Inoke Funaki took over for the final period and went 6-for-9 with two TDs.
Graunke started two games as a redshirt freshman in 2005, including the opener against USC, and completed 61 percent of his throws with just once interception in his two seasons largely spent backing up Brennan. He entered last night's game 10-for-22 attempts with two picks and a touchdown this season.
With Brennan leaning on crutches early in the week and still limping Thursday, Graunke took most of the repetitions with the first team in practice.
"When it came down to it I was ready to go, but Coach Jones didn't want to use me if he didn't have to and they didn't need me," Brennan said. "They sure didn't need me."