POSTED: 9:24 a.m. HST, Nov 23, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 1:39 a.m. HST, Nov 24, 2013
If Hawaii was to win its first football game of the season against Wyoming, the Rainbow Warriors not only had to overcome the 7,200-foot altitude of Laramie, they also had to deal with the cold in Saturday's final Mountain West Conference matchup of the season.
But despite the 25-degree temperatures at kickoff, both teams were hot all afternoon as Wyoming beat Hawaii in overtime 59-56 on a 36-yard field goal by Stuart Williams. It was the second straight OT loss of the season for Hawaii. The Warriors dropped to 0-11 for the season and 0-8 in MWC play. Wyoming is 5-6 overall and 3-4 in league action.
Battling to a 56-56 tie in regulation, the Rainbows got the ball first and faced a fourth-and-1 from the 4, but didn't make it as running back Joey Iosefa was stuffed for a 1-yard loss. Wyoming took over at the 25 for its first possession of OT, needing only a field goal to win the game.
And that's just what the Cowboys got as Williams, who missed a 38-yarder at the end of the first half, was steady and true this time as the Warriors found another way to lose entering this weekend's season finale at home against Army.
Hawaii got a big break early in the second half when a Scott Harding punt hit a Wyoming defender down field and UH pounced on it at the Rainbows 47. From there, UH quarterback Sean Schroeder quickly moved Hawaii into scoring position and then hit a wide open Chris Gant for the third touchdown pass of the afternoon, this time from 29 yards out as Tyler Hadden added the PAT to make it 42-35 UH.
But back came the Cowboys as they quickly moved down field for a first-and-goal from the 4, but a critical unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on wideout Robert Herron led to a crucial stand for the UH defense as Wyoming eventually was forced to punt, a rarity on this windy afternoon that favored UH in the fourth.
The Cowboys defense held on the ensuing series, giving the offense the ball at its own 39. Right on cue, the offense went 61 yards on 10 plays for the score. The final play was a 20-yard touchdown pass from Wyoming junior quarterback Brett Smith to Herron as Williams added the PAT to make it 42-42 with 2:56 left in the third quarter of a high-octane game. It was the third scoring catch for Herron and the fifth touchdown toss for Smith of the afternoon.
The Rainbows regained the lead on a 14-yard touchdown pass from Schroeder to tight end Clark Evans to make it 48-42 UH with 13:09 left in the fourth. Hadden's PAT was blocked by Wyoming's Eddie Yarbrough.
The Cowboys needed only two plays to go 75 yards for the go-ahead touchdown as Williams hit the PAT to make it 49-48 Wyoming with 12:31 left in the game. The scoring play was a 71-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Jalen Claiborne that was just one of many big plays in this wild affair.
The Cowboys had a statement-making drive midway through the fourth quarter. Up one, but against the wind, Wyoming started at its own 6 and marched methodically down field, eating up the clock every step of the way.
The 12-play, 94-yard drive culminated with a 5-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Herron as Williams added the PAT to make it 56-48 Wyoming with 2:52 left. The wind advantage Hawaii hoped to hold disappeared as the Cowboys chewed up 4:46 off the clock.
But that didn't matter to head coach Norm Chow as Hawaii put together a big drive of its own, going 75 yards on eight plays, the last one a 33-yard touchdown pass from Schroeder to Gant as the try for 2 was good. Schroeder found Gant again on the 2-point conversion to make it 56-56 with 1:18 remaining.
The first half was equally incredible in this back-and-forth display of two teams combining for 838 total offensive yards, including an incredible 491 by the Cowboys. For the game, Hawaii finished with 624 yards, while Wyoming countered with 793.
Smith, who has completed touchdown passes in a record 34 consecutive league games, threw for 498 yards and rushed for 142 more. He had seven touchdown passes, including four to Herron. Schroeder had an incredible day of his own, completing 37 of 50 passes for 499 yards and six touchdowns -- four to Gant -- but it wasn't enough. Iosefa finished with 91 rushing yards and two scores, but the stuff on fourth down was a killer.
This four-hour-plus game was high drama from the start.
After the UH defense forced Wyoming to punt on its opening series, the Rainbows went 77 yards on nine plays as Schroeder had a nice mix of run and pass. Big running back Iosefa took it in from 2 yards out for the score and Hadden added the extra point to give the Rainbows the 7-0 lead with 9:27 in the opening quarter.
Schroeder had a big pass completion of 20 yards to Vasquez Haynes and another to Scott Harding of 34 yards on a nice third-down play that gave the Warriors a first-and-goal at the 5. Two snaps later, Iosefa scored.
Wyoming produced a nice scoring drive of its own on the ensuing series, marching 75 yards on 11 plays as the PAT failed because of a mishandled snap to make it 7-6 UH with 6:17 left in the first quarter. Smith converted a third-and-goal from the 7 on a nice pass play to running back Shaun Wick to extend Smith's MWC mark to 34.
After a quick three-and-out by the UH offense, the Cowboys went 83 yards on six plays against an overmatched UH defense. On a third-and-10 at the UH 23, Smith converted a huge third-down play by hitting Herron in the corner of the end zone for the score as Williams added the PAT to make it 13-7 Wyoming with 3:45 left in the first.
The Rainbows made some noise of their own on their next offensive series, going 75 yards on seven plays, the last one a 34-yard touchdown pass from Schroeder to a wide open Gant on busted Wyoming coverage. Hadden added the PAT to make it 14-13 UH with 58 seconds left in the first quarter.
On the drive, Hawaii had a big fourth-down conversion as Schroeder hit Marc Langkilde for 8 yards to move the chains and set up the go-ahead touchdown.
But back came the Cowboys to score on the opening play of the second quarter to cap a five-play, 75-yard drive that took barely a minute off the clock. The big play was a 47-yard touchdown pass from Smith to Herron as he raced past a UH defense that looked like it was stuck in cement. Williams' PAT was partially blocked, but it still went through to give the Cowboys a 20-14 advantage with 14:52 left in the second quarter.
After forcing UH to punt on its ensuing offensive series, Harding's kick bounced off the Cowboys' DeAndre Jones and the Warriors' Kawika Borden recovered it at the Wyoming 27. Three plays later, Iosefa bulled in from 15 yards out and Hadden hit the PAT to make it 21-20 Hawaii with 11:05 left in the second quarter.
The Cowboys struck quickly to retake the lead on a 51-yard touchdown run by Smith, who then connected with Spencer Bruce for the 2-point conversion to make it 28-21 Wyoming with 5:34 remaining in the second quarter.
But back came Hawaii, going 75 yards on only four plays, the last one a 30-yard touchdown pass from Schroeder to Gant as Hadden added the PAT to make it 28-28 with 4:35 left in the second quarter.
The Cowboys needed only 21 seconds to regain the lead on a 72-yard touchdown pass from Smith to a wide open Keenan Montgomery, who outraced the entire UH defense into the end zone as Williams hit the PAT to make it 35-28 with 4:13 left in the half.
Wyoming looked as if it was on its way to scoring again after a 53-yard scamper by Smith off the option, but a big third-down fumble by Smith that was recovered by UH linebacker Art Laurel at the Wyoming 44, stopped the bleeding.
From there, the Rainbows moved to the Wyoming 15 on a 16-yard completion from Schroeder to Bubba Poueu-luna against a steady 20 mph breeze. Two plays later, Schroeder hit Langkilde from 6 yards out for the score as Hadden added the PAT to make it 35-35 with 52 seconds left in the half.