Graunke may be asked to step up again
THE silence hit Aloha Stadium as hard as Fresno State linebacker Marcus Riley smashed into Colt Brennan.
On a third-down scramble in the early stages of the fourth quarter, Brennan was racing around, still looking to make a play downfield, never noticing Riley tracking him steady and true like a heat-seeking missile. The hit was as clean as a Joe Frazier left hook and equally devastating as Brennan hit the turf -- hard.
Stretched out on the fake grass, all that was missing was the chalk outline as the Fresno State medical staff raced to Brennan's side to make sure he was still alive. The only folks cheering were the Fresno State players, who were excited about the head-on collision that may have put Hawaii's BCS hopes in dreamland. But even they were subdued seconds later when it became apparent that Brennan was not getting up for the standing eight count. As one sideline observer described it: "He was knocked out cold."
When Brennan finally did regain his feet, with that goofy smile plastered on his face, the largest crowd of the season roared, but it was quickly apparent that he was not only done for the day, he'll be fortunate to be back on his feet in time for the Nevada game in six days.
After holding on for the 37-30 win, the players were understandably quiet in the winning locker room, wondering how Brennan was. His helmet was the only item in front of his locker as backup Tyler Graunke got dressed faster than Superman climbing back into his Clark Kent outfit.
He knew the Warriors' BCS fate would rest squarely on his shoulder pads as Hawaii prepares for the biggest road game since the Rainbows knocked off Illinois at the Holiday Bowl in 1992. He didn't waste any time packing his bags, and looked for the nearest exit as June Jones entered the locker room and told all media to get out.
What happened next was truly extraordinary as Fresno State head coach Pat Hill slipped into UH's locker room to give them a fire-and-brimstone speech about knocking off Nevada next week. Several times he has been close to running the table himself, only to see the BCS bid slip through his fingers.
His message was heard loud and clear by anyone within 10 yards of him: beat Nevada.
BUT HOW LIKELY is that with only six days to get ready and the man responsible for this spirited run, down and out on the sideline? Granted, Brennan left the field on his own power, but those near and dear to him said he had no idea what had happened or where he was.
Knowing him, he will want to play, but with what one person described as a Grade III concussion -- later upgraded to a mild concussion -- he may sit this one out and hope Graunke can come to the rescue on a cold November night in Reno. Graunke was shaky in the fourth quarter as Fresno State came close to pulling out the win late.
But Jones is hopeful a week of preparation will settle his nerves in case Brennan's blow to the head is as serious as the original diagnosis on the field. Either way, next week's game is the most important in school history. You know Brennan will want to be in there. You also know that Graunke does, too.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org