By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
Dec. 1, 2007. In front of a sold-out crowd at Aloha Stadium, University of Hawaii QB Colt Brennan stood behind his offensive line and quickly glanced at the scoreboard. The game was 18 seconds into the second quarter, and the Rainbow Warriors were already up against the wall.
The score: Washington 21, Hawaii 0.
One week earlier, UH had vanquished longtime conference rival Boise State to claim the program’s first outright Western Athletic Conference title. But as momentous and satisfying as that win was, Hawaii’s season would come crashing down if they lost to the visiting Huskies. The Rainbow Warriors needed this win to cap an undefeated regular season and earn a likely invitation to the BCS Sugar Bowl. A loss would crush the team’s Sugar-Sweet dreams.
It was time for Brennan to work his magic.
Starting from his own 17-yard line, Brennan fired a quick 6-yard dart to Ryan Grice-Mullen. Then he connected on a 7-yard pass to CJ Hawthorne, followed by an 8-yard hookup with Jason Rivers. Then Brennan found Hawthorne again for 10 yards, and then Rivers again for 11. Following a first-down run by Kealoha Pilares, Brennan fired a 19-yard strike to Rivers to the Huskies’ 11-yard line. After a pair of Daniel Libre runs, Brennan connected with Rivers again, this time for a 7-yard TD.
Hawaii finally was on the scoreboard. And Brennan, who was 7 for 7 on that drive, was just getting started.
Rainbow Warrior fans know what happened next. Led by future NFL QB Jake Locker, Washington came right back to score another TD, but then the UH defense rose to the challenge and shut out the Huskies the rest of the way. Brennan, meanwhile, showed why he was a Heisman Trophy finalist. The senior would throw for four more TDs, including the game-winning 5-yard toss to Grice-Mullen with just 44 seconds left in the game.
Final score: Hawaii 35, Washington 28.
Brennan had games with gaudier statistics, but none of those contests was as important as this one. (His numbers against the Huskies weren’t exactly shabby: 42 completions in 50 pass attempts for 442 passing yards and 5 TDs. He didn’t throw an interception. At one point during the game, he threw a school-record 20 straight completions.)
In a season full of big games, Brennan saved his best for the biggest.
Afterward, Brennan was jubilant. “No doubts!” he told the Honolulu Advertiser’s Stephen Tsai. “We’re going to the BCS. We earned it.”
He told Advertiser reporter Stacy Kaneshiro: “The theme of this team has been ‘BELIEVE.’ What better test than to end the season on a game like that.”
“It’s so hard to explain this feeling,” he also said. “Not just for me, but for this team, and for this state.”
The very next day, Hawaii got the word: The 12-0 Rainbow Warriors would head to New Orleans to take on No. 5 Georgia in the BCS Sugar Bowl.
”This team is special,” Brennan explained to Tsai. “These guys are special. They play for each other. I’ve never been part of such a brotherhood, such camaraderie. It’s so special I changed my entire perspective on life.”
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