If University of Hawaii head football coach Greg McMackin ever needed a big win, tonight’s 44-26 Western Athletic Conferencer stunner at Louisiana Tech was it. The Warriors moved to 3-2 for the season, but more importantly, 1-0 in league pay. LaTech fell to 1-4 overall and 0-1 in the WAC.
Riding last week’s phenomenal seven-touchdown wave of emotion, Warriors quarterback Bryant Moniz threw four more scores before a quiet Joe Aillet Stadium crowd of 25,000 to get the Warriors back on track entering this week’s much-needed bye.
Moniz hit 34 of 54 passes for 410 yards, including three scoring strikes to favorite target Royce Pollard. Pollard pulled down 10 passes for 216 yards, including a long of 53 as the Warriors’ quick-strike attack kept LaTech off balance all night.
Throw in senior safety Richard Torres’ second pick-six of the season and a special teams touchdown of 16 yards by UH corner Tank Hopkins and it was more than enough for McMackin to secure one of the biggest wins of his UH coaching career.
LaTech struck first, but Hawaii rallied for three unanswered touchdown passes from Moniz to Pollard to take a 20-6 halftime lead. The teams traded touchdowns early in the second half and Hawaii held a 27-13 advantage with 9:29 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs scored first in the second half as LaTech quarterback Nick Isham hit wideout Quinton Patton for a big 39-yard gain and then found Taulib Ikharo alone in the end zone for a 7-yard scoring pass. Matt Nelson added the PAT to make it 20-13 Hawaii with 14:31 left in the third quarter.
Hawaii responded with a nine-play, 65-yard drive that culminated with a huge 6-yard touchdown pass from Moniz to wideout Billy Ray Stutzmann. Moniz appeared he would be sacked, but just got the pass off to make it 27-13 with 9:52 left in the third.
LaTech was moving the football on the ensuing series when Torres jumped the route and went 49 yards untouched up the sidelines and place-kicker Nick Hadden added the PAT to make it 34-13 Hawaii with 8:40 left in the third.
On the ensuing kickoff, LaTech mishandled a handoff and in the scramble Hopkins came up with the loose ball and went 16 yards into the end zone to make it 41-13 with 7:50 left in the third.
The Bulldogs came right back and went 63 yards on four plays to cut the margin to 41-20 with 7:22 left in the third. Isham found running back Lennon Creer alone in the end zone from 10 yards out to give the Bulldogs a shot at a comeback in front of the home crowd.
LaTech tried an onside kick, but failed to recover it and Hawaii turned that into three big points on a 30-yard field goal by Hadden that made it 44-20 with 3:43 left in the third.
Isham led the Bulldogs on another nice scoring drive, going 76 yards on 12 plays to cut it to 44-26 with 8:15 left in the fourth. Isham scored from 4 yards out, but the critical try for 2 failed, pretty much sealing the deal for the Warriors.
LaTech got off to a quick start. After holding Hawaii to one first down on the opening series of the game, the Bulldogs went 84 yards on 13 plays to take a 6-0 lead on a 3-yard touchdown pass from Isham to Patton. The PAT by Nelson was blocked by UH’s Aaron Brown to give the Bulldogs a 6-0 advantage with 8:40 left in the opening quarter.
Hawaii struck quickly on the next series, scoring on a 27-yard touchdown pass from Moniz to Pollard to draw even at 6-6 with 6:43 left in the first. The PAT try by Hadden hit the upright, but it didn’t dent the UH enthusiasm, as the Warriors went 83 yards on four plays, including a 44-yard completion from Moniz to Pollard.
The Warriors took their first lead with a touchdown late in the first quarter as Moniz found Pollard again, this time from 13 yards out to make it 13-6 with 1:18 left in the first. Hadden hit the PAT as the Warriors went 66 yards on only two plays. Much like the first scoring drive, the touchdown was set up on a long-distance connection from Moniz to Pollard, this time for 53 yards.
In the first quarter, Moniz hit 12 of 18 passes for 196 yards and two scores as the Warriors led by seven after one quarter.
There was a 16-minute delay early in the second quarter, the result of the replay officials losing count of how many snaps from center Hawaii had used. At first, they ruled Hawaii actually punted on fifth down and were prepared to give the ball to LaTech at UH’s 22. But after McMackin went on a rampage, the officials realized Hawaii had called a timeout prior to third down and that snap hadn’t counted, meaning the result of the punt would stand with the Bulldogs setting up shop at their own 36.
The Hawaii defense eventually forced LaTech to punt, giving Hawaii the ball at its own 12. From there, the Warriors went on a long march that kept a tired Bulldogs defense on the field too long as a 20-yard scamper by Joey Iosefa gave the Warriors a first and goal at the 9. Iosefa had a break-out peformance, rushing for 99 yards on 16 carries.
Three plays later, Moniz hit Pollard for a third time to give Hawaii a 20-6 advantage after the Hadden PAT with 6:36 left in the half. Moniz converted on three third-down situations on the 12-play, 88-yard drive.
The defense got into the act on LaTech’s ensuing offensive series as defensive back John Hardy-Tuliau intercepted an Isham pass to give the offense the ball at the UH 45. Moniz quickly got the Warriors into scoring position with a big third-down completion to Allen Sampson at the Bulldogs 26, setting up a 52-yard field-goal attempt by Hadden that was blocked as the half ended.