JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan held the ball aloft after scoring on a 1-yard touchdown run.
Brennan spectacular! Fires 5 TD passes in thriller
Wideout Jason Rivers had this game circled on his calendar all summer. Last night he and his fellow members of the Warriors' offense showed why.
For one of the biggest games in program history, Hawaii's offense rose to the occasion in the 39-27 win over Boise State for the outright Western Athletic Conference championship.
"We all talked about how it would come down to this game for the championship," Rivers said. "We knew that we would go undefeated (up to this game). We believed ... we won."
The health of quarterback Colt Brennan, who suffered a concussion two weeks ago against Fresno State, was still a concern, but the quarterback responded with one of his best games of the year in going 40-for-53 passing for 495 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. Brennan now has sole possession of the NCAA career touchdown record at 126, and he also ran for another score.
Brennan spread around the Warriors' attack, throwing two touchdown passes to Davone Bess and one apiece to fellow starters Jason Rivers, Ryan Grice-Mullins and C.J. Hawthorne en route to 574 yards of total offense.
But the question remained: Would Hawaii respond to the five-time WAC champions touchdown for touchdown late and come out on top?
It certainly looked like a struggle early, with Brennan going 1-for-3 and the Warriors going three and out on their first drive. After that, though, the Warriors would punt just once the rest of the game.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii receivers C.J. Hawthorne and Davone Bess both topped 100 yards in yesterday's win, and the pair combined to catch three of Colt Brennan's five touchdown passes.
Brennan threw two interceptions, the first late in the first half, and again later on Hawaii's second drive in the third quarter when Dallas Dobbs broke up his pass and came down with the ball. The latter yielded the Broncos' only lead of the second half, a 27-26 edge on Kyle Brotzman's 36-yard field goal.
But Brennan and the Warriors didn't blink.
"We believe in ourselves," Brennan said. "Boise is one of the most opportunistic teams I have ever played. They know how to get points out of nothing. We knew they would try to play ball control, which they did early. But when we went up, we took them out of the run mode, forcing them to throw more."
While the Hawaii offense had been there in losses to the Broncos in each of the last two years (41 and 34 points) it answered the call last night in the biggest way yet. The nation's top offense (48.0 points per game) wrestled Boise to a standstill in the first half, then went above and beyond its opponent to close things out with the game's final two scores, a 7-yarder to Rivers and 38-yarder to Hawthorne in the corner of the end zone.
"Ryan, and Davone, and Colt, all of them, they rise to games," quarterbacks coach Dan Morrison said. "Any time a game gets tougher, they get better, and they've always been that way. That was again evident tonight."
Bess isn't satisfied, even after catching a school-record 15 passes for 181 yards.
"We stepped up, and busted our butt all summer and all fall and this is the reward of it," Bess said. "But, there's still unfinished business. This is a great steppingstone to celebrate."