HONOLULU- Even after three overtimes, Houston and Hawaii were still fighting each other. Michael Brewster's 8-yard touchdown run in the third overtime sent Hawaii to a 54-48 victory over the Cougars in a Hawaii Bowl that ended with a nasty brawl at midfield Thursday night.
Shortly after Hawaii stopped Houston on fourth down in the third OT, several scuffles broke out with some players swinging helmets at each other and throwing punches. Coaches and police broke up the brawl after several minutes, and Houston was escorted into its locker room.
It was a wild end to a thrilling game.
"It was everything I thought it was going to be," Hawaii coach June Jones said.
Houston (7-6) took advantage of a major clock management mistake by Hawaii (9-5) to tie it at 34 with 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter. After the Warriors blew a chance to run out the clock and missed a short field-goal attempt, Houston's Vincent Marshall caught an 81-yard touchdown pass from Kevin Kolb to tie it (video).
"I probably should have gone for 2 right at the end, because we had momentum and we were an underdog and I made a coaching mistake in my opinion," first-year Houston coach Art Briles said. "I should have tried to finish it right there, get on the plane and go home happy."
Briles said he would review the postgame fight on film and determine whether any disciplinary action is necessary.
"We'll look through that and see what got it going and who kept it going," he said. "It's certainly not something we plan on happening, it was just one of those things."
In the first overtime, Hawaii's Timmy Chang completed an 11-yard touchdown pass to Britton Komine, and Houston tied it on Anthony Evans' 6-yard run.
Houston went up 48-41 in the second overtime on a 4-yard run by Jackie Battle, but Hawaii answered with an 18-yard pass from Chang to Jason Rivers. The Cougars nearly got the victory when they partially blocked Hawaii's extra point, but the ball still went through the uprights.
It was the fifth straight bowl loss for the Cougars. Houston, making its first bowl appearance since 1996, hasn't won in the postseason since defeating Navy in the 1980 Garden State Bowl.
Chang, selected the game's MVP, was 26-of-42 passing for 475 yards and five touchdowns after coming off the bench. The junior moved into third place on the NCAA career passing list with 12,814 yards.
Rivers had seven receptions for 143 yards and three touchdowns for the Warriors. Jeremiah Cockheran added five catches for 162 yards.
The game featured two of the most prolific offenses in the nation. Each team averaged more than 33 points and 450 yards per game in the regular season. Hawaii is ranked second in the nation in passing offense.
Battle led Houston's ground game with 124 yards and three touchdowns. Marshall had seven catches for 157 yards and a TD.
Hawaii scored 17 straight points and took a 27-20 lead on a 7-yard pass from Chang to Rivers.
Chang entered early in the second quarter when starter Jason Whieldon was shaken up on a 5-yard run. On his first play, Chang tossed a 48-yard scoring pass to Clifton Herbert to tie it at 10.
Jones did not name his starting quarterback until gametime, then opted for Whieldon. Chang started 11 regular-season games and threw for 3,724 yards and 24 TDs, but was benched late in the season for ineffectiveness.
"Timmy stepped in and became a great leader tonight," Cockheran said. "It was sad Jason got hurt and everything, but Tim came in and just took off."
Many fans were filing out of Aloha Stadium with Hawaii seemingly in control late in the fourth, but the Warriors failed to run out the clock.
Houston used its last timeout with 1:07 left, but instead of running the ball and chewing up the rest of the clock the Warriors passed on third down from the Cougars 12. Chang's pass fell incomplete and Nolan Miranda missed a 29-yard field goal, giving the Cougars one last shot.
Marshall caught a short pass in stride and burst up the middle, racing 81 yards for the touchdown that sent the game into overtime. After crossing the goal line, he fell to the turf and grabbed his hamstring.
The Cougars jumped out to a 10-0 lead before Hawaii got a first down. Kolb found Chad McCullar streaking down the right sideline for a 34-yard touchdown on Houston's opening drive. Four plays later, McCullar returned Hawaii's punt 60 yards, setting up Dustin Bell's 21-yard field goal. McCullar had five catches for 103 yards and a score.
Chang threw passes of 12 and 64 yards to Cockheran to set up Brewster's 1-yard scoring run that tied it at 20 on the opening series of the third quarter.
The Cougars had six sacks. The Warriors didn't allow a sack in their last three regular-season games.
The game was played on a balmy 80-degree Christmas Day in front of 25,551 fans, the smallest crowd at Aloha Stadium this season.
It was the third bowl appearance in five years for the Warriors. Hawaii lost to Tulane 36-28 last year in the inaugural Hawaii Bowl.