Brennan rallied Hawaii from 14 points down in the final 4 minutes by scoring the tying touchdown on a 2-yard run with 31 seconds left in regulation, then threw an 8-yard scoring pass to Jason Rivers on the first possession of overtime to keep the Warriors in the BCS hunt with a 42-35 victory over San Jose State on Friday night.
"I've had a rough couple of weeks," said Brennan who has thrown nine interceptions on a sore right ankle the past three games. "I haven't really been in my groove lately. Coach (June) Jones said in the third quarter, 'If you come back from this game, it will define you as a quarterback.' I kept believing. My teammates believed and it was a total team victory."
The win for Hawaii (7-0, 4-0 Western Athletic Conference) wasn't sealed until Myron Newberry intercepted Adam Tafralis' pass in the end zone on the first drive of OT for the Spartans (3-4, 2-1). The Warriors poured on the field in a celebration that was put on hold until a replay review confirmed the call.
Brennan completed 44 of his WAC-record 75 passes for 545 yards and four touchdowns in a performance that looked better on the stat sheet than it did on the field until the closing minutes.
"I didn't play the best game but at no point was I going to give up," Brennan said. "I made plenty of mistakes, but I knew if I did what I was supposed to do at the end of the game we could win and we did that."
With representatives from the Fiesta Bowl on hand, Brennan orchestrated a 97-yard drive capped by an 11-yard TD pass to Davone Bess with 3:53 to go.
The Spartans tried to run out the clock, but James T. Callier fumbled on the second play of the drive and Adam Leonard recovered on the San Jose State 45. It was the Spartans' first lost fumble of the season and couldn't have come at a worse time.
Brennan calmly moved the Warriors down the field before running it in on an option keeper to tie the game.
"I don't feel like we had him frustrated," Lowery said. "But he was aware of how good we were and how it wasn't going to be a walk in the park for him."
"I made plenty of mistakes," Brennan said. "But I knew that if I did what I was supposed to do at the end of the game when we had those opportunities, we could win this game."
"You have to finish," Spartans coach Dick Tomey said. "We turned it over, got penalized. They have to hate the feeling. And if they hate it bad enough it won't happen. You can't let yourself be consoled with effort. We let one slip away."
After rolling up six wins against mostly overmatched teams, the Warriors hoped to impress voters in their first appearance of the year on national television. Whether their second overtime win of the year did that remains to be seen. The first BCS standings will be released Sunday.
"I'm of the belief that winning these type of games does more for you than winning a game 70-0," Jones said.
Lowery's 86-yard punt return with 1:21 left in the first half got the Spartans on the board. He then returned an interception 24 yards for another score on the first play of the second half to tie the game. Tafralis and the once-sluggish offense took over to help San Jose State build the 14-point lead.
"We did everything we could to win this game," said Dwight Lowery, the Spartans' All-America defensive back. "What we have to take away from this is, we can compete with anyone on our schedule. When the opportunity comes, we just have to make plays. I don't know whether it's because we haven't been in situations like that at crunch time or what. But everybody should be fighting to make the last plays, the plays to win the game."
The Spartans scored touchdowns on three straight drives but were unable to hold on for their first win against a ranked team since ruining the BCS hopes of LaDanian Tomlinson and No. 9 TCU with a 27-24 victory on Nov. 4, 2000.
For the second straight season, San Jose State had a crushing home loss to a BCS hopeful. The Spartans blew a late eight-point lead against Boise State last year before falling 23-20 on a last-second field goal.
"It was disappointing to lose to Boise State and this was even more disappointing," Tomey said. "We played our butts off and that's good for us. But we lost and that's not good for us."
Tafralis finished 27-for-47 for 302 yards and three interceptions. Jurovich had seven catches for 117 yards.
Ryan Grice-Mullen tied a Hawaii record with 14 catches for 175 yards. Bess added 12 catches for 140 yards and Rivers also had 12 for 138.
"We thought we could win, and we had a chance to win," Spartans coach Dick Tomey said. "We just didn't get it done in the fourth quarter. You just have to hate the feeling, and if you hate it enough, you won't let it happen again."
"We had a great shot tonight," Tomey said, "but the facts are that Hawaii made plays in the fourth quarter to win and we didn't. So they get the credit."