By Lance Tominaga, ESPN Honolulu Web Editor.
For longtime University of Hawaii football fans, some plays were so good, so spectacular, that they are forever etched in our collective memory. Below are 12 of the most memorable plays in the history of Rainbow Warrior football. How many of these do you remember? Also, let us know about any plays we may have missed!
♦ SERIOUSLY…A JUMP PASS?! – Dec. 1, 1979: Leading Arizona State 23-17 early in the fourth quarter, Dick Tomey’s Rainbow Warriors reached into their bag of tricks and pulled off a crowd-pleasing “reverse muddle huddle.” Crouching over the ball and pretending to tie his shoelaces, QB Mike Stennis suddenly whipped the snap to tailback Gary Allen, who sprinted left before tossing the ball on a reverse to receiver DeWayne Jett. With a defender barreling down on him, Jett then leaped into the air and fired a 40-yard strike into the waiting arms of Stennis. That play put the ball on the Sun Devils’ 5-yard line. Blaine Gaison would a game-clinching TD just two plays later.
♦ SUPERMAN IN DA HOUSE – It was a football play you’d usually only see in a Hollywood movie. In the third quarter of an October 1982 victory over Utah, UH linebacker Anthony Woodson vaulted over a would-be blocker and sacked opposing QB Ken Vierra. A picture is worth a thousand words, you say? We agree:
♦ FROM THE JAWS OF DEFEAT – The situation: The visiting Air Force Falcons had a 14-13 lead late in the fourth quarter and, possessing the ball on the UH 9-yard line, were threatening to put the game away. On the next play, however, linebacker Joaquin Barnett jolted the ball loose and cornerback Robert Lan scooped it up in mid-air and raced 91 yards for the game-winning TD! Just an incredible play!
♦ GOING THE DISTANCE – You all know the game. Oct. 28, 1989. Hawaii’s euphoric 56-14 victory over rival BYU was full of great plays, but none better than Jamal Farmer’s 83-yard score from Garrett Gabriel in the second quarter. Jim Leahey’s call: “Back to pass is Gabriel, he has the time, he sells the screen. Gets the ball to Farmer. Farmer at the 20. Farmer at the 30. Farmer at the 35! Farmer’s open at the 40, he has a blocker in front of him! Goeas is escorting him! The 30! The 20! The 15! The 10! The five! TOUCHDOWN!”
♦ BRANCHING OUT: December 30, 1992. Playing in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego, the Rainbow Warriors led Illinois 20-10 in the fourth quarter. Then Hawaii landed the knockout blow. QB Michael Carter faked a handoff to Travis Sims, dropped back and launched a 53-yard bomb to receiver Darrick Branch, who snared the pass and, with his defender falling down, skipped into the end zone. It was Branch’s only reception of the game, but it was also the play of the game.
♦ ROLO TO LELIE – In the storied rivalry between Hawaii and Fresno State, this play stands out (well, for UH fans, anyway). October 26, 2001. Trailing 34-31 in the game’s final seconds, Hawaii QB Nick Rolovich found receiver Ashley Lelie in the deep right corner of the end zone. Lelie made an acrobatic catch and landed with one foot planted within the boundaries. It was an incredible catch to end an incredible game. Final score: Hawaii 38, Fresno State 34!
♦ SWATTING A GNAT – Sure, Hawaii got crushed by USC, 61-32, at the L.A. Coliseum. And sure, future Heisman Trophy winner Reggie Bush ran all over the Rainbow Warriors. But Hawaii fans will always have this play to remember, courtesy of running back West Keli’ikipi:
♦ CLUTCH KICK – Hawaii’s amazing Sugar Bowl run in 2007 would have been derailed if not for the heroics of placekicker Dan Kelly. His 45-yard field goal with just 11 seconds left gave the Rainbow Warriors a thrilling 28-26 come-from-behind win over Nevada in Reno. The dramatic win improved Hawaii’s record to 10-0 overall and 7-0 in the WAC.
♦ BLAZE OF GLORY – The very next week after the Nevada contest, Hawaii beat longtime tormenter Boise State, 39-27, to claim the school’s first outright WAC championship. Hawaii’s gritty effort was personified by linebacker Blaze Soares’ bone crushing hit on Bronco running back Jeremy Avery. We dare you to watch this without wincing:
♦ WITH A YARD TO SPARE – The 2019 season opener saw Hawaii hosting Arizona of the Pac-12 Conference. Hawaii led, 45-38, in the game’s waning moments, but the Wildcats had one final opportunity to tie or (with a two-point conversion) win the contest. With the game clock expiring, QB Khalil Tate scrambled free and raced toward the end zone for a potential score. But UH safety Kalen Hicks and defensive lineman Pumba Williams never gave up on the play and brought Tate down…at the 1-yard line! Victory preserved!