Victory needn't be dominant. Hawaii's fourth-quarter perseverance showed that the Warriors are more than capable of getting the job done when necessary, and against a spunky San Jose State squad, the job was absolutely necessary.
Warriors outlast Spartans
Late touchdown drive ices tough win over SJSU, 40-31
By Kalani Takase and Paul Honda Senior Writers Saturday, Nov. 2 2002
HONOLULU -- Two nights after Halloween, the University of Hawaii found a way to win ugly.
It was a tinge scary, but what could the Warriors have expected from the tough-as-nails Spartans of San Jose State. Thero Mitchell's 3-yard touchdown run with left sealed a 40-31 win over San JoseState Saturday night. The victory also secured a berth in the inaugural ConAgra Foods Hawaii Bowl, which will be played Christmas Day at Aloha Stadium.
Hawaii improved to 6-1 in Western Athletic Conference play (7-2 overall) with a win over the gritty Spartans (4-6, 2-3 WAC). San JoseState proved worthy of merit despite pre-game predictions that had Hawaii as much as a 26-point favorite.
Yellow flags dominated the game and frustrated fans, players and coaches. Each team was whistled for 14 penalties. "One ref told me that some of the other refs were reffing for the first time," linebacker Chris Brown said. "Even the San JoseState players were telling them, ‘Just let us play.' And that was when we were getting the penalty."
It wasn't aesthetically pleasing on several fronts. "I think it was a bad night for everybody," Hawaii coach June Jones said diplomatically.
The Warriors were somewhat erratic offensively, marching up and down the field, stopping and going depending on Tim Chang's accuracy. Defensively, Hawaii fared relatively well until surrendering touchdown plays of 40 and 90 yards in the final quarter as San JoseState pulled back into the contest after trailing by 13 points. A pensive crowd of 36,784 saw Hawaii amass 553 yards. Chang completed 31 of 54 pass attempts for 365 yards and three touchdowns. The Warriors stalled, however, on a pair of interceptions by Chang in the second half.
Chang's favorite target was Justin Colbert, who hauled in 11 receptions for 156 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Neal Gossett added seven catches for 119 yards and Britton Komine pulled in six passes for 50 yards. Gossett and Komine each caught scoring tosses. Thero Mitchell rushed for 64 yards on seven carries and John West added 48 on eight attempts.
San JoseState's Scott Rislov completed 15 of 30 attempts for 287 yards and four touchdowns. He threw three interceptions, however. Lamar Ferguson led SJSU rushers with 84 yards in eight carries. Charles Pauley had four receptions for 120 yards.
The Spartans didn't waste any time, going 61 yards on seven plays on their very first drive of the game. Scott Rislov's pass was hauled in by his receiver, Kendrick Starling on a 20-yard scoring strike. The fade route was snatched by Starling in the front left corner of the south end zone. On the prior play, San JoseState was flagged for a personal foul after a run by Ezekiel Staples for no gain. The 15-yard penalty pushed the Spartans back to the Warrior 20. The touchdown was set up by a 35-yard jaunt off a counter run by Ferguson, a 5-foot-5, 144-pound sophomore tailback.
A 15-yard excessive celebration penalty was assessed on the kickoff against the Spartans, giving Hawaii great field position. John West returned Nick Gilliam's kickoff to the Warrior 41, however, the Warriors were caught holding, pushing them back to their own 31-yard line. To start the drive, Hawaii faltered again on another holding call, giving them first-and-20. Timmy Chang threw three straight incompletions, bringing on Mat McBriar for his first of five punts on the night. Pauley returned the punt to the Warrior 46-yard line. Another holding penalty was assessed, this time on San JoseState, forcing them to start their drive on the Spartans' 44. After a draw to Trestin George, another Spartan running back, Rislov was intercepted on a screen pass by linebacker Chris Brown. As he dropped back, Rislov was rushed by defensive end Travis LaBoy. The junior read the screen and leaped up and tipped Rislov's pass before it ended up in the hands of Brown.
Chang hit Neal Gossett for a 13-yard gain on first down, then found an open Justin Colbert on an out route for another 10 yards. With first-and-goal from the Spartan nine-yard line, Chang's pass fell incomplete, intended for Gossett again, however, on the very next play, Colbert weaved his way through his linemen on a perfect wide receiver screen into the end zone. The nine-yard touchdown pass capped off a 4-play, 32-yard drive, spanning just 0:19.
San Jose took over on its own 11-yard line. A Ferguson run of nine yards was followed by a five-yard run by Staples, moving the chains for a Spartan first down. Unfortunately for San JoseState, Ferguson fumbled on the next play and Chad Kalilimoku recovered on defense.
With the ball on the Spartan 44-yard line, Hawaii took five plays and to go 44 yards for another Warrior touchdown. Once again, Chang found Colbert for a score, from 28 yards out. Just three plays before that, West carried on a trap for 17 yards to take the ball down to the Spartan 27.
