comscore Hawaii rallies to beat UNLV | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
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Hawaii rallies to beat UNLV

  • DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARADVERTISER.COM
    Joey Iosefa celebrated a touchdown run with teammates on Saturday night at Aloha Stadium.
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The University of Hawaii did something Saturday night at Aloha Stadium that the football team hadn’t done in two years — win back-to-back games.

The favored Warriors were coming off a road victory against San Jose State, and figured to knock off struggling Nevada-Las Vegas, and that’s exactly what Hawaii did as quarterback Ikaika Woolsey threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Kemp on the final play to win the Mountain West Conference game 37-35 before a crowd of 22,306.

The dramatic win raised Hawaii’s record to 4-8 for the season and 3-4 in conference play. The loss dropped the Rebels 2-10 overall and 1-6 in the league.

The winning scoring drive was 42 yards on three plays in one of the craziest fourth quarters you will ever see. The Rebels scored a touchdown with 15 seconds left, but had two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called after the play that were assessed on the kickoff.

It resulted in Hawaii having excellent field position at the UNLV 42, despite having only 13 seconds to work with. That was enough for Woolsey, who found Kemp in the end zone from 20 yards out. He barely crossed the goal line, before being shoved out by Tajh Hasson.

After review, the touchdown was confirmed. Tyler Hadden didn’t attempt the extra point as Woolsey took a knee, but no matter, UH had rallied for one of the more exciting victories in the history of Aloha Stadium.

After spotting UNLV 14 points in the opening quarter, Hawaii scored 24 unanswered to gain control. Neither team did much after intermission until Hawaii’s third drive. UH running back Joey Iosefa picked up 32 yards on a third-and-1 out of the wildcat formation to put the ball out near midfield.

Two plays later, Diocemy Saint Juste broke off a 52-yard touchdown jaunt that ended a five-play, 94-yard drive with the first score of the second half. Hadden added the PAT to make it 21-14 UH with 3:30 left in the third quarter.

On the ensuing offensive series for UH, the Warriors drove the ball deep into UNLV territory on the legs of Iosefa and Saint Juste before the 10-play drive stalled. Hadden hit a 40-yard field goal with 12:10 left in the fourth quarter to extend Hawaii’s advantage to 24-14.

UNLV got right back in it when new quarterback Blake Decker hit a 56-yard completion to Devante Boyd to the UH 15. Facing third-and-10, Decker found Marcus Sullivan for a touchdown to get UNLV back in it. Jonathan Leiva made the PAT to cut the margin to 24-21 with 11:39 remaining in the fourth.

The Rebels took the lead later in the fourth quarter on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Decker to Maika Mataele to culminate a four-play, 53-yard drive. Leiva converted the PAT to give UNLV a 28-24 lead with 4:51 left in the game.

But back came the Warriors on the ensuing offensive series as Woolsey found favorite target Kemp for a 45-yard gain that set up a first-and-goal at the 7. Iosefa took it to the 1 and then scored as Hawaii regained the lead as Hadden hit the PAT to make it 31-28 Hawaii with 2:00 left in the game. Hawaii went 82 yards on nine plays.

On the next series, the Rebels wasted little time getting down the field as Decker threw a huge 36-yard pass to Davis to set up a first-and-10 at the UH 12 with 25 seconds left. Two plays later, Decker found Taylor Barnhill for a 7-yard touchdown to give UNLV a 34-31 lead with 15 seconds left in the game as Leiva added the PAT to make it 35-31.

The Rebels were celebrating, but it proved to be premature thanks to Woolsey’s heroics. He completed 13 of 21 passes for 229 yards and one touchdown. Iosefa gained 219 yards on 35 carries. He rushed for two touchdowns and had a 1-yard jump-pass for a score as well out of the wildcat.

Hawaii got off to a slow start. The Warriors took the opening kickoff of the game and moved quickly toward midfield before Woolsey was picked off by former Kealakehe High standout Peni Vea, who returned the errant pass to the UH 45. Two plays later, starting UNLV quarterback Jared Lebowitz ran in untouched from 18 yards out to give the Rebels an early advantage with 12:23 left in the first quarter.

After forcing a UH punt, the Rebels converted an 81-yard pass play on third-and-long from Lebowitz to Davis, who caught five passes for 163 yards, that set up a first-and-10 at the UH 15. Four plays later, running back Shaquille Murray-Lawrence bulled in from 2 yards out as Leiva hit his second PAT to make it 14-0 with 7:18 left in the first quarter.

UNLV looked like it was going in for another score late in the opening period, but a pass interception by UH’s Marrell Jackson in the end zone gave the Warriors some much-needed momentum as he returned the Lebowitz pick to the UH 24.

Woolsey shook off his slow start and threw a perfect pass to wideout Keelan Ewaliko for a 51-yard completion that eventually set up a 9-yard touchdown run by Iosefa. Hadden added the PAT to make it 14-7 with 13 seconds left in the first quarter. The drive was 76 yards on five plays to get UH back in it.

A Scott Harding fumble on a nice 22-yard punt return gave UNLV the ball at the UH 48 after the defense had forced a three-and-out. The Rebels failed to take advantage of the second Warriors miscue of the opening half, but UH did lose 40 yards of field position.

Iosefa tried to get some of that back on a big third-down run of 45 yards that moved the football into UNLV territory. It was the longest rush of his career and the longest this season, but facing third-and-10, Woolsey was sacked and UH had to punt.

The defense held on the ensuing series after Harding backed UNLV up to its own 3. The offense took over at the Rebels 44 and needed only five plays to tie it up. The last snap was a 1-yard touchdown pass from Iosefa to tight end Harold Moleni out of the wildcat formation. Hadden hit the PAT to tie it at 14-14 with 3:33 left in the half.

The UH defense forced another quick punt, but a muff by Harding was recovered by the Rebels at the UH 15 with about two minutes left in the half. But the Hawaii defense held on a third-and-2 at the 6, forcing a 25-yard field-goal attempt by Leiva that was blocked by Moses Samia as time ran out with the score tied at the half.

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