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Passing king

With a Colt-like performance, Moniz breaks a legend's record

By Stephen Tsai

LAST UPDATED: 3:24 a.m. HST, Nov 21, 2010

With a heavy collective heart and heavier resolve, the Hawaii football team overpowered San Jose State in a 41-7 football rout last night at Aloha Stadium.

"This was for Colt (Brennan)," UH head coach Greg McMackin said, referring to the hospitalized former Warriors great.

Brennan was a passenger in a two-vehicle collision Friday morning on the Big Island. He is hospitalized, in stable condition, with a punctured lung and fractures to four ribs, a clavicle, an eye socket and a cheekbone. He also has a gash on the back of his head.

"We prayed for Colt in practice on Friday," McMackin said. "We prayed for him (yesterday) in chapel and at our pregame meal. Colt was on our mind. He's a Warrior. He's a brother. We all love him. We're all concerned about him. Everybody was playing for him."

Quarterback Bryant Moniz said he tried unsuccessfully to wear Brennan's No. 15 UH jersey, which has unofficially been retired.

"We couldn't find it," Moniz said.

Instead, Moniz donned Brennan's bravado, passing for a school-record 560 yards. That exceeded Brennan's single-game record by a yard.

And the defense returned to its aggressive ways, sacking San Jose State's Jordan La Secla eight times and limiting the Spartans to 130 passing yards. The Spartans, who had passed for more than 300 yards in each of the past three games, managed 164 yards, an average of 2.5 yards per play. Linebacker Aaron Brown made the first two interceptions of his UH career, running one back 22 yards for a touchdown.

"Our play was like a get-well card for Colt," defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga said. In 2007, "his locker was right behind mine. He's such a good guy. He would do anything for anybody. We wanted to do this for him."

The Warriors, who improved to 8-3 overall and 6-1 in the Western Athletic Conference, had two weeks to recover from their last game, a one-sided loss to Boise State. But there are some wounds that time does not heal.

"We all thought about that Boise game," said right wideout Royce Pollard, who caught four passes for 97 yards including a 39-yarder for the game's first score. "We needed to come out here and play the way we're supposed to play, to be ourselves, to do what we do."

To be sure, there were bouts of rustiness, reflected in mis-timed passes. Moniz, who completed 32 of 44 passes in a little more than three quarters, was intercepted twice — one on an overthrow, another in the end zone when he was hit in mid-motion.

"Overall, we played well enough to win," Moniz said. "But knowing how everything is supposed to execute, and how much better we could have done, it's still upsetting."

Offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said: "There was some — it's hard to say, 'sloppiness,' because of the numbers we put up — but we missed a few. Maybe it had something to do with the bye week."

But the unforced errors were a blip in the overall scheme, in which the Warriors picked apart the Spartans' man defenses. In recent games, the Spartans tried to force the action with blitzes and stunts. Last night, they went with more of a read-and-react strategy. With enough time — the Spartans had difficulty creating chaos with three- and four-man rushes — Moniz was able to go through his menu of options.

Right slotback Kealoha Pilares, who missed the Boise game because of a strained left hamstring, made nine grabs for 154 yards and a touchdown. Left slotback Greg Salas had eight catches for 144 yards and a score. And running back Alex Green parlayed three shovel passes and a screen into 93 yards, including one in which he ran the final 5 yards after his helmet was knocked free.

"It just came off, and I kept running," said Green, who also scored on a 3-yard run.

The Warriors played with the house money invested by the defense.

In a meeting this past week, defensive coordinator Dave Aranda showed a chart illustrating how bad things often happened when the Warriors blitzed this season.

"There were a lot of negatives," Meatoga said. "We knew that wasn't us. We blitzed way better in the spring. I think we went into this game with the mentality we had to get back to playing Warrior football."

The Spartans presented a difficult challenge. They had not relinquished a sack in the past two games, and La Secla, who operates out of the shotgun, often can throw off a two-step drop. The Warriors spent the past week practicing against the scout team's no-huddle offense.

The Warriors, who blitzed seven times in the past three games, dusted off the old game notes.

"You knew it was a matter of time before we played Warrior football," McMackin said.

In 66 defensive plays, the Warriors, by their coaches' estimate, blitzed 25 times.

"It was all the anger built up being so close and not getting sacks," said defensive end Elliott Purcell, a reference to the Warriors' 14 sacks in their first 10 games.

It was the Warriors' ferocity on the first two downs that paved the way. When La Secla was in the game, the Spartans had 14 third downs, of which eight required them to go at least 5 yards for a first down. The Spartans converted only four of those 14 third-down situations, relinquishing four sacks and Brown's interception return for a touchdown.

"Right place, right time," Brown said. "I got my hands on passes before and didn't execute. This time, I wanted to make sure I secured the ball. It all goes back to the blitzing. I love it when we blitz. It's a way of making a statement."

Paipai Falemalu had three sacks, totaling 33 yards in losses, and fellow defensive end Kamalu Umu had two.

"The whole defense came alive," Falemalu said.

And 295-pound defensive tackle Kaniela Tuipulotu leaped to knock down a fourth-down pass.

"I got lucky," Tuipulotu said.

Meatoga said: "Kani can fly. I think his vert(ical jump) is 13 inches. But he really gave us a lift with his halftime speech."

Tuipulotu smiled and said: "I told them it's all about G-O-D. We have a lot of faith."

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