A tough nonconference schedule that included three teams from the Pac-12 prepared the way for the University of Hawaii football team as it rallied for a 38-28 victory over Wyoming Saturday night in the Warriors league opener.
Played before a sparse Aloha Stadium crowd of 20,405, the Warriors scored the final 21 points of the game to raise their overall record to 2-4 and league mark to 1-0. A fast start by Wyoming that saw the Cowboys lead 14-0 early in the first and 28-17 late in the third, wasn’t enough as UH scored 28 second-half points.
The loss dropped Wyoming to 3-3 for the season and 1-1 in league play. The Cowboys did a lot of things right, but just couldn’t hold off Hawaii’s charge at the end.
Trailing 21-10 at the half, the Warriors held the Cowboys on their first drive of the third quarter as Ikaika Woolsey took over at quarterback for Hawaii, replacing the injured Taylor Graham. He completed his first pass for 15 yards as the offense quickly moved into Wyoming territory.
The Cowboys aided UH’s cause with a pass interference penalty that gave the Warriors a first-and-10 at the Wyoming 11. From there, Hawaii ran a nifty reverse as Keelan Ewaliko outraced the Cowboys defense to the end zone for the score. Tyler Hadden hit the PAT to cut Wyoming’s lead to 21-17 with 10:30 left in the the third quarter.
Another costly turnover by UH, this time a fumble by wideout Quinton Pedroza, gave Wyoming the ball at the UH 42. But the Warriors forced a punt after seven plays resulted in a net 2 yards for the Cowboys as Hawaii took over at its own 20 with 4:34 left in the third quarter.
On the ensuing offensive series for UH, a missed hand off by Woolsey led to another fumble and again Wyoming recovered, this time at the Hawaii 31. From there, the Cowboys needed only three plays to score, the last one a 17-yard screen pass from Wyoming quarterback Colby Kirkegaard to running back D.J. May.
The Cowboys caught UH in an all-out blitz and May walked in untouched to extend Wyoming’s lead to 28-17 with 2:02 left in the third as Stuart Williams hit the PAT. But the Warriors would not go gently into that good night.
They came right back with a touchdown of their own on a 53-yard pass from Woolsey to a wide open Pedroza, who went in untouched on the big third-down conversion. Hadden added the PAT to make it 28-24 on the last play of the third quarter.
Hawaii forced its first turnover of the night on the ensuing offensive series for Wyoming as Trayvon Henderson picked off Kirkegaard’s pass, who was under duress on the play. From there, Hawaii went 51 yards on five plays, the key one a 40-yard scoring pass from Woolsey to Marcus Kemp as Hadden made the PAT to give UH its first lead at 31-28 with 11:36 left in the game.
Wyoming drove into Hawaii territory, but a 51-yard field-goal attempt by Williams fell a couple of yards short, giving UH the ball at its own 34. Back-up running back Diocemy Saint Juste picked up 17 yards to get into Wyoming territory on the first play from scrimmage. He was in for the injured Steve Lakalaka, who left the game with a head injury in the third quarter.
Saint Juste picked up another 20 yards on a third-and-1 to give UH a big first down at Wyoming’s 21. Two plays later, Hawaii faced a third-and-5 at the Cowboys 16 and Saint Juste took it in for the score to give UH a 38-28 advantage with 3:32 left in the game after Hadden added the PAT. Saint Juste carried the ball 17 times for 135 yards. It was the first touchdown of his career and sealed the win for UH.
The Warriors got the ball to open the game and handed it over to Graham, who got his first start since injuring his shoulder last year at Nevada. But if he was hoping for a perfect opening drive, he didn’t get it as Hawaii began the game with a three-and-out.
The Wyoming offense was far more efficient on its opening drive, going 71 yards on only five plays to take a 7-0 advantage with 11:53 left in the first quarter. Cowboys running back Shaun Wick had three carries for 51 yards, including a 20-yarder for a touchdown as Williams added the PAT.
Hawaii responded with a nice drive of its own, but on a crucial third-down play deep in Wyoming territory, Graham lost the football and Wyoming’s Devyn Harris scooped it up and went 78 yards for the touchdown as Williams hit the PAT to make it 14-0 Wyoming with 9:42 left in the first quarter.
The Warriors finally got on the board as once again Graham led UH on a nice drive, only for it to stall inside the 20. Hadden came to the rescue to hit a 35-yard field goal to cut Wyoming’s margin to 14-3 with 4:45 left in the first. The drive was 11 plays for 68 yards.
After the defense stopped Wyoming, Graham engineered another nice drive, going 75 yards on 10 plays, the final one a 16-yard touchdown pass from Graham to Pedroza. Hadden hit the extra point to make it 14-10 Wyoming with 12:33 left in the second quarter.
Wyoming put a dagger into Hawaii with an eight-play, 98-yard scoring drive that was punctuated by Kirkegaard’s 42-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Claiborne as Williams added the PAT to make it 21-10 Cowboys with 1:41 left in the half.
Graham hurt his foot on the last play of the second quarter. He hit nine of 17 for 108 yards and one score. He didn’t throw an interception. Lakalaka carried the ball 22 times for 76 yards before leaving the game as well with a likely concussion. Kemp’s touchdown catch was the first of his career. Pedroza led all receivers with seven catches for 118 yards and two scores.
Henderson had two picks for UH as the defense held the Cowboys to one touchdown in the second half. The Warriors travel to California this weekend to face San Diego State.