RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii receiver Jason Rivers coughed up the ball after being hit by Charleston Southern's Jada Ross and James Jenkins.
Bucs hung around long enough
Charleston Southern didn't look like a 60-point underdog against Hawaii in the first half last night, but that changed after the break.
The Buccaneers came out for the kickoff ready to play against the 19th-ranked team in the nation, and they showed it almost immediately when linebacker Josh Warrior intercepted Tyler Graunke's first pass of the evening and then skipped around the field with joy.
For the visitors to Aloha Stadium, it was the second of many moments to get excited about. The first was when they learned Heisman Trophy candidate Colt Brennan wouldn't be playing.
"That definitely made it difficult for them," Charleston Southern coach Jay Mills said. "(Brennan) is such a great competitor."
Even though the Bucs (1-3) never led, they kept it too close for Hawaii's comfort in the first half, which ended with UH up 21-10. The second half was a different story, as can be discerned from the 66-10 final score.
"We came to win," Mills said. "I think you do your team a disservice if that's not your motivation. I feel like we came out of the locker (for the second half) with confidence. It (the second half) was a fundamental breakdown, though -- a situation where you're trying so hard that you lose some focus, where your individual action causes friction with what the team is trying to do."
Charleston Southern's big first-half moments added up to a competitive two quarters, and that was a lot more than fellow FCS member Northern Colorado did when it came to town three weeks ago and got blown out in every facet by the Warriors from the opening kickoff to the end.
Among the Bucs' first-half highlights were Dee Brown's 57-yard touchdown on a slant pass from Eli Byrd; C.J. Hirschman's apparent recovery of a Jason Rivers fumble that was ruled an incomplete pass; David Misher's fumble recovery and interception bringing Hawaii's turnover total to three; Tim Jones' leaping grab over Hawaii's Gerard Lewis to the Hawaii 2; and Nick Ellis' 48-yard field goal just before the break.
"For 30 minutes, we showed that we can play parallel with an outstanding football team," Mills said. "I'm real proud of the team. We came out and competed. I knew they would play hard and clean."
But the Bucs made two bad mistakes in the first 30 minutes that directly led to letting the Warriors off the hook. Both were buzz-killers. The first came when they frittered (and fumbled) away their golden scoring chance from the 2 after Jones' catch and thereby failing to tie it 14-all. The second came late in the half when Byrd was intercepted by Desmond Thomas while his nearest receiver was at least 15 yards away, and it led to Hawaii's third touchdown for a 21-7 lead.
It was all downhill from there for Charleston Southern, as the Warriors put it into high gear and cruised in the second half.
"If we could have held strong, I truly believe we could have beaten Hawaii," said Bucs quarterback Eli Byrd, who rolled his ankle three times but will be OK. "We expected to beat Hawaii. A couple of mistakes happened, and against a big team like that, there's no room for error. The second half was bad."
The visitors did get a consolation prize of sorts. The cheers from the Hawaii fans in the south end zone were louder and longer for Charleston Southern than they were for Northern Colorado three weeks ago.