25th-ranked UH rallies to win its ninth straight
|UH vs. Purdue photo gallery|
|Video: UH-Purdue post-game press conference|
|||UH shows finishing touch|
|||Offense, defense stepped up when things were going bad|
|||UH defense rises to occasion late in game|
|||Crowd had a fantastic time at game|
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Stephen Tsai
In a finish that will eventually be retold as a sweet-dreams bedtime story, the 25th-ranked University of Hawai'i football team willed a 42-35 victory from Purdue last night at Aloha Stadium.
Before 44,298 — the largest home crowd since the 2005 season opener — the Warriors surged from an eight-point deficit with six minutes remaining to win their ninth in a row.
Right wideout Ian Sample's 23-yard, screen-and-sprint touchdown with 1:27 remaining proved to be the difference.
The Warriors (10-2) sealed the outcome when Adam Leonard intercepted Curtis Painter on the Boilermakers' final please-please-please possession. It was the first interception by a UH linebacker this season.
"What an absolutely fabulous victory," Mayor Mufi Hannemann gushed in the post-game celebration. "I'm so proud of them. They're Hawai'i's team. They're Polynesia's team."
For another week, the Warriors will retain their place in three national polls and in school lore.
"I love this game!" said UH slotback Ryan Grice-Mullins, who tied the game at 35 with a 5-yard scoring catch and ensuing two-point conversion.
Quarterback Colt Brennan, who threw for 434 yards and three fourth-quarter touchdowns, said: "We believed. I don't think the victory went to the team that wanted it the most. I think it went to the team that had the most love for each other. You could see it. When the chips were down, the team came right together. That's what it's all about. That's what this team is all about."
It appeared the Warriors would cruise after constructing a 17-0 lead in the first two quarters. Running back Nate Ilaoa scored two touchdowns in the first half en route to rushing for a career-high 159 yards on 12 carries.
But the usually sure-handed Ilaoa fumbled two times in the second half. The Warriors had three second-half turnovers, all of which were parlayed into Purdue touchdowns.
"It was my fault," Ilaoa said. "I've got to do some ball security. But the team had my back. That's the big thing about this team."
Ilaoa's second fumble gave the Boilermakers possession at the UH 32.
On the next play, Painter lofted a pass to 6-foot-4 wideout Selwyn Lymon, who out-leaped 5-9 cornerback Myron Newberry in the end zone, giving the Boilermakers a 35-27 lead with 6:50 to play.
"Newberry had it played perfectly," UH defensive coordinator Jerry Glanville said. "He just wasn't tall enough. That's not his fault. He did what he was supposed to do."
After that, the Warriors looked at the JumboTron clock, then at each other.
"I told the guys, 'We're two passes away from winning the game,' and we were," UH coach June Jones said.
Brennan recalled thinking: "When we were down by eight, we knew we could come back. We just knew."
Grice-Mullins said: "We play a different ball on the island. We've got too much heart."
Brennan was facing a Purdue defense that switched from a 3-3-5 experimental scheme in the first half to its usual menacing 4-3 style. In the 4-3, the two defensive ends use their strength and quickness to trap Brennan in a collapsing pocket.
"They changed it up on us at first," Brennan said. "But coach (Jones) taught us well. He taught us what to look for."
Dodging heavy pressure, Brennan found slotback Davone Bess for 28 yards and left wideout Jason Rivers for 22 to ignite the comeback.
After UH advanced to the 4, Jones called for an out-and-go to Grice-Mullins.
"All I had to do was beat my guy," said Grice-Mullins, who secured Brennan's pass to close UH to 35-33. "And I beat my guy."
On the ensuing conversion play, Grice-Mullins and Brennan produced a hana hou.
"The line blocked, the other receivers did what they're supposed to do, Colt and Reagan (Mauia) did what they were supposed to do, and I did what I was supposed to do. We followed the plan."
But Purdue was not done. On the UH sideline, the coaches were screaming for another stop.
That came four plays in the drive, when Painter overthrew Dorien Bryant on the right side. Left cornerback Gerard Lewis, who was in deep coverage, made a diving interception.
"I don't usually dive," Lewis said, "but I knew we needed a stop. It was an adrenaline decision."
Defensive backs coach Rich Miano said: "When Gerard made his interception, it was an unbelievable play in terms of getting his hands underneath the ball. It was just a great play."
UH took over at its 46 with 2:27 remaining — more than enough time, Brennan insisted.
Brennan threw 13 yards to Rivers along the left sideline. After an incompletion, Brennan went back to Rivers for a 14-yard gain. On the next play, Brennan scrambled 4 yards to the 23.
Jones then called for "460" — an inside screen to Sample, who was angling from the right. Sample caught the pass, kept running diaganolly until he reached the left side, and cut up to complete the 23-yard scoring play.
"I knew my line would be blocking, so I decided to follow my blocks," Sample said. "I just read it all the way. Jason (Rivers) made a block. The o-line made blocks. It was easy for me."
Rivers said he was happy not to be typecast only as a receiver.
"You can't be good in only one aspect of the game," Rivers said. "To be a great team, everybody has to do everything. I didn't know Ian was going to come my way. I peeked to the right, and I saw Ian coming. I said, 'Man, I've got to (block) somebody.' Everybody was doing a job. It would be a shame if I didn't do my job."
After Leonard's interception, the Warriors counted down their statement-making victory over a bowl-bound school from the Big Ten.
"I'm so proud of these kids," said defensive line coach Jeff Reinebold, who was raised in Indiana. Two of his children attend Purdue.
"People have no idea about the differences between that place and this place in terms of facilities, and money, and athletes, even," Reinebold added. "But they don't have what we have: as great a love for each other."
After the game, the Mayor agreed it was fortunate he wasn't running against Brennan.
"That's for sure," Hannemann said. "Or Nasti (Ilaoa) or anyone else on this team."
Reach Stephen Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.