San JoseState answered back on their very next drive with a 38-yard field goal by Gilliam coming with left in the first quarter.
McBriar punted again on Hawaii's next possession, fortunately for the Warriors, San JoseState returned the favor with a 48-yard punt by Michael Carr.
Hawaii took advantage of the opportunity and score on their next drive. Chang completed four consecutive passes to end the opening quarter. Nate Ilaoa caught a six-yard Chang pass, followed by a ten-yard completion to Colbert, good enough for a Warrior first down. Chang then tossed a screen pass to Thero Mitchell before swinging out a pass in the flats to Ilaoa. Ilaoa reached above his head for the pass and was met by a Spartan defender as he turned around. Ilaoa was stood up, but managed to regain his balance before spinning for another four yards. To start the second quarter, Chang completed an 18-yard pass to Britton Komine, taking Hawaii to the San Jose 30. After two Chang incompletions and a San JoseState sideline warning, Colbert pulled in another Chang pass, this one for 20 yards, giving the Hawaii offense first-and-goal from the 10-yard line. Chang couldn't hit West on the next play, but got him the ball on a draw play for seven yards on the next play. Chang hit an open Komine on the next play for a touchdown, completing an 11-play, 80-yard drive, spanning .
Rislov and the Spartans had an answer. They marched 80 yards to paydirt on their ensuing drive. A wide receiver screen to Starling was good for 20 yards, setting up a George run for 11 yards. Two plays later, Rislov found Charles Pauley on a 33-yard completion. Two consecutive false start penalties on San JoseState pushed the Spartan offense back to the Hawaii 15-yard line, with first-and-20. Three plays later, Rislov hit Starling again, this time for a 15-yard scoring strike.
The Hawaii offense struck right back with a touchdown with left in the half. Backup quarterback Shawn Withy-Allen threw a 40-yard rainbow pass to Gossett in stride. The play capped off an eight-play, 87-yard drive, spanning .
Both teams punted away once before San JoseState turned the ball over on downs after a Rislov pass fell incomplete on fourth-and-4. Hawaii got the ball back on their 41-yard line with left, but could not capitalize. With fourth-and-14, Chad Kapanui, the upback on the punt team, audibled on the line. However, his pass, intended for Patrick Lavar Harley, didn't not find its target.
Chang directed Hawaii to the San JoseState 28-yard line before throwing an interception deep down the field. Cornerback Melvin Cook came up with the leaping interception in the end zone. Moments later, Warrior cornerback Kelvin Millhouse intercepted an overthrown pass by Rislov and went out of bounds at the Hawaii 44-yard line.
Again, the Warriors drove into San JoseState territory, but Chang opted to go with the post route instead of the open corner route. Gerald Jones made the easy interception just behind the goal line on the long pass. Jones opted to bring the ball out of the end zone and was stopped at the 9. A personal foul penalty on the return put San JoseState on its own 5, and on the next play, La'anui Correa dropped running back Trestin George in the end zone for a safety. Hawaii led 30-17 with left in the third quarter.
Hawaii's defense, led by Pisa Tinoisamoa's seven tackles—Travis LaBoy and Correa each tallied six and Keani Alapa, Isaac Sopoaga and Matt Wright added five apiece—bent but didn't break on the Spartans' ensuing series. However, Pauley returned a potential coffin-corner punt by Mat McBriar from one side of the field to the other with a darting 41-yard return to set up good field position. Rislov then guided his team 49 yards in five plays, connecting with Pauley on a 40-yard catch and sprint to the end zone. Gilliam's PAT kick cut the margin to 30-24 with remaining in the contest.
The Warriors switched from a medium-to-long passing attack to their short game, and it paid off. Hawaii drove from its own 20 to the SJSU 2, and Justin Ayat chipped in a 19-yard field goal to give the Warriors a 33-24 lead with to go.
That seemingly safe lead was safe for mere seconds. On first down from their own 10, the Spartans struck with thunder. Rislov fired a strike to Juan Walden, who weaved across the grain and back down the left sideline for a 90-yard touchdown pass. Teammate Kendrick Starling, who had four receptions for 57 yards and two scores, delivered key blocks on Tinoisamoa and Abraham Eliminian for Walden en route to the end zone. San JoseState trailed 33-31 with remaining.
Again, Hawaii went to its short game, and the Spartans were helpless to stop the Warriors. Chang completed seven passes in a row, directing the Warriors on an 11-play, 80-yard drive. The Warriors consumed 5 minutes and 19 seconds, culminating the drive with Mitchell's short run into the end zone.
Tinoisamoa picked off Rislov on a middle screen pass on San JoseState's ensuing first play from scrimmage, and the victory was Hawaii's.