Graunke’s time came early for UH
This wasn't supposed to happen until after the bye week, so it was somewhat of an eyebrow-raiser, seeing Tyler Graunke trot out to the huddle last night to start the second half. But how he performed, sparking the Hawaii offense, and in turn the defense and the crowd? No surprise at all.
With four years of experience in the run-and-shoot, Graunke is capable of exploits like the CPR job he performed last night, coming off the bench and bringing life to a listless team that looked like it was on its way to an embarrassing loss to Weber State.
He did it at Nevada last year, a 2-minute drill with a lot less margin for error, and in hostile territory. And he's the guy who took UH to its only touchdown at the Sugar Bowl, suffering a banged up collarbone for his trouble.
This was difficult in its own way. A perfect season wasn't on the line, but avoidance of disaster was. While Graunke was an important piece of the puzzle in 2007, the firmly established No. 2 quarterback, going into last night's home opener he was an X-factor on a team full of them. Now he's the offense's leader.
He still needed to fully earn his way back from an offseason suspension and academic woes that kept him out of fall camp and the season opener at Florida. The stage whisper around town was that Graunke had let down himself, the team and the state. This was supposed to be his year and it started with him watching the Warriors lose by 46 on TV from thousands of miles away.
"He had to get the team back. He couldn't just show up and they'd respect him," coach Greg McMackin said. "I haven't made it easy on him."
He was still doing punishment drills on Thursday after practice.
"Coach gave me a life lesson," Graunke said.
He said last night he didn't expect to play, but he was ready.
Graunke wasn't the sharpest we've ever seen him -- a little rusty, certainly, but he was patient and clutch, feeling the pressure and getting rid of it just in time on several passes.
Inoke Funaki had his chance, but too much chuck-and-duck, too much run and not enough shoot and a concussion did him in.
"Inoke's a great player and he's been here a long time," Graunke said. "But so have I. I think I was able to stay in there and make the third and fourth read."
He woke up the Warriors.
"Just hearing Coach say at halftime, 'Tyler, you're up,' I was ecstatic. He's been my quarterback from the beginning," said wideout Malcolm Lane.
Everyone picked up the pace. Shifty Kealoha Pilares acted like a fullback, diving into two defenders, knocking them backward. Slotbacks Aaron Bain and Mike Washington played with confidence. The entire team did.
"Tyler is Tyler," center John Estes said. "People forget he was the starter before Colt was."
"We needed something," Graunke said. "Everybody's heads were down. I was thinking 'screw this. We gotta blow this team out.'"