The Hawaii Warriors have given themselves a golden chance to make the Mountain West championship game after beating the University of Las Vegas 21-7 on Saturday at Sam Boyd Stadium. The win was all the more sweeter guaranteeing Bowl eligibility for Hawaii. The Rainbow Warriors now face their biggest game in the football programs recent history when they face San Diego State at Aloha Stadium for a place in the Mountain West championship game.
Hawaii’s start was mistake riddled with starting quarterback Chevan Cordeiro throwing a series of interceptions and a pass fumble by Jared Smart that helped the 2-7 UNLV team gain an early 7 point lead. To their credit, the UNLV defense pressured Cordeiro who found it difficult to gain any offensive momentum.
Fortunately for Hawaii, their defense stood up and never let UNLV build on their early lead. Standouts for the Hawaii defense were linebacker Solomon Matautia and defensive back Rojesterman Farris II who both had 5 solo tackles for the game.
Running back for the ‘Bows Miles Reed was solid in the first half via the run option, gaining 36 yards, with an average of 6 yards per carry. He would finish the game with 96 yards.
With Cordeiro unable to get into any kind of effective rhythm, Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich had seen enough errors and replaced him with Cole McDonald. McDonald’s presence quickly stablished the Hawaii offense and they started to pull themselves back into the game and gradually they were able to overcome the plucky Rebels.
In the fourth quarter, McDonald stepped up and salted the game with a superb 2 yard rushing touchdown on 3rd down and 1. Kicker Meskell was able to gain the extra point and Hawaii extended it’s lead 21-7 and that’s were the score remained at full time.
From an Australian perspective, special teamers in Ryan Meskell, Stan Gaudion and Ben Scruton had a mixed day of fortunes. Meskell kicked off well amassing 260 yards, but missed a 3 point attempt in the third quarter when it was blocked by UNLV. Ryan was able to steady and nailed every extra point attempt afterwards. Punter Gaudion was assigned holding duties, whilst Ben Scruton had 2 punts for a total of 86 yards.
Special mention must be made of the thousands of Hawaii football fans who made some noise at Sam Boyd stadium on Saturday. There was a sea of green on the away team side of the field and they easily outnumbered the home team fans.
So on to next week’s massive game at Aloha Stadium and it’s implications. The equation is simple. Beat San Diego State and Hawaii will probably face Boise State away on their infamous blue turf. Both games are a tough ask, as both opponents are ranked in the top 25. But if Hawaii are able to concentrate on the basics of ball security, making tackles, completing special team assignments, there is no reason why they can’t make the play off game and win.