DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Tyler Graunke was sacked on his second play from scrimmage after replacing Colt Brennan in the fourth quarter last night.
Graunke ready to step in again for Colt if needed
Tyler Graunke's role last night was simply to keep Hawaii from losing its grip on a win against Fresno State.
That could change over the next week depending on the condition of Warrior quarterback Colt Brennan.
Brennan was knocked out of the game in the fourth quarter on a punishing hit by Bulldog linebacker Marcus Riley. Whether he'll recover in time for Friday's game at Nevada will be the key question throughout the week. After the game, Brennan said in a statement that he intends to play and coach June Jones said he expected Brennan to be OK.
"(Colt) is fine," Jones said. "He'll be ready for the next game."
If he can't, the responsibility for keeping Hawaii's Western Athletic Conference title hopes alive will likely fall on Graunke's shoulders.
"That's my job," Graunke said as he left the field after the Warriors held on for a 37-30 win at Aloha Stadium. "If he goes down I'm in there."
After Brennan was guided off the field in the fourth quarter, Graunke was given a rough greeting by the Fresno State defense. He mishandled his first snap and was sacked on his second play. He completed his only pass of the night, a 14-yard screen to Leon Wright-Jackson.
"I was ready to go in, and when I saw that I popped my helmet on to get ready to go," Graunke said. "But I wish I would have been stretching my legs or getting my hands ready and taking some snaps or something."
After the three and out, the Bulldogs added a touchdown to close to within a touchdown and UH recovered the onside kick to seal the outcome.
Graunke has already filled in for Brennan twice this season. He started the win against Charleston Southern when Brennan was nursing a sprained ankle, and later closed out a victory over Utah State.
"We have a tremendous amount of confidence and we're just going to lift him up and let him know he's our buddy and we're here for him," UH receiver Davone Bess said. "He definitely can get the job done."
Soares sees the field
Sophomore linebacker Blaze Soares
overcame a hamstring injury he aggravated earlier this week to record four tackles and a sack last night.
Senior Brad Kalilimoku got the start in place of Soares, but the two rotated series in the first half. Soares started the second half on the field and played the rest of the game.
"It was game-time decision, but hey, everybody is playing hurt over here, so I have got to sacrifice my body for the team," Soares said.
Senior starting wide receiver C.J. Hawthorne
left the game early with a tight hamstring and was replaced by sophomore Malcolm Lane
Hawthorne caught one pass for 19 yards and Lane one for 17.
Jones said pulling Hawthorne was done as a precaution.
"You never know with fast guys," Jones said. "I didn't want him to stay in and pull it."
' game-high 128 receiving yards pushed him past the 1,000-yard mark for the second time in his career.
Grice-Mullins now has a a total of 1,080 yards this season on 75 catches. UH's stretch run is particularly meaningful for the junior since an injury he suffered against Boise State last season kept him out of the Warriors' games against Fresno State and Nevada. The Warriors have Nevada and Boise State next on the schedule.
"I definitely wanted to come out this week and have a big game and help my team," Grice-Mullins said.
Fresno State kick returner A.J. Jefferson
, the WAC's reigning special teams player of the week, took Hawaii's third kickoff and ran it back 98 yards for Fresno's first score after the Bulldogs faced a 21-0 hole. The sophomore went along the right sideline, caught a few key blocks, and cut back up the middle. Jefferson -- second in kick return average in the NCAA entering the game -- flat-out outran the Warriors' coverage unit and coasted into the end zone. It was his second straight week with a kickoff return TD after he punished Utah State with an 88-yarder last week.
As well as Hawaii has done this year in the red zone, last night demonstrated how the run-and-shoot can struggle at times inside the 10.
Five times Hawaii had drives make it to the 10 or better, but only two went for touchdowns. The first one came in the opening quarter as Brennan capped a five-play, 51-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown scamper to make it 21-0 with 1:15 left in the first.
On Hawaii's next series, the Warriors quickly drove down the field again to the Fresno 10 and appeared poised to run the Bulldogs out of the stadium. But UH running back Daniel Libre managed only a 2-yard run on first down, followed quickly by two incomplete passes by Brennan that resulted in a 25-yard field goal for Dan Kelly to give Hawaii a 24-7 advantage.
Hawaii wasted little time early in the second quarter to set up shop in the red zone once more. This time, Brennan found Bass from 5 yards out on a first-and-goal play to make it 31-7 with 11:26 left in the half.
Things didn't go quite as well in the second half, as Hawaii had a first and goal from the 10 result in an interception of a Brennan pass by Riley. Hawaii got back down there again early in the fourth quarter, only to have the drive stall at the 5, setting up another field goal by Kelly.
The good news is, the Warriors scored 20 points inside the red zone. The bad news is, they could have scored a lot more and put the game out of reach.
Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Shane Victorino
, a former star running back at St. Anthony, watched from the UH sideline last night. ... Hawaii peformed it's ha'a with its opponent on the field for the first time since they were penalized for it before the second game of the season against Louisiana Tech.