Graunke rejuvenates UH with second-half leadership
Receivers catch his enthusiasm as well as his passes as the Warriors explode in the second half
The heir apparent has returned, and nobody at Aloha Stadium was happier to see him on the field than senior receivers Mike Washington and Aaron Bain.
Tyler Graunke, once the favorite to inherit Colt Brennan's starting job at quarterback, emerged as the signal-caller to open the second half against Weber State after Hawaii floundered offensively before halftime and faced a 10-point deficit. Washington and Bain were among those who struggled with Inoke Funaki in at quarterback, with just three combined catches in the first two quarters.
But with the appearance of Graunke, whom the two slotbacks shared a rapport with from countless practice throws with the second-team offense over the past four years, the offense was rejuvenated instantly and the Warriors wound up 36-17 winners.
"When T.G. came in, that was like a big, inspirational uplifter," said Washington, who more than doubled his receiving total from all of last year with career highs of five catches for 109 yards. "Everybody was waiting -- it's like, man!"
The receivers felt their enthusiasm was justified when Graunke hit Malcolm Lane with a 12-yard strike on his first pass attempt.
"Most definitely, soon as he came in he connected with Malcolm, once he got that in we were rolling," said Bain. "It's good to have him back. ... I'm proud of him now that he's back, we were getting the ball moving, got that fire in our eyes back. You hear the crowd chanting his name. You feel proud, and I'm glad to be in the huddle with this guy."
Bain's touchdown catches of 8 and 1 yards in the second half buffered the Warriors lead.
When Washington's touchdown early in the fourth quarter was overturned -- he was ruled out of bounds at he 3 -- Bain was there to pick up the slack. After two failed rushes by Kealoha Pilares, Graunke rolled out to his right and led Bain with a soft toss to put the Warriors up 36-17 and all but seal the game.
The performances were especially refreshing coming after the two struggled mightily in the Warriors' season-opening 56-10 loss at Florida last week.
Graunke noticed the change come over his teammates when they went out for the second half, but attributed that to the team's meeting at halftime.
"People like Aaron, people like Mike, they've been very patient and it shows a lot about the guys' character," Graunke said.
Washington emphasized that the team hadn't lost faith in Funaki. But with the fresh looks and accurate tosses of the veteran Graunke, there was no denying the change's effectiveness.
"We came out in the second half, no matter who the quarterback was, we had to come out with more intensity, more spiritual lift," Washington said. "Ty gave us that spiritual lift, we just had to go out there and make plays.
"It felt so relieving and relaxing (out there). It was a deep breath."