At the beginning of this college football season, Hawaii was the trendy 'dark horse' pick to be 'this year's Boise State.' (See: Statue of Liberty Marriage Proposal Play that you all know by heart now.)
There was a lot of debate as to how similar Hawaii was to Texas Tech – how easy their nonconference schedule was, how easy their overall schedule was, whether Colt Brennan really was a great player or just a system QB (and a product of a great passing game and/or invisible running game). Perhaps those who were a bit skeptical were a bit correct after Hawaii barely beat lowly San Jose State 42-35 in overtime.
I don't usually write about a team like Hawaii individually, since they're unlikely to ever be a top 10 team, don't play in a TV-audience-friendly time zone, and don't really play anybody interesting besides Boise State and Fresno State. Last week Hawaii played a game against Utah State that was far more interesting than it should have been, and they continued such play this week.
The SJSU Spartans are not a particularly fabulous team. They started 0-3 by an average score of 39-3 against Arizona State, Kansas State, and Stanford while being outgained by a 3-to-1 margin. They followed with 500 yards of offense against a (now) 0-6 Utah State team, but still needed a last minute TD to win. Then came a good but not great win against I-AA UC-Davis, and lastly a nearly-blown three-touchdown lead against equally bad (1-5) Idaho.
Those signs, including statistics that indicate SDSU one-dimensional offense (62 rush yds per game) and no-dimensional defense (405 ypg) would tell you that Hawaii should romp all over this Spartan squad. Except the football powers had other ideas.
Things started as they should, with Hawaii quickly turning an INT into a short touchdown drive and an early 7-0 lead. Then Hawaii's offense began to sputter. They drove down to the SJSU 31 before stalling out and turning it over on downs, then on the first play after a missed FG by the Spartans, Brennan threw an interception. The Warriors then allowed a punt return touchdown and missed a field goal, heading into the half with only a 14-7 lead.
Whatever June Jones said at halftime… didn't work very well. On the first play of the second half, Brennan threw his second interception and had it returned for a touchdown to tie the score. Hawaii then got the ball right back, drove down to the Spartan 25-yard line… and Brennan threw his third interception of the game.
San Jose didn't make anything of that interception, but put together two scoring drives in the course of five minutes later in the quarter and suddenly had a 28-14 lead. After trading scores, Hawaii forced a three and out, and with nine minutes left, Brennan threw his fourth interception of the game.
Luckily for the Warriors, SJSU didn't make anything of that either, but before they knew it, only 7:18 was left on the clock and they had two touchdowns to get, starting with a drive from their own three yard line. Brennan finally came alive and went 9-10 for 111 yards, shaking off several sacks and taking advantage of a Spartan fumble to tie the score at 35-35 with 0:35 left on the clock.
The game went to overtime, where Hawaii took advantage of another ill-timed San Jose penalty and grabbed their third interception of the game to walk away with a 35-28 victory.
Here's a simple way to summarize this game: you're a coach. Your guys, ranked 16th in the nation, played a very mediocre team and held them to 42 yards rushing on 25 carries – 37 of which came on five plays – and still needed a turnover to win the game in overtime. You very likely have some issues that need to be solved if you want to even be the best team in your own conference, let alone respected nationally.
We'll eventually find out just how good these Warriors are, with Boise and Fresno State both remaining on the schedule, but perhaps all of the Heisman and title hype can chill out now.