11:30 PM ET, December 4, 2004
Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI
HONOLULU (AP) -- Chad Owens didn't want to spend the holidays at home and did everything possible to prevent that from happening.
The senior caught four touchdown passes, including three in the second half, and Hawaii rallied to defeat Michigan State 41-38 Saturday night to earn a berth in the Hawaii Bowl.
Owens, who had five TDs in Hawaii's 49-41 win against Northwestern last weekend, finished with 13 catches for 283 yards.
"I did not want this to be my last game, so I just left it all out on the field. We all did," Owens said.
In a thrilling showdown that featured 1,134 yards of offense, the Warriors (7-5) came back from a 28-14 halftime deficit behind the play of Timmy Chang.
The NCAA career passing leader was 29-of-49 for 416 yards. He also scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter as Hawaii became bowl eligible and will face Alabama-Birmingham in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve.
"Everything happens for a reason in life and my calling was here," Chang said. "Some people's calling is to go in the ministry, mine was to stay here and I don't regret a thing."
On fourth-and-goal from a half-yard out, Chang took a big hit and dove for the touchdown to give Hawaii its first lead, 34-31 with 9:22 remaining.
On the ensuing kickoff, DeAndra Cobb had a 98-yard touchdown return called back because of a block-in-the-back penalty. Earlier in the game, Cobb had a 75-yard TD run negated by a holding penalty.
"Anytime you have that many called back, it's going to decide the game," Spartans coach John L. Smith said. "I can't talk about it too much other than it was a deciding factor."
Cobb ran for 128 yards on 16 carries against the nation's worst rushing defense.
But it was Owens' night to shine for Hawaii.
The 5-foot-7 playmaker, who had seven receptions for 143 yards in the first half, had touchdown receptions of 36, 51, 9 and 16 yards.
"We take what the defense gives us," Owens said. "Our offense has so many weapons, we can score in so many ways."
His third score of the night, a fade route to the left corner of the end zone, gave Hawaii the opportunity to tie Michigan State at 28. But the Warriors were called for a holding penalty on their extra-point attempt, moving the ball back and forcing them to kick again. A false start moved it back another five yards.
Kevin Vickerson blocked Justin Ayat's second try, preserving Michigan State's lead at 28-27.
Dave Rayner booted a 49-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to give the Spartans a 31-27 advantage and set the stage for Hawaii.
Michigan State, which ended its season at 5-7, was led by quarterback Drew Stanton who finished 22-of-32 for 330 yards and a touchdown. He also had 76 rushing yards on 12 carries.
"We get to go out this year as losers, so we're a bunch of losers that need to become winners," Smith said.
Stanton said penalties cost Michigan State the game.
The Spartans were flagged 16 times, including seven for holding, for 119 yards. The Warriors were penalized five times for 35 yards.
"It seemed like (the referees) wanted them to win," Stanton said. "No doubt about it, they're a good football team and they deserve to go to a bowl game, but I don't think it should happen this way."
After throwing an incompletion on Michigan State's first offensive play of the game, Stanton completed his next 10 attempts for 181 yards to put the Spartans up 21-0.
Passes of 44 and 15 yards set up the Spartans' third TD, a 1-yard run by Jason Teague.
Just as the game seemed to be a blowout, the Warriors snapped out of their offensive funk with a 50-yard pass from Chang to Owens, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by West Keliikipi that cut the lead to 21-7.
Spartans defensive end Clifton Ryan and Warriors offensive tackle Jeremy Inferrera were ejected after a shoving match during the extra-point attempt.
Hawaii gained the momentum by cutting Michigan State's lead to a touchdown on Chang's 36-yard touchdown strike to Owens with 1:49 left in the half.
But the Spartans scored 32 seconds later on runs of 9, 50 and 8 yards by Cobb. That gave Michigan State a 28-14 lead at halftime and quieted the crowd.
Cobb had 98 yards on 10 carries in the first half as the Spartans racked up 403 yards of offense in the first two quarters.
Jehuu Caulcrick's 2-yard dive gave Michigan State an early 14-0 lead. Stanton was 3-of-3 for 56 yards on the 11-play, 72-yard series.
The Spartans' first touchdown came on a 15-yard pass from Stanton to Eric Knott, who leaped over a defender and into the end zone.
It was the Warriors' seventh straight win at Aloha Stadium.
Winds swirled at 25 mph, scattering confetti, napkins and trash onto the field during the game that closed out the NCAA's regular season.