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StarBulletin.com

UH's Mighty Mo excels


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POSTED: Sunday, November 29, 2009

Maybe it was the moment, the delirious atmosphere. Or the clutch play of his pupil he just witnessed. Whatever it was, Nick Rolovich didn't bother to hide his affection as he stood on the Aloha Stadium field like a proud parent.

Bryant Moniz is back, and so are the bowl hopes of an entire state. The sophomore quarterback returned from bruised ribs that sidelined him last week and guided the Warriors to an exhilarating 24-17 win over Navy last night at Aloha Stadium.

“;Mo leads the team every day,”; said Rolovich, the Hawaii quarterbacks coach. “;They love him. They love who Bryant Moniz is. I don't think it was something unexpected tonight. They know what they're going to get from him. He fills them up. These guys really love that guy. I think the fans do too. I know I do. He's a hell of a quarterback.”;

Moniz was the force that moved UH within one game of a Sheraton Hawaii Bowl berth, an unimaginable situation just a few weeks ago. He completed 32 of 44 passes for 366 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions as the Warriors defeated their first opponent with a winning record this season.

The Warriors didn't know for sure that it would be Moniz taking the snaps until Thursday, when the junior college transfer and Leilehua alum had a huge day in practice playing through the sore ribs.

He followed that up with a commanding performance when it mattered, extending UH's win streak to four. Moniz had games this year with more passing yardage and touchdowns, but last night was easily his most complete effort, as he threaded short pass after short pass on the money against a Navy defense that was wary of the long ball.

“;I was just glad to be out there with the guys again,”; Moniz said. “;I think the first thing I said was, 'It's good to see you guys,' when I got into the huddle. It was just a great environment overall.”;

While his receivers appreciated the winning effort of backup Shane Austin last week at San Jose State, they were jacked up for the return of “;Mighty Mo.”;

“;With Mo back, everything's back to how it was before,”; slotback Jon Medeiros said. “;He did a great job handling pressure, and kept his composure in there. Kept himself relaxed, kept us relaxed. He made the right decisions, right throws, and I think he did a terrific job.”;

Moniz hit Kealoha Pilares with two first-half scores, including a 7-yard strike with 6 seconds left before the break to complete a superbly managed drive that began with less than a minute on the clock. In the sequence he completed five of six passes, had a 10-yard scramble, and alertly spiked the ball twice before the TD pass to Pilares.

It was refreshing efficiency, and not just for the 36,834 in attendance.

“;(The best clock management) in a couple of years, probably,”; Rolovich judged. “;Two years. Getting out of bounds, receivers are alert, linemen are hustling. A lot of good things. We practice that every week. Same rules: first downs, out of bounds, get what you can. The clock, different signals. Very well executed by the guys out there tonight.”;

On Hawaii's go-ahead score in the third quarter, Moniz hit running back Alex Green (who stood wide open for several seconds) on an out pattern to the right. Green dashed along the sideline and extended his arm over the goal line to put UH up for good with 37 seconds left in the period.

When UH failed to convert a fourth and 1 at the Navy 16 after two consecutive handoffs late in the fourth quarter, Moniz stood with teammates and watched the UH defense make a successful stand to win it. It made him thankful to be where he was.

“;The crowd got so loud,”; Moniz said. “;I don't think I've heard it that loud before.”;

Moniz and company believe anything is possible now.

“;It was a great game to prove ourselves, that we're legit—we're the real deal,”; he said.