The run-and-shoot is alive and well at Hawaii, where Colt Brennan is quietly passing his way toward the record book
FLYING TO and from Honolulu may cost Hawaii's opponents a small fortune in airfare, but they are probably less devastated by the bill than by being subjected to the Warriors' dizzying brand of air travel. Hawaii, which has ranked in the top five in passing offense each of the last seven years, is again amassing prodigious passing yardage and point totals on the wings of coach June Jones's run-and-shoot offense.
The Warriors have the highest-scoring offense in the country (48.7 points), and their air-it-out attack isn't just entertaining, it's also effective. Hawaii (8--2) has already accepted an invitation to the Hawaii Bowl, and the team's only losses have been close ones on the road—25--17 to Alabama and 41--34 to its undefeated Western Athletic Conference rival, No. 13 Boise State. Despite their success, the Warriors, who demolished Louisiana Tech 61--17 last Saturday, haven't broken into the Top 25, largely because of their lack of exposure. Hawaii's home games are late-night viewing for most mainland fans, on the rare occasions they can find the Warriors on television at all.
Here's what they've been missing: In his second season of running the offense, junior quarterback Colt Brennan has operated almost flawlessly, with 43 touchdown passes and only seven interceptions. Brennan leads the nation in passing efficiency and total offense, is second in passing yards per game and has completed 72.4% of his throws. He needs 12 TD passes in Hawaii's four remaining games to break the Division I-A single-season record, set by Houston's David Klingler in 1990.
A former Colorado player, Brennan put up similarly impressive statistics last season, when he led the country in total offense and touchdown passes. He has a knowledgeable teacher in Jones, a former run-and-shoot quarterback who set a Division II single-season record with 3,518 passing yards at Portland State in 1975 under Mouse Davis, now the running backs coach at Hawaii.
Jones used a modified version of the run-and-shoot in the NFL when he was coach of the Atlanta Falcons, but it wasn't until he took over at Hawaii in 1999 that he went to the offense full time. The Warriors usually line up with four wideouts, and they depend on their receivers to adjust their routes on the fly, according to the coverage. "In most offenses, if the receiver is supposed to run a 12-yard out, he's going to run it no matter what," says Jones. "In this system, if the receiver sees the out isn't there, he runs a different route, and the quarterback hopefully reads it the same way."
Brennan is receiving far more positive attention than he got at Colorado, where he was dismissed from the team in February 2004 after being accused of barging into a female student's dorm room and making unwanted sexual advances. He pleaded not guilty to all charges and was acquitted of sexual assault but was convicted of first-degree criminal trespass and second-degree burglary, for which he was sentenced to seven days in jail and four years' probation.
Jones offered Brennan a chance to walk on after he had spent a year at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, Calif., and Brennan hasn't disappointed him. The quarterback's biggest problem has been his habit of taking the clich� of "leaving it all on the field" too literally. He has vomited on the turf during games several times, which he blames on a combination of exertion, excitement and a chronic sinus problem.
"Every time he throws up it seems like he comes back and makes a big play," says sophomore wideout Davone Bess. Brennan may have those bouts of nausea, but defenses that face Hawaii should be the ones with the queasy feeling.