Let’s face it, most University of Hawaii football fans watched between their fingers plastered to their face as senior place-kicker Kenton Chun hit a 35-yard field goal with 32 seconds left to secure the biggest win of the season so far for Hawaii.
Battling turnovers, penalties and an array of mental errors too long to list, the Warriors came away with a 16-14 victory over Idaho at a suddenly silent Kibbie Dome that not only kept the Warriors in the thick of the Western Athletic Conference chase, but put it one win closer to bowl eligibility.
The victory gives Hawaii a 5-3 overall record and a 3-1 mark in league play. Idaho fell to 1-7 for the season and 0-4 in the WAC. But it didn’t have to end this way.
The Vandals were up 14-13 and had a nice drive going that ran 6 minutes off the clock late in the fourth. But facing a third and 6 at the Hawaii 9, Idaho quarterback Brian Reader, who came in off the bench, threw an interception to UH linebacker Aaron Brown, giving Hawaii a first and 10 at its own 22.
From there, the Warriors moved the ball into Vandals territory, going 60 yards on 13 plays to set up the biggest kick of Chun’s young life. It was the third field goal of the afternoon for the beleaguered UH kickers, but the game wasn’t over yet.
Back came Idaho, taking over at the Vandals 39 after a short kickoff. Reader hit Damien product Kama Bailey for 19 big yards to get a first and 10 at the Hawaii 42 with 20 seconds remaining. The Vandals moved it 6 yards closer to the Hawaii 36 with 6 seconds left, setting up Trey Farquhar’s 53-yard field-goal attempt, but it was wide left, giving Hawaii the game.
Trailing 13-7 at the half, Idaho regained the lead on a 70-yard fumble return by Idaho defensive back Tracy Carter and Farquhar added the PAT to make it 14-13 with 4:22 left in the third. UH quarterback Bryant Moniz fumbled on the play, his third turnover of the game, and was indirectly responsible for Idaho’s first score as well.
In the first half, the Vandals defense set up that touchdown after Moniz was picked off by safety Quin Ashley on the Warriors’ opening drive. He returned it 23 yards to the Hawaii 41 and Idaho’s Princeton McCarty took it from there.
He carried the ball seven times on the nine-play drive for 40 yards, but needed a little help from his friends for the score. On a second and goal from the 5, McCarty got down to the 1 on the run, but fumbled it into the end zone, where Idaho tackle Matt Cleveland fell on it for the score. Farquhar added the PAT to make it 7-0 Idaho with 8:13 left in the first.
After a Moniz fumble off an Idaho sack later in the first, the Vandals moved into scoring position again when UH linebacker Corey Paredes picked off a Taylor Davis pass and returned it 3 yards to the UH 35.
From there, the Warriors steadily marched into Idaho territory, spurred by a 41-yard completion from Moniz to Royce Pollard. Slotback Miah Ostrowski kept the drive alive with a 16-yard reception from Moniz that made it first and goal at the Idaho 7. Two plays later, Moniz hit Billy Ray Stutzmann from 2 yards out and Chun added the PAT to make it 7-7 with 13:21 left in the second.
Later in the second, Hawaii took over on downs after holding Idaho on a fourth and short at the Hawaii 43, stoning Bailey for no gain to give the UH offense good field position and a dose of momentum.
Aided by two costly Idaho penalties and a 17-yard run by UH’s Sterling Jackson, the Warriors managed a first and goal at the Idaho 6, but the Vandals held, forcing a 27-yard field goal by Chun to make it 10-7 Hawaii with 6:33 left in the first half.
Idaho had a nice kickoff return to its own 42 and moved into Hawaii territory on the ensuing offensive series before the Warriors held once again. The offense took the cue and moved into field-goal position as UH place-kicker Tyler Hadden hit a 47-yard field goal with 57 seconds left in the half to make it 13-7 Hawaii.
Moniz hit 32 of 53 passes for 338 yards and one touchdown. He also had two fumbles and one interception that accounted for all of Idaho’s points. Hawaii rushed for only 15 yards, but Pollard countered that anemic number by catching 10 passes for 151 yards. Stutzmann snagged eight passes for 73 yards and the lone UH touchdown.
The defense held Idaho to a meager 85 yards passing and 149 on the ground. Twice Hawaii stuffed Idaho on fourth and short, key stands in the UH win.