RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Colt Brennan was 19-for-25 for 219 yards and one TD before leaving the game after the first series of the second half.
Graunke silences critics
Satisfaction means different things to different people on a nationally ranked college football team.
No. 16 Hawaii survived another week undefeated, something that few others can claim midway through the season. But the 6-0 Warriors weren't necessarily completely pleased with their performance in dispatching Utah State 52-37 last night at Aloha Stadium.
A soggy crowd of 33,398 saw the 39-point underdog Aggies stick around into the third quarter and knock UH starting quarterback Colt Brennan out of the game.
But backup Tyler Graunke flourished, leading UH to four touchdowns while the defense stiffened enough to give the Warriors a solid 52-27 cushion after three quarters.
Overall, though, the Warriors did not consistently play like one of the best 20 teams in the country, especially considering the Aggies were 0-5 coming in.
UH is now 3-0 in the WAC, while the Aggies fell to 0-2.
Senior receiver Jason Rivers was one of several players who said the Warriors did not perform to their capability.
"Probably not," said Rivers, who caught seven passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. "There's always room for improvement. I'm sure everybody feels the same way. We kind of came out slow on offense."
But even when the Warriors aren't in the zone, they're good enough to win. That might not be true in the coming weeks, as the schedule gets tougher.
"It's tough to win 12, 13 games with no blemish. The moment we relax we're in that situation," Brennan said.
UH led 24-13 late in the first half when Brennan was high-lowed by linebacker Paul Igboeli and tackle Frank Maile. Maile got Brennan's tender right ankle, and Graunke was summoned into the game.
The junior backup completed his first nine passes, three of them for touchdowns. His first pass was a 36-yarder to Davone Bess, and coach June Jones knew then he didn't have to risk Brennan's health.
"Yeah, I did think (Brennan) was going to play in the second half. It swelled up when they were re-taping it and I thought he'd be out just a couple plays. Two plays later Tyler threw a strike, I thought, we'll go that way after that."
Graunke's 1-yard sneak (after officials' review) made it 31-13 with 5 seconds left before the break.
Brennan did play the first series of the second half, but the Warriors went three and out, and Graunke returned to lead three consecutive scoring drives.
"I always feel like I'm going to be ready," Graunke said. "I have to be."
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii coach June Jones talked with backup quarterback Tyker Graunke, who took over for Colt Brennan after Brennan took a hard hit and came up groggy in the second quarter.
Graunke finished 9-for-11 for 246 yards with three TD passes and an interception in little more than one quarter of play.
"I've always known, believed he can play," Jones said of Graunke, two weeks after the backup was booed by some fans during a blowout of Charleston Southern. "He proved tonight he's a pretty good quarterback. I'm proud of him and happy he had the success."
Brennan went 19-for-25 for 219 yards and a touchdown -- and a sore right ankle again.
"The bad one got turned over and a bunch of sharp pain. It swelled up, but it's not detrimental. I'll be back," Brennan said.
He smiled when it was pointed out to him that Igboeli was the Utah State player who dealt him the hardest blow of last season, one that knocked the wind out of him.
"That's football," he said. "It's a strange game."
Last night's certainly was, as both squads' special teams took centerstage in the first half.
UH's Dan Kelly kicked a 54-yard field goal, 2 yards off the longest in school history.
Kevin Robinson returned a kickoff 100 yards for a TD, and Peter Caldwell kicked two field goals to help keep the Aggies in it.
After Caldwell's 36-yarder gave USU a 13-10 lead, Malcolm Lane bolted 87 yards for his second kickoff return TD of the season -- and the lead the Warriors would keep.
Bess grabbed a 22-yard scoring pass from Brennan and it was 31-13.
But the Aggies weren't ready to give up.
"They're a scrappy team," said UH linebacker Solomon Elimimian, after a career-high 20 tackles.
"They're not going to try to knock you out, they're going to try to hit you with a lot of jabs. They tried to get us to make some errors, and we made some errors."
Utah State marched 64 yards on 12 plays on its first drive of the third quarter, with Derrvin Speight going the final 9 yards for the score.
Hawaii allowed 370 yards of offense to the Aggies, who averaged 15 points a game coming in.
It would've been more if a trick play for a touchdown to Robinson hadn't been called back in the first quarter.
"Brent (Guy, the Utah State coach) does a good job and his kids play really hard," Jones said. "He's had a tough two years. But he does something right because they still play for him."
UH came right back quickly, with Graunke hitting C.J. Hawthorne for 21 yards and then Bess for a sweet over-the-shoulder, diving catch in the end zone for 36 yards and a 38-20 lead.
Hawaii added to the lead with David Farmer taking a shovel pass from Graunke 20 yards, making it 45-20 midway through the third quarter.
Leon Jackson III then immediately found Robinson open deep for a 77-yard TD pass.
Three plays later, Graunke finessed a pass to Rivers between two defenders and Rivers sprinted down the sideline for a 72-yard TD. The lead was back to 25 points.
"We did not want to get into a scoring fest, but we had a letdown and that's what ended up happening," Guy said. "They scored 42 of their 52 points in two of the quarters."