JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii quarterback Tyler Graunke downplayed his role in leading the Warriors past Weber State on Saturday.
Warriors will take momentum on the road
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A rousing home win secured, the Hawaii football team's focus shifts to its second mainland trip of the young season.
After rallying to a 36-17 win over Weber State in their home opener, the Warriors (1-1) travel to Oregon State (0-2) this week with Tyler Graunke slated to make his first start of the season.
Trailing by 10 at halftime, the Warriors scored four second-half touchdowns after Graunke entered the game. The defense shut out Weber State after the break, "and we just have to take that into Corvallis this week," Graunke said.
The Warriors begin preparations for an Oregon State team coming off a 45-14 loss at Penn State last week. The game will be UH's last before opening Western Athletic Conference play against San Jose State on Sept. 27.
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The day after making a triumphant return, Tyler Graunke treated himself to a rather subdued celebration.
"My celebration was mostly lying in bed," said Graunke, still a bit sore after absorbing a couple of big hits in the second half of Hawaii's win over Weber State on Saturday.
While he rested his body, Graunke's mind was already spinning ahead to his first start of the season this week. The senior is slated to lead the Warriors offense into this week's game at Oregon State in Corvallis.
His academic issues behind him and the confidence of his teammates renewed, Graunke is the fourth quarterback to be named the Warriors' starter since mid-August - following Brent Rausch, Greg Alexander and Inoke Funaki - and is looking to bring some stability to the offense's featured position.
"I expected to be the starting quarterback and I had to work a lot harder to get there and it made me a better person, not just a better player," he said.
"It's been a long road and it wasn't looking too promising for me, but now it's looking great. I've just been humbled by this situation."
Although his return sparked the Warriors in a 36-17 comeback win over Weber State in their home opener, Graunke played down talk of the "savior" role after the game and the final score was just part of the payoff.
"It was a total team effort and that's what made it so special," said Graunke, who threw for 218 yards and tied a career high with three touchdowns against the Wildcats after entering the game in the second half.
With a home win over an FCS opponent behind them, the challenge facing the Warriors (1-1) kicks up again this week with the trip to Oregon State, their last contest prior to opening Western Athletic Conference play.
The Beavers (0-2) are seeking their first win of the season in their home opener. They saw a comeback attempt at Stanford fall just short to open the season, and were blown out at Penn State 45-14 on Saturday.
"They went to Penn State and we went to Florida, we're both battle tested and they're obviously going to be hungry for a win," said Graunke, who followed the Pac-10 as a youngster cheering for his hometown Arizona Wildcats in Tucson.
"(The Weber State win) felt great, but that's in the past and Oregon State is the game we're thinking about."
Graunke actually started against a Pac-10 team once before when he took the first snap against USC in the 2005 opener as a redshirt freshman. He split snaps with Colt Brennan that day and spent most of the next three seasons as the Warriors' top backup.
Now that he's claimed another shot at the starting role, he's eagerly anticipating taking the field at Reser Stadium on Saturday.
"I love playing road games. I love hostile environments," Graunke said. "I can't wait. I've been watching Pac-10 football my entire life. I've got the opportunity and I'm going to take advantage of it."
Island flavor in Corvallis
For the second straight week, the Warriors will face a team with strong island ties. Oregon State has 15 players from Hawaii on its roster and five coaches with connections to the state.
Kahuku graduate Al Afalava started at safety last week. Fellow Red Raiders Suaesi Tuimaunei and Walker Vave and Kamehameha products Brandon Hardin, David Pa'aluhi and Aaron Nichols also saw playing time against Penn State.
Jeremy Perry of Kahuku has been out with a knee injury and the Corvallis Gazette Times reported the guard is "highly doubtful" for Saturday's game.
OSU assistant coaches Mark Banker, Mike Cavanaugh, Greg Newhouse and Joe Seumalo all spent time at UH and graduate assistant Inoke Breckterfield is a Damien graduate.
Saturday's game will be the eighth meeting between Hawaii and Oregon State, but the first in Corvallis. The Beavers lead the series 4-3.