Lately Hawai'i football hasn't been much to write home about. Norm Chow has struggled mightily in his first three years on the job, only posting a 8-29 record during his tenure. But what if I told you there were times when Hawai'i football was fun in the last 15 years? It's true, I swear.
For gamblers, midnight Hawai'i games are the ultimate chase game. The last chance to try and erase any losses from earlier, or for others a chance to try and add to winnings from earlier. Add in the Hawai'i announcers if you're having to watching the Warriors' TV feed and really that's all that has been entertaining about Hawai'i football lately, since the product on the field is struggling.
It was just over 15 years ago when Hawai'i football seemed to be in the same position. The Warriors had lost 18 straight games, including a 0-12 season in 1998 when they fired head coach Fred von Appen, who was just 5-31 during his three years as head coach. Hawai'i scored big with their hire though, luring in former NFL coach June Jones to take over the program.
In the first year with Jones at the helm, the Rainbows completed the best single-season turnaround in NCAA history, going 9-4. Hawai'i capped off their season with a win over Oregon State in the O'ahu Bowl. The bowl game was first for Hawai'i since 1992. The run-and-shoot offense that Jones liked to use was quickly turning things around for the Warriors, and they soon would get a couple quarterbacks who would put up big numbers in the offense.
2000 marked the first year that Timmy Chang would take the snaps at quarterback, and his freshman years wasn't much to speak of. He got some valuable experience, playing in 10 games, but he threw 19 interceptions to match the 19 touchdowns he tossed. Chang redshirted due to injury in 2001, but the Warriors still went 9-3.
Chang returned the following year and started to put a dent into some passing records he will end up breaking, throwing for 4,474 yards, which would be his career-high for a season. The Warriors won 10 games for the first time since 1992. While the Warriors played in the Hawai'i Bowl, they fell to Tulane 36-28.
In his final two years at quarterback, Chang was able to pass over 4,000 yards in both seasons, seeing his touchdown totals increase each year while his interception totals fell. During his senior season, Chang was able to break Ty Detmer's record of 15,031 passing yards during his career, finishing with 17,072 passing yards. Chang also broke Kliff Kingsbury's record of 1,231 completions by finishing with 1,388 completion. A more dubious record Chang holds is for the 80 interceptions he threw during his time at Hawai'i.
During Chang's junior season at Hawai'i, Colt Brennan was redshirting at Colorado during his freshman year in 2003. The quarterback from Laguna Beach, California was dismissed for the team in early 2004 after being charged with felony burglary and trespassing. Following the dismissal, Brennan ended up at Saddleback Junior College in California, where he caught the eye of Jones, who offered him a walk-on opportunity with the Warriors.
It didn't take long for Brennan to take over the quarterback job in 2005, starting 10 games, and during that time tying or breaking 11 school records. Even though he didn't start a couple games early on, Brennan still led the country with 4,455 yards of total offense and 35 passing touchdowns.
Expectations were high for Brennan in 2006 after being named preseason WAC Offensive Player of the Year. Brennan didn't disappoint, throwing 58 touchdown passes to break David Klinger's previous season record of 54. Brennan threw 53 touchdowns passes in the regular season, and another five in the Hawai'i Bowl in a victory of Arizona State, as these days stats in bowl games count. While the touchdown passes were the focus in the bowl game, Brennan also threw for 559 yards. Along with all the touchdowns, Brennan threw for 5,549 yards, which is a school record. During the season, June Jones was also able to pass Dick Tomey as winningest coach in Hawai'i history.
As high as expectations were for Brennan going into 2006, they were even higher in 2007 following a season where he finished sixth in the Heisman voting. Expectations for the Warriors were high as well, with Hawai'i coming into the season ranked 23rd. Behind Jones and Brennan, Hawai'i was able to finish the regular season 12-0, earning a bid to the Sugar Bowl to face Georgia by finishing the regular season ranked 12th in the BCS. After a dream season, reality set in against Georgia, with the Bulldogs laying a 41-10 beatdown on the Warriors.
In November during his senior season against Boise State, Brennan broke Detmer's record of 121 career touchdown passes. Brennan would end up finishing his career with 131 touchdown passes. The record has since be broken, but it doesn't take away from the impact Brennan had on the program, twice earning third team All-American honors.
As if the loss of Brennan wasn't enough, June Jones also opted out of his contract as he felt frustrated with the lack of support the football program was getting. Despite attempts to make the head coach the highest paid state employee in Hawai'i, Jones ended up at SMU. During his time with the Warriors, Jones went 76-41 and took Hawai'i to six bowl games in nine years.
Things didn't instantly fall off once Jones left, with Greg McMackin taking over as head coach. McMackin won at least six games in all four his seasons in charge, with the Warriors winning 10 games in 2010. Following the 2011 season, McMackin resigned and the Warriors turned to Chow. After spending nearly 40 years as an assistant in college football and the NFL, this was Chow's first head coaching job at either of those levels.
Things haven't gone exactly as planned for Chow so far, and another ugly year could make his seat awfully hot. So while the present isn't pretty, it's still fun to look back at some of those past Hawai'i teams. It would've been interesting to see Ohio State take on Hawai'i when they had either Chang or Brennan slinging passes. A game with one of those two taking the snaps would've at least provided a little more intrigue than I'm sure we'll get on September 12th in the first meeting between the schools.