POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Dec 25, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 01:54 a.m. HST, Dec 25, 2010
It wasn't the exit the Hawaii football team envisioned -- Kealoha Pilares in particular.
Propped up on crutches with his left knee heavily wrapped, the senior slotback greeted fans lingering after the Warriors' 62-35 loss to Tulsa in the Hawaii Bowl.
"It just sucks how I ended in my last game," Pilares said before leaving Aloha Stadium for the final time as a player. "But I just have to stay positive and just have to remember things happen for a reason.
"I know God has something planned for me. I just have to try to stay positive."
In a nightmare before Christmas for the Hawaii offense, Pilares' injury was the first in a series of misfortunes that set the tone for UH's third straight lopsided postseason loss.
Pilares injured his knee while fielding a punt after Tulsa's first possession. The Warriors went on to turn the ball over six times before halftime, the giveaways resulting in or setting up three Tulsa touchdowns and a field goal.
"We wanted to start fast and be mistake free and felt if we took care of the football we'd have a very good chance in this game," UH offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said.
"Defense played great in the first half, it should have been a different game. I feel sorry for the seniors who had to go out like this."
Among those seniors was slotback Greg Salas, who caught 13 passes for a career-high 214 yards and two touchdowns but found little consolation in the stats.
Salas set the UH single-season records for receptions (119) and yardage (1,889) and was named UH's bowl MVP.
"Right now I just have to get this taste out of my mouth with this loss," Salas said. "But I'm sure I'll look back on it and be happy with what I did here and what I was able to accomplish and all of my teammates and coaches putting me in position to do that."
Quarterback Bryant Moniz threw for 411 yards and three touchdowns, but those figures were dwarfed by his four first-half interceptions.
"Everything bad that could have went on, went on in that first half," Moniz said.
"It's a tough one to swallow, but I'm just going to go home tomorrow spend some time with my family on Christmas and try to enjoy the holidays a little bit and get back to work."
Moniz said the Tulsa defense -- which returned two interceptions for touchdowns -- was "jumping everything we had" in the first half. The Warriors took better care of the football after the break and twice drew within a touchdown after falling behind 24-7.
But Tulsa answered each threat from a suddenly depleted offense.
Pilares entered the game with 1,306 yards and 15 touchdowns, and his injury left the Warriors without one of their primary weapons.
"He gets the majority of the reps, and he and Salas have a good relationship, and he and Moniz have a good relationship," Rolovich said.
Pilares said he will have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury that robbed him of a chance to finish on the field.
"I felt bad for him that he had to miss his last game here," Salas said. "We were looking forward to this all week. We were roommates the entire season and had real good chemistry on the field and off the field. And I just feel bad for him that he didn't get to finish out his last game."