By Jason Kaneshiro
The WAC is taking votes for its all-decade team on its Web site (wacsports.com), so on New Year’s Eve it seems appropriate to take a look back at the remarkable span from 2000-09. UH won 80 games in earning six bowl berths — including an appearance in the Sugar Bowl — under June Jones and Greg McMackin. Here’s a not-nearly-definitive look at some of the most memorable. Happy New Year.
1. Boise State, 2007 — Sure, Colt Brennan worked his magic again with five touchdown passes, but Blaze Soares’ thunderous hit epitomized UH’s physical control of the game as the Warriors clinched the outright WAC title with a 39-27 win.
2. BYU, 2001 — Nick Rolovich and Chad Owens posted the most outrageous numbers in an almost surreal 72-45 season-ending win. Rolovich passed for 543 yards and threw eight touchdown passes to four different receivers. Owens returned a kickoff and a punt for touchdowns.
3. Washington, 2007 — Down 21-0 after the first quarter, Brennan led the Warriors to a 35-28 win to clinch a BCS berth. Brennan completed 42 of 50 passes for 442 yards and five touchdowns. But UH’s perfect regular season wasn’t sealed until Ryan Mouton intercepted a Jake Locker pass in the end zone in the final seconds.
4. Fresno State, 2001 — Ashley Lelie pulled in Rolovich’s throw with leaping grab just inside the boundary for the game-winning score with 13 seconds left in UH’s 38-34 victory.
5. Michigan State, 2004 — Needing a win to become bowl eligible, Tim Chang and Chad Owens connected 13 times for 283 yards and four touchdowns and the Warriors rallied from a 21-0 deficit to beat the Spartans 41-38.
6. Nevada, 2007 — With the BCS berth and the WAC title on the line, Tyler Graunke marched UH into field-goal range and Dan Kelly nailed a 45-yard kick (twice actually) with 11 seconds left for a 28-26 win. It was UH’s third comeback win on the road that season, following dramatic wins at Louisiana Tech and San Jose State.
7. Purdue, 2006 — Ian Sample took a screen pass and scooted 23 yards for the winning touchdown with 1:27 left in the game. Adam Leonard’s first career interception sealed a 42-35 victory.
8. Fresno State, 2008 — Inoke Funaki orchestrated a modified offense, Tua Mahaley blocked a field goal late in regulation, and Kelly came through again in overtime as the Warriors beat a ranked team on the road for the first time, stunning the No. 22 Bulldogs 32-29.
9. Miami-Ohio, 2001 — Rolovich (500 yards, seven touchdowns) won a duel with RedHawks freshman Ben Roethlisberger (452, 3 TDs) and Justin Ayat kicked a 24-yard field goal as time expired in a 52-51 shootout.
10. Arizona State, 2006 — Trailing 10-3 at halftime of the Hawaii Bowl, UH exploded for 38 second-half points and Jason Rivers’ 79-yard touchdown catch-and-run provided a fitting punctuation for the most productive offensive season in school history. Rivers set an NCAA bowl record with 308 receiving yards.
Honorable mention: Navy, 2009; Nevada, 2008; San Jose State, 2007; Louisiana Tech 2007; Alabama, 2003; Houston, 2003; Fresno State 2002; SMU, 2001.