Brennan creates his own paradise

Times Staff Writer

As tropical vacations go, Colt Brennan is having one heck of a college football career.

The Southern California kid is hanging around Honolulu these days, trying to get to the beach as often as possible and, in between, playing some quarterback for the University of Hawaii.

That means running Coach June Jones’ warp-speed offense, flinging passes as casually as Frisbees on the sand. It also means grabbing attention for himself at the western fringe of the game.

With Brennan leading the nation in several offensive categories, the Rainbow Warriors are 8-2 and have accepted an invitation to the Hawaii Bowl, where they will play the No. 6 team from the Pacific 10 Conference on Christmas Eve.


Things are going so well, the quarterback sounds almost like a tourist.

“It’s unbelievable how much fun we’re having,” he said.

His opponents in the Western Athletic Conference aren’t nearly as thrilled. San Jose State Coach Dick Tomey, whose team plays Hawaii on Saturday, mused: “Their offense is just a machine.”

At Utah State, a 63-10 victim earlier this season, Coach Brent Guy calls Brennan the main cog.

“Colt does such a good job of getting rid of the ball and not throwing bad passes,” Guy said. “He just doesn’t force the ball in there.”

The 6-foot-3, 190-pound junior says that he deserves some success, given the turbulent path that led him to the islands.

The hard knocks began at Mater Dei High, where Brennan spent time backing up the older Matt Leinart before earning a starting role.

“Watching Matt, he had this picturesque career, growing up in Orange County, getting a full ride to USC,” Brennan said. “I was more up and down.”


With scant interest from college recruiters, he played a season at Worcester Academy in Massachusetts, then went to Colorado as a walk-on. His problems worsened.

In early 2004, Brennan was arrested for drunkenly entering a female student’s room, allegedly exposing himself and fondling her. He was acquitted of several charges but found guilty of first-degree criminal trespass and second-degree burglary.

The court sentenced him to seven days in jail and four years’ probation.

Brennan acknowledged his mistake, but resented the way prosecutors and the media treated him. He went looking for a way to “get my life to where it needed to be.”


That quest began at Saddleback College in Mission Viejo, where he made honorable mention junior college All-American and, just as important, the honor roll. His criminal record scared recruiters away, though, so last year he headed to Hawaii as a walk-on, hoping his luck would change.

“I just wanted to be happy,” he said.

The Rainbow Warriors opened the 2005 season against none other than USC. While Leinart was a returning Heisman Trophy winner who had guided his team to consecutive national titles, Brennan was just hoping to get on the field.

He got his wish, splitting time at quarterback, passing for 250 yards and a touchdown. Within a few weeks, Jones made him the starter.


Making up for lost time, Brennan led the nation with 4,455 yards in total offense and 35 touchdown passes, but the team finished with a mediocre record and no one noticed.

That was fine with a quarterback who, despite his gaudy numbers, struggled to grasp Jones’ offense.

As the coach said, “He didn’t really know what he was doing.”

In Hawaii’s spread attack, each receiver steps to the line with the freedom to choose from several routes, depending on the defensive coverage. The quarterback must anticipate what each of the four receivers is seeing and thinking.


“Last year,” Brennan said, “I ran the offense just trying not to screw up.”

This fall the passing game has clicked. After losing early games to Alabama and No. 13 Boise State, the Rainbow Warriors have won seven straight by scoring an average of 56 points.

Jones said, “There’s no question the national media should be taking notice. I can’t imagine there is any player in the country playing better than Colt is right now.”

The numbers indicate it. His 375 yards passing a game, 72% completion rate and 43 touchdowns against seven interceptions put him atop the national rankings in almost every quarterback category.


Having already surpassed Hawaii legend Timmy Chang for several school records, Brennan can tie the NCAA mark for most touchdown passes in a season with 11 more in his final four games.

Better yet, he’s having fun.

“To live in Hawaii and be playing football like this,” he said. “It’s a surreal moment.”




Brennan’s season

Colt Brennan has led Hawaii to an 8-2 record behind 3,753 yards passing. Brennan’s complete season statistics:


*--* Date Result Cmp. Att. Yds. TD Int. Sept. 2 lost to Alabama, 25-17 30 44 350 2 1 Sept. 17 defeated UNLV, 42-13 24 35 296 2 2 Sept. 23 lost to Boise State, 41-34 25 36 388 5 1 Oct. 1 defeated Eastern Illinois, 44-9 30 41 409 5 1 Oct. 8 defeated Nevada, 41-34 36 47 419 4 0 Oct. 14 defeated Fresno State, 68-37 32 39 409 5 0 Oct. 21 defeated New Mexico State, 22 31 330 5 0 49-30 Oct. 29 defeated Idaho, 68-10 31 38 333 5 0 Nov. 4 defeated Utah State, 63-10 18 29 413 6 1 Nov. 11 defeated Louisiana Tech, 61-17 27 40 406 4 1 TOTALS 275 380 3,753 43 7