Updated at 9:57 p.m., Saturday, October 7, 2006
Warriors hold off Nevada, 41-34
By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer
The Wolf Pack gained possession at the UH 3 in the final two minutes after quarterback Colt Brennan fumbled. But the Warriors withstood a run for no gain and three incomplete passes.
Brennan threw for 420 yards and four touchdowns to give the Warriors a 41-21 lead.
But the Wolf Pack scored the game's final 13 points.
It was a must-win game for the teams, both of whom entered 0-1 in the Western Athletic Conference.
Since 1999, when the conference was downsized from 16 teams, no WAC champion has had more than one conference loss.
The Warriors struck early, with Brennan throwing all four his his scoring passes in the first half.
UH's defense helped douse several Nevada drives in the second half.
The Warriors forced a fumble at the Nevada 20, and later stopped the Wolf Pack's fourth-down run at midfield.
Nevada's starting quarterback Jeff Rowe left the game in the fourth quarter because of a pulled left hamstring. He suffered the injury near the end of the first half, but played all of the third quarter.
UH, which improved to 3-2 overall, plays at Fresno State Saturday.
Brennnan's multi-tasking, the Warriors seized a 31-21 lead at the intermission.
Brennan was everywhere the Wolf Pack didn't want him to be. In the first half, Brennan completed 22 of 27 passes for 252 yards and four touchdowns.
Brennan completed his first six passes all on the opening drive, which concluded with Daniel Kelly's 35-yard field goal and 16 of his first 17.
Brennan also kept the Wolf Pack guessing with his elusiveness. On one play, he escaped a near sack to scramble 6 yards for a first down. Later, on third-and-3, Brennan took a snap, ran to his right and, just before being hit, pitched to running back Nate Ilaoa, who gained 28 yards.
The Wolf Pack couldn't resolve a pick-a-poison debate. When they dropped into a two-deep zone by either backing up both safeties or both corners Brennan would swing passes to the flat or feed Ilaoa, who rushed for 97 first-half yards.
When the Wolf Pack tried to blitz a safety, Brennan would go deep.
Brennan identified one safety blitz, faked a swing pass to Ilaoa and then threw to a wide-open Ian Sample, who jogged the final 20 yards of a 63-yard scoring play.
Down 7-3, the Warriors scored three unanswered touchdowns to go in front, 24-7.
The Warriors took a 10-7 lead when Brennan rolled to his right and fired to Sample, whose spin move at the 2 left behind a clinging cornerback.
The second Brennan-to-Sample connection, which covered 63 yards, made it 17-7.
Later, the Warriors advanced to the 9, from where Brennan threw to a leaping Davone Bess in the left corner of the end zone. Kelly's PAT made it 24-7.
That was Brennan's 20th completion in 22 attempts. He had 242 passing yards at that point, and moved past Garrett Gabriel and into second place in career total offense.
Gabriel played four seasons for UH. Last night was Brennan's 17th game and 15th start.
The Wolf Pack closed to 24-14 on freshman Brandon Fragger's 3-yard run.
Fragger started in place of Robert Hubbard, who resumed practicing this week after recovering from a knee injury. Hubbard also played.
But the Warriors then extended their lead to 31-14, driving 82 yards in nine plays. The final three yards came on a pass from Brennan to Ross Dickerson.
Ilaoa actually set up that score. His three rushes accounted for 74 yards in the drive. His third rush of that possession, an 11-yarder, was extended when he bowled over safety Nick Hawthorne.
With the ball on the Nevada 3, and the Wolf Pack expecting another Ilaoa run, an extra defender moved into the tackle box. Brennan faked a handoff to Ilaoa, rolled to his right and threw to Dickerson at the doorstep of the end zone.
The Wolf Pack scored a touchdown with 10 seconds remaining in the first half.
Reach Stephen Tsai at firstname.lastname@example.org.