With a fourth-string quarterback under center for Utah State, the University of Hawaii liked its chances in Saturday night’s Mountain West Conference football game.
But it was the Aggies who broke out on top early to set the pace in the eventual 35-14 win before an Aloha Stadium crowd of 19,799. The victory raised Utah State’s record to 6-3 overall and 3-1 in conference play. Hawaii dropped to 2-7 for the season and 1-3 in league action.
In his first start, Utah State true freshman quarterback Kent Myers completed his opening 12 passes and finished 14-for-15 for 186 yards and three touchdowns. Utah State running back Lajuan Hunt had 33 carries for 150 yards. He also was on the receiving end of an option pass from wide receiver Ronald Butler of 44 yards that put the game out of reach in the third quarter.
Butler also did some damage at wideout, catching six passes for 79 yards and one touchdown. Hunter Sharp had only three receptions, but two were for touchdowns, including a 70-yarder from Myers in the first quarter.
Up by 14 at the half, Utah State began a drive at its own 2 and was stopped deep in its own end with the momentum shifting toward UH. But a roughing-the-punter-penalty by Gaetano DeMatei not only kept the drive alive, it negated a punt return for a touchdown by UH’s Scott Harding.
From there, the Aggies marched methodically down the field before the option pass from Butler to Hunt of 44 yards mercifully ended the nine-play 98-yard scoring drive as Utah State led 35-14 with 5:11 left in the third. That drive epitomized UH’s season as a critical mistake led to another loss.
For Utah State’s part, the Aggies looked good from the start. They took the opening kickoff and marched 68 yards on nine plays, the last one a 4-yard touchdown pass from Myers to Sharp as Nick Diaz added the PAT to create the seven-point advantage with 10:55 left in the first quarter.
Hawaii came right back with a nice scoring drive of its own, going 64 yards on 11 plays to even the score. UH running back Diocemy Saint Juste scored from 8 yards out on a third-and-1 as Tyler Hadden hit the extra point to make it 7-7 with 6:21 left in the first quarter. Hawaii quarterback Ikaika Woolsey hit four of five passes for 30 yards on UH’s opening drive of the game.
But back came the Aggies, who needed only two plays to retake the lead. The big one was a 70-yard touchdown pass from Myers to Sharp, who beat UH cornerback Ne ‘Quan Phillips for the second time for a touchown. Diaz added the PAT to extend Utah State’s lead to 14-7 with 5:34 left in the opening period.
Hawaii came back with a huge pass play of it own, a 54-yarder from Woolsey to Keelan Ewaliko that set up a 1-yard touchdown toss from Woolsey to Justin Vele as Hadden added the PAT to make it 14-14 with 2:54 left in the wild first quarter. The drive was 82 yards on only six plays.
But from there, it was all Utah State.
The Aggies defense got into the scoring act later in the second quarter on a sack of Woolsey that led to a fumble that was recovered by Devin Centers as he scooped and scored from 10 yards out. Diaz added the PAT to make it 21-14 Utah State with 12:11 left in the second quarter.
The Aggies extended their advantage to 14 on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Myers to Butler on a third-and-21 play. Once again, Phillips was torched on the play as the Aggies led 28-14 with 6:37 remaining in the opening half.
Woolsey had a good night statistically, hitting 26 of 46 for 356 yards and one score. He also had two picks and the fumble that was returned for a touchdown. UH running back Steve Lakalaka rushed 11 times for 57 yards and Warriors wideout Quinton Pedroza caught eight passes for 123 yards, but it wasn’t enough to offset a bevy of false-start penalties and holding calls against the offensive line.
UH committed 13 penalties for 100 yards. Utah State countered with 12 of its own for 96 yards. It was the one thing that kept the ballgame close as the Aggies wracked up 465 yards to Hawaii’s 454. Utah State scored the final 21 points of the game.