It felt so good the first time, Aaron Brown had to do it again.
The junior from Puyallup, Wash., returned the first interception of his career for a touchdown before picking off a second pass late in the first half to help Hawaii stymie San Jose State 41-7 last night at Aloha Stadium.
A Hawaii defense that got stomped on to the tune of 737 yards two weeks ago at Boise, Idaho, returned the favor with a complete effort against the Spartans.
San Jose State, which averaged 26.3 points in its previous three games, was held to seven points or less for the second time in its last seven games.
"They came in embarrassed off of our last time out (against Boise State) and felt like they had a lot to prove," defensive coordinator Dave Aranda said. "I know they wanted to (make a statement)."
Brown, who has started the last seven games after beginning the year as a backup, led the way with both of Hawaii’s takeaways.
A 22-yard interception return for a touchdown gave Hawaii a 17-0 lead early in the second quarter. After San Jose State returned the favor late in the half to get the ball in Hawaii territory, Brown dropped back into coverage and picked off a second pass to keep the Spartans out of the end zone.
"It was about time I showed up and contributed a little more," said Brown, who was one of the top junior college linebackers in the country when he accepted a scholarship to UH in 2009 out of Saddleback Community College in California. "I’ve dropped too many interceptions this year and it has been something I’ve worked on."
Brown played in the first three games last year, but a hamstring injury kept him out the rest of the season. He earned a medical hardship and has bounced back this year to be one of the top three tacklers on a Hawaii defense that has allowed 10 points or less in three of its last four games.
Its only blemish in that span was the 42-7 loss at Boise State that Brown credits with spurring last night’s effort.
"We’ve had that bad taste in our mouth for two weeks now," Brown said. "That wasn’t Warrior football and we wanted to come out and show everybody how good Warrior football is."
One look at San Jose State quarterback Jordan La Secla’s uniform told the story of a Warriors defense that had trouble simply getting a hand on Boise quarterback Kellen Moore.
La Secla’s jersey was covered with turf stains after Hawaii dropped him for eight sacks and put him on the ground countless other times.
Paipai Falemalu had a career-high three sacks coming off the end and Brown chipped in with his team-leading fourth sack as UH finished with more than half of its season total coming into the game.
"We spent two weeks really emphasizing our blitzing mentality and getting to the quarterback on every play," Brown said.
The defense was especially tough in sudden-change situations. Hawaii turned the ball over three times, but the Spartans couldn’t turn it into points, as the Warriors held every time.
The last stop came after Bryant Moniz was intercepted in the end zone midway through the third quarter. The Spartans had a fourth down on their own 47-yard line when defensive tackle Kaniela Tuipulotu swatted a pass at the line of scrimmage to stop the Spartans cold.
The Warriors scored a touchdown on the very next drive and the rout was on.