In a season-opening college football game that lasted 3 hours, 49 minutes, Hawaii still did not have enough time.
The Warriors’ frenetic fourth-quarter effort was not enough in a 49-36 loss to 14th-ranked Southern California last night at Aloha Stadium.
The Trojans established their speed-power running game, setting up the play-action passing attack that dazed and confused the Warriors. Apparently immune to the sophomore jinx, quarterback Matt Barkley completed 18 of 23 passes — two were dropped, one was intentionally discarded — for 257 yards and five touchdowns, tying a school record.
Three of Barkley’s scoring passes went to wideout Ronald Johnson, who added a fourth touchdown when he raced 89 yards after fielding a punt he initially considered fair-catching.
"For a moment, I was like, maybe I should fair-catch it," Johnson said. "I made a full-speed decision."
Too many of those moments gave USC a cushion that the Warriors could not deflate. Not even the late surge — when third-string quarterback Shane Austin and right slotback Kealoha Pilares collaborated on scoring plays of 65 and 30 yards — could draw the Warriors closer than 42-30 and, with 3:52 to play, 49-36.
"We were in the game, even when we weren’t playing our best, but I think we ran out of time," UH head coach Greg McMackin said.
Austin, who took only "mental reps" during passing drills the past 2 1/2 weeks, concurred, saying: "It was a little too late. We definitely had a chance. We needed a little more time."
For now, the Warriors’ focus is on starting quarterback Bryant Moniz, who ran into a streetcar named linebacker Michael Morgan at the end of a scramble in the third quarter. Moniz crumpled to the FieldTurf and, after being attended for several minutes, teetered to the sidelines, and then to the training room.
A sideline radio report said Moniz suffered a "slight concussion." After the game, Moniz, who was wearing a jacket, said he does not believe he suffered a concussion. Offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich said Moniz was "dinged up," and that his condition would be evaluated during the next few days. The Warriors do not play again until the Sept. 11 road game against Army.
McMackin insisted that Moniz was struck on the helmet.
Morgan said it "was definitely a clean hit. I didn’t do anything illegal. I’m playing football. That’s part of the game. … He was trying to cut back on me. I saw him try to make a move, and I hit him."
Two other Warriors suffered physical setbacks. Left wideout Rodney Bradley has an apparent leg injury that will be evaluated. Defensive tackle Vaughn Meatoga suffered a strained right shoulder in the first half. But he received treatment, and then returned to the game.
Those aches, according to the Warriors, paled to the pain of allowing the Trojans to repeatedly make big plays.
"We can’t waste games like that, games we can win," McMackin said. "We just can’t do that."
Key breakdowns? There were a few. On USC’s first offensive possession, H-back David Ausberry curled into the right flat. He caught the swing pass, eluded cornerback Lametrius Davis attempting to make a high hit, then raced along the right sideline to complete the 46-yard scoring play. The 2-point conversion pass failed.
Fueled by Alex Green’s 29-yard run, the Warriors had a first down at the USC 3. But two incompletions and a sack forced the Warriors to settle for Scott Enos’ 24-yard field goal.
Later, down 20-3, UH slotback Greg Salas caught a short pass and rolled over linebacker Malcolm Smith — without his knee touching the ground — for an apparent touchdown. The play was reviewed, and the referee made an apparent touchdown signal. But, in fact, it was ruled that Salas’ elbow touched the ground at the 1, and the referee was showing the distance remaining to the goal line.
"I thought I was in," Salas said. "And when he signaled for a touchdown, I really thought I was in. Oh, well."
In the third quarter, after UH closed to 34-23 on Green’s 1-yard run, the Trojans retaliated.
Fullback Stanley Havili broke into the right flat, and found himself being tailed by defensive end Liko Satele. Havili caught the pass along the right sideline and sprinted his way for a 49-yard gain. That set up a 3-yard scoring pass from Barkley to Johnson.
Several times, the Warriors were out of position in pass coverage. On one play, the Warriors did not have a cornerback aligned on Johnson, who waved to Barkley for the quick snap.
"I was trying to get the call," UH cornerback Jeramy Bryant said. "I got caught trying to get the call and trying to play football at the same time. That’s how it goes. You play a a team like USC and make a mistake, they’ll find it."
McMackin said: "They made some big plays. We can’t do that. We have to roll to them. We have to double them. We have to do something."
Johnson said he developed an easy communication with Barkley through daily summer workouts.
"It all took off during the summer," Johnson said. "We always go out and catch. We do things to get ourselves better. The connection kept growing and growing. It paid off tonight."