There’s a reason Idaho is on the short list for everyone’s homecoming.
After falling behind 3-0 early, the University of Hawaii rattled off 45 unanswered points tonight to win their sixth consecutive football game, setting up Saturday’s Western Athletic Conference showdown at No. 2-ranked Boise State.
Last night’s 45-10 victory over the Vandals wasn’t all that pretty for the Warriors. Even quarterback Bryant Moniz got off to a slow start completing only one of his first seven passes before an Aloha Stadium crowd of 35,322.
Not that it mattered as Moniz eventually threw for 326 yards and three touchdowns, completing 13 of 14 in the second half. After the win, Hawaii accepted an invitation to the Hawaii Bowl and would like nothing better than to play Southern Methodist on Christmas Eve. The Warriors are 7-2 for the season and 5-0 in league play. Idaho dropped to 4-4 overall and 1-2 in the WAC.
“This was really a great team win,” UH head coach Greg McMackin said. “I can’t say enough about the defense … four turnovers and one went for a touchdown. We dropped more balls than we normally do.”
Idaho looked good in the early going. The Vandals began the opening drive of the game on their own 9-yard line, mixing together a nice batch of runs and passes to move deep into Hawaii territory, before stalling at the UH 18 on a dropped third-down pass.
Vandals place-kicker Trey Farquhar connected from 35 yards out on the 11th play of the 73-yard drive to make it 3-0 with 10:39 left in the first quarter.
Hawaii drew even on a 34-yard field goal by Scott Enos with 5:30 left in the first. The Warriors set up shop inside Idaho territory and quickly found the red zone on a 37-yard scamper by Alex Green, who rushed for 74 yards and one touchdown on 10 carries. But the drive stalled as Hawaii tied it 3-3.
The Warriors got the ball back quickly thanks to a pick by Mana Silva on the ensuing Idaho series. He returned it to the Idaho 48 where the Warriors located the red zone once more.
Moniz set up a first and goal at the 9 on a 21-yard scamper and an 18-yard pass completion to Greg Salas. He ended the 48-yard march with a scoring strike from 10 yards out to Royce Pollard to make it 10-3 Hawaii with 3 seconds left in the first quarter.
The defense forced another Idaho turnover on the next series. This time linebacker Corey Paredes picked off the errant pass by Idaho quarterback Nathan Enderle giving UH the ball at the Vandals 45.
A big roughing-the-passer penalty kept the Hawaii drive alive that saw Salas drop a sure touchdown pass. No matter. The Warriors got inside the 5 and converted a fourth-down play at the 4 as Moniz hit Kealoha Pilares on a bubble screen for a touchdown to make it 17-3 Hawaii with 11:29 in the half.
Pilares strained his hamstring in the second-half warm-ups and didn’t return. He said he was hopeful he could play against Boise State this weekend.
Another turnover by Idaho proved to be the Vandals’ undoing. Tight end Daniel Hardy pulled in an Enderle pass, but had the ball knocked loose by John Hardy-Tuliau. Saftety Richard Torres scooped it up and ran it back 57 yards for the touchdown to give Hawaii a 24-3 advantage wtih 8:45 left in the half.
After the teams traded missed field goals, Hawaii put together one last scoring drive set up on a 38-yard completion from Moniz to Salas that gave Hawaii a first and goal at the 1 with 31 seconds remaining. Out of the pistol formation, Moniz ran the option perfectly, pitching the ball to Green for the score. Enos added his fourth PAT to make it 31-3 with 27 seconds left until intermission.
Not much happened in the third quarter until a fumbled punt by Idaho return man Shiloh Keo that was recovered by Hardy-Tuliau at the Vandals 25. It didn’t take long for the Warriors to capitalize as Moniz found Dustin Blount from 16 yards out to give Hawaii a 38-3 advantage with 4:07 left in the third.
Moniz put the finishing touches on his night by capping an 81-yard drive with a touchdown keeper from 3 yards out to make it 45-3 with 13:04 left in the game. Idaho scored late on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Brian Reader to Taylor Elmo with 2:24 left in the game.
Salas caught 11 passes for 168 yards. Moniz hit 27 of 38, but for the second straight week, he had a pass intercepted in the end zone, his lone miss after intermission.
“I think (Hawaii is) pretty good,” Idaho head coach Robb Akey said. “They’re pretty good like that team they took to the Sugar Bowl a few years ago. I’ve got a lot of respect for them. Coach McMackin and his crew have done a great job and the players have done a great job. They’ve got a lot of respect coming from us.